Sundt Memorial Foundation
The Sundt Memorial Foundation (SMF) is a United States 501(c) non-profit organization committed to developing and distributing a positive drug prevention message to youth nationwide.
Inspired and founded by Jon Sundt, the mission of the Sundt Memorial Foundation is: "To influence the hearts and minds of kids by inspiring them to live their natural high and to reject drugs." The foundation was created in memorial of Jon Sundt’s two brothers, Steven and Eric Sundt. Both used drugs as teenagers and subsequently experienced usage-related deaths.
In order to communicate a drug-free message to kids throughout the United States, the Sundt Memorial Foundation produces the Natural High DVD Series. Each film features celebrities sharing their candid thoughts and reasons for choosing to live drug-free. Films feature clips of award-winning athletes showing off their paces and of singers and dancers performing. The videos are action-packed and embrace popular culture in order to capture the attention of students. Dozens of talented professionals share their sober success stories.
The Sundt Memorial Foundation mails a free DVD (at each release) to every middle school in the United States (90,000 in 2009).
Upon request, the organization hosts school assemblies in the local San Diego area. Each month, the Foundation disseminates a free online newsletter to parents, teachers, students, and donors nation-wide. Newsletters report items of interest in world news, creative activities to do with children, and highlights individuals with interesting natural highs.
Based in La Jolla, California, the foundation is run by a full-time staff led by Executive Director, Michelle Ahearne. President Jon Sundt and a Board of Directors: Pete Johnson, Josh Billauer and Doug Kay contribute to principal decision-making. Seasonal employees and volunteers are hired to help with the preparation and presentation of the main fundraising event held each year in La Jolla, California. All proceeds from this annual live and silent auction gala go directly toward the production and distribution of the Natural High DVD Series.
- Natural High 1: Riding the Drug Free Wave was released in 2000 and features professional surfers and skaters, including Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater, Willy Santos, Malia Jones, Taylor Knox, Ray Barbee, Timmy Curran, and Christiana Janssen.
- Natural High 2 was released in 2005. An all-star cast includes professional snowboarders and other extreme sport competitors, motocross champions, and hip hop dancers including Travis Pastrana, Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark, Ricky Carmichael, Laird Hamilton, Mr. Wiggles, Wendy Fisher, Tori Allen, Dave Downing, Crazy Legs, and Nina Heiberg.
- Natural High 3 was released in 2008. Contributing celebrities include two bands: P.O.D. and Switchfoot, vocalist Mýa, and choreographer to the stars, Darrin Henson.
- Natural High 4 was released in 2009. This film features pro skater Paul Rodriguez Jr., pro golfer Anna Rawson, rock band Relient K, NBA player Mike Conley Jr., WNBA player Lisa Leslie, and pro surfer and musician Timmy Curran.
It is ultimately the responsibility of teachers and other school faculty to decide whether or not to incorporate the Natural High DVDs they receive in the mail with their pre-existing drug education and prevention curriculum.
The foundation conducts follow-up investigative phone interviews with schools nationwide to assess the effectiveness of the DVDs. Both positive and negative feedback is used to make adjustments in subsequent film releases. Thousands of students, parents, and school faculty send testimonials to the foundation. These messages are shared with the public via the foundation’s websites and newsletters.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program initiated in the 1980s by Los Angeles police officers takes a different approach to combating drug usage in schools. The “Just Say No” campaign has a zero-tolerance message; however, independent research has ceased to consider DARE as an effective means of drug prevention since the early 1990s. In fact, a report issued by the Surgeon General of the United States evaluated the DARE program and placed it in the "Does Not Work" category.
Carson B Wagner, an assistant professor and director of the Veridical information Detection Systems Laboratory (ViDS Lab) at the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University initially studied the effects of late-1990s Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) anti-drug campaigns. He discovered these ads produced a counter-intuitive result on society. Instead of discouraging drug use, the strong anti-drug imagery and language provoked a curiosity that appeared to stimulate an experimentation epidemic among youth. His findings were presented before the United States Congress. Wagner says that the 'What’s Your Anti-Drug?' campaign, featuring teens talking about the activities they pursue instead of drugs, is an excellent example of an ad that does not inadvertently arouse curiosity. It limits the focus on the anti-drug argument and concentrates on something else, in this case alternative activities such as skateboarding.” In spring, 2013, his continued work has also been the focus of an article in Popular Science as well as a segment on the National Public Radio (NPR) program, "All Things Considered."
In its 2008 Annual Report, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) of the United Nations affirmed the influence of celebrity on young people. “Celebrity ‘endorsement’ of drug-related lifestyles is particularly relevant when it comes to the issue of deterring drug use among youth, who are often most vulnerable to the cult of celebrity and its attendant.” The New York Times March 5, 2008 edition furthermore reports the findings of the INCB with regard to celebrity and youth.
The Sundt Memorial Foundation uses the influential ‘power of celebrity’ to reinforce its anti-drug message. By soliciting drug-free celebrities to testify on behalf of living a “natural high”, SMF exposes youth to positive role models.
1994: Jon Sundt starts SMF and begins speaking at school assemblies.
1995: UCSD Sundt Memorial Open, a surfing competition in memorial of Steven and Eric Sundt raises $13,000 to support Teen Challenge, Sobriety House, and other nonprofit drug rehabilitation and mental health services.
1999: SMF hosts its first Annual Fundraising Gala in La Jolla, California. The proceeds directly support the production and distribution of the first Natural High DVD.
2000: Fifth Annual UCSD Sundt Memorial Open and production of the first Natural High DVD. A copy is sent to all schools in the state of California free of charge.
2005: SMF produces Natural High II, the second in its DVD series. A copy is sent to all schools in the United States free of charge.
2008: SMF produces Natural High III, the third in its DVD series. A copy is sent to all schools in the United States free of charge.
2009: SMF produces Natural High IIII, the fourth in its DVD series. A copy is sent to all middle schools in the United States free of charge.
- Sundt Memorial Foundation
- Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General, Chapter 5
- Wagner, Carson. "Dopey Ads?"
- Ferro, Shaunacy. "The Science of PSAs: Do Anti-Drug Ads Keep Kids Off Drugs?"
- NPR News. "Anti-Drug PSAs: Do They Work?"
- International Narcotics Control Board, Annual Report, Press Release No. 2, pg 3
- The New York Times, "U.N. Drug Panel Faults Celebrity Treatment, March 5th, 2008