By Bridget Byrne
For The Diamondback

The University of Maryland Health Center hosted a sober tailgate Saturday to provide a safe space for Maryland fans to celebrate homecoming weekend with food, games and giveaways.

“The idea is to give students in recovery or students who choose to be sober a space to be able to show their pride and just have a space to tailgate without being around alcohol and other substances,” Breannah Goodman, a graduate student intern at the health center, said.

Traditionally, drinking is a part of tailgating — parties where attendees gather around the tailgates of cars before sporting events — a staple in state school culture. But this doesn’t apply for everyone.

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“I don’t need to drink to have fun,” senior journalism major Austin Cole said. “I enjoy interacting with people and talking to them in a sober environment.”

Red-clad students and alumni swarmed the sidewalks surrounding the mall on Saturday morning before the football game against Northwestern, many carrying cases of beer or hard seltzers. Around the corner, in the side yard of the health center was a different scene of Maryland pride: The familiar brands of drinks and the disjointed shouts of intoxicated football fans were notably absent.

Giant connect four games, hacky sacks and wooden building blocks attracted families with kids. Free non-alcoholic refreshments, a buffet and Maryland swag reading “sober tailgate” were available to anyone who joined in. Despite being marketed to students, it drew a modest circle of mostly health center staff, alumni and kids.

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“Students who encounter struggles with substances, especially as undergrads, might not recognize that they’re struggling with it,” Julia Matute, the health center’s health promotion and wellness services assistant director, said. “Recognizing that can be a challenge.”

Aside from sober tailgates, this university provides a variety of resources for students seeking recovery.

The health center offers the recovery lounge, a room for students in recovery to connect as well as Harm-Reduction Oriented Recovery Support Group. Terps for Recovery is an organization on campus that hosts monthly support breakfasts, interactive panels on addiction and recreational activities during high-risk periods for relapse.

“One of the most important things about recovery … is the peer to peer support,” Carrie Jacobs, a registered nurse with the health center, said.