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WILMINGTON — A Saturday Night Live skit did not get laughs from some local health advocates.

The public service announcement parody that aired May 9 proposes a special rule to allow children to drink at a time when Mother's Day and coronavirus-related quarantines converged.

"While we recognize this was created in satire, we feel this could be harmful to youth who are exposed to the content, both as it aired on television and is being shared online across Saturday Night Live's social media platforms," states a letter to Stephen B. Burke, chairman of NBC Universal, being circulated in Windham County by the Deerfield Valley Community Partnership.

The chorus of the song in the skit has cast members singing, "Let kids drink." Other parts include children holding bottles of alcohol.

Deerfield Valley Community Partnership Coordinator Cindy Hayford of Wilmington shared a link of the skit on YouTube with local officials and community members via email Friday.

"Really inappropriate," she wrote, getting several responses in agreement.

Encouraging email recipients to submit their own letters to NBC, Hayford provided a sample letter that can be edited by an organization or person. She also is asking people to sign on to a letter from her group, which provides programming in Twin Valley schools.

"As a community substance use and misuse prevention coalition, our work on preventing underage alcohol use is of utmost importance," the letter states. "The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has shared insight with us surrounding the prevalence of binge drinking and underage drinking during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Especially during this time of uncertainty and fear, sharing content that features youth alcohol use and parents allowing underage drinking could be extremely damaging to our prevention efforts. In the future, we ask you to please be more responsible with the content you share and consider the implications on our nation's youth. In addition, we ask that you remove the 'Let Kids Drink' video from your social media channels, to limit the exposure children and parents may have to this particular content."

The letter originated from a draft written by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, a national nonprofit focused on safe and healthy communities, Hayford said. She said Vermonters attend the group's annual conference in Washington, D.C.

By Tuesday, Hayford collected about 20 signatures and was waiting for more. Signatures came from the Rev. Douglas LaPlante, Wilmington Police Chief Matt Murano, Deerfield Valley Rotary Club President Angel Balch and Robin Rieske, prevention consultant in Brattleboro for the Vermont Department of Health Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs.

"We appreciate satire, but feel this went too far and sends the wrong message," Hayford said. "Anything that normalizes the use of underage drinking is counter to the work that we do in trying to keep our youth safe, healthy and substance free."

Lars J. Hunter, bereavement program coordinator for Brattleboro Area Hospice, said he reported the video on YouTube. He called the skit "beyond disgusting" and signed Hayford's letter.

"I can't imagine what SNL was thinking," he said in the email chain.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.


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