Operation Snowball

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Operation Snowball is an international alcohol, tobacco and other drug-use prevention program focusing on leadership development to empower youth to lead drug-free lives. The name originates from the idea that having a positive impact on an individual can "snowball" into positive results for an entire community and beyond.


Funded in part by the Illinois Department of Human Services, and governed by an elected board of directors, Operation Snowball is founded on the belief that youth and adults can make responsible and healthy life decisions when provided with factual information and an opportunity to develop self-motivation and responsibility.

The program provides opportunities for youths and adults to work together cooperatively to plan, implement and evaluate a community-based alcohol and drug prevention program.


Operation Snowball, Inc. believes that the use of alcohol and other drugs during the teen years can be devastating to physical, social and emotional growth. Through the Operation Snowball program, youth learn that it is okay to say no to alcohol and drugs. Students also learn that they are not alone in their decision to stay drug and alcohol free.

Operation Snowball strives to create an environment that actively supports the decision to abstain from alcohol and drug use. Operation Snowball also believes that the most effective and comprehensive prevention programs must be undertaken by children and adults in partnership with one another.

Operation Snowball also focuses on aiding teens with issues that may arise in their relationships with friends or family. Snowball offers a support system that teaches teens coping skills to help them resolve interpersonal problems.

A Comprehensive Prevention Program[edit]

Operation Snowball is a comprehensive program that:

  • Includes alcohol and other drug information, responsible decision making skills, opportunities to enhance self-esteem, refusal skills, positive peer support, drug-free alternatives, leadership development, and much more
  • Gives a clear message to youth and adults that it is OK to say no to alcohol and other drugs and how to do this
  • Is flexible and can be adapted to any community or school setting. The model fosters youth and adult partnerships that make it ideal for community involvement and builds “A Community of Caring”.
  • Puts to use the powerful energy and influence of youth to create an atmosphere of positive peer support that makes it easier not to use alcohol and other drugs
  • Is unique because it recognizes youth as a part of the solution not the cause of the problem, thereby allowing them to learn and practice responsibility and leadership and be agents of community change

Operation Snowball is a prevention program and does not provide individual or group treatment. (Operation Snowball does require that youth choosing to serve in active leadership roles make a commitment to lead a drug and alcohol free lifestyle.)

Program Models[edit]

Operation Snowball has two types of chapters - school-based and community-based. Operation Snowball includes the following program models:

  • Operation Snowflurry, Preschool and elementary age youth
  • Operation Snowflake, Middle school and junior high school age youth
  • Operation Snowball, High school age youth
  • Operation Segue, young adults age 18–24
  • Operation Blizzard, Families and adults
  • Operation Snowcap, Senior citizens

Each program model focuses on the issues resulting from alcohol and other drug use and abuse in a manner appropriate for each age group. The concept of cross-age teaching and peer helping is an integral part of the Operation Snowball program. The programs follow the same principles and guidelines that may include the following:

  • Weekly meetings
  • Weekend retreats
  • Drug-free alternative activities
  • Opportunities to be a peer role model and to experience working with adults in a cooperative manor and atmosphere
  • Opportunities to develop special events that fit the needs of your community
  • Opportunities to get involved with other programs and events in your community

Through the development of leadership skills, Operation Snowball shall be a youth and adult partnership, providing awareness and prevention of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, while encouraging healthy decision-making in an active community of caring." [1]


United States Chapters[edit]

International Chapters [1][edit]

For more information concerning the International Program, please contact: Jack Irwin at 630-232-7872. website: international-snowball.com Belarus

  • Minsk


  • Ariogala
  • Balsiai
  • Darbėnai
  • Klaipėda
  • Kretinga
  • Kriukai
  • Kupiškis
  • Kvedarna
  • Kybartai
  • Marijampolė
  • Obeliai
  • Pagėliai
  • Pajiešmeniai
  • Pakruojis- 2 groups
  • Palanga
  • Paluknys
  • Panevžys
  • Pasvalys
  • Rosalimas
  • Siauliai
  • Skaistgirys
  • Širvintos


  • Tauragė


  • Vilnius


  • Vydmantai
  • Zagarė


  • Lodz
  • Zawiercie


  • Gemlik

History of Operation Snowball[edit]

Operation Snowball started in 1977 in Rockford youth and adults who attended the Illinois Teenage Institute on Substance Abuse (ITI) sponsored by the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADD). It was created with the theory when a person affects another in a positive way, they would go on to positively affect someone else, creating a "snowball" effect. In 1979, the Superintendent of Barrington Area Schools asked three Barrington High School students to identify ways Operation Snowball could work to have a positive impact on both middle school and high school students. The team of three juniors designed and piloted a peer-to-peer drug and alcohol prevention & intervention program in 1980. In this pilot program Barrington High School student leaders were asked to meet with each Barrington Middle School class to discuss their leadership role, the impact alcohol has had on their lives, their choice to abstain and the additional choices abstaining has created for their lives. Its founders wanted to start a prevention and intervention program for youth, where they would learn leadership skills, feel empowered by making their own decisions, and could readily see the impact of their decision in light of their education and life goals. From its inception, Operation Snowball was planned and directed by teens/youth, with adults serving primarily advisory roles. By 1989, all of Illinois School District 220 was implenting the Barrington model. Within a few years, Operation Snowball chapters began to organize throughout the state of Illinois. At first the program was targeted at high school (Operation Snowball) and junior high school students (Operation Snowflake), but later expanded to include elementary schools (Operation Snowflurry). The model has continued to evolve over time and is now implemented mainly through retreats.

Snow Events[edit]

Participants of Snowball say they:

  • developed friendships
  • were able to give and receive support and caring
  • talked about problems
  • shared ideas and feelings
  • felt a positive, supportive atmosphere
  • had a lot of fun
  • could speak without fear of rejection
  • were "glad" they came to Retreat
  • would "recommend" the Retreat to their friends
  • Overcame difficult obstacles facing them [2]


  1. ^ Operation Snowball site
  2. ^ Champaign County Snowball