Red Rib­bon Week: A drug-free life mes­sage for kids

The Catoosa County News - - EDITORIALS & OPINION - By Ta­mara Wolk

“Life is your jour­ney — travel drug-free.” This is the theme for Na­tional Red Rib­bon Week this year, which runs from Oct. 23 through Oct. 31.

Schools in Ca­toosa and Walker coun­ties and the city of Chicka­mauga run pro­grams dur­ing the an­nual week to teach stu­dents about mak­ing re­spon­si­ble choices and do­ing more im­por­tant and pos­i­tive things with their lives than wast­ing away their po­ten­tial on drugs and al­co­hol.

To help schools with their outreach, Ca­toosa Pre­ven­tion Ini­tia­tive (CAPI) de­signed and had pro­duced 10,000 red rib­bons for lo­cal stu­dents. The rib­bons have the theme for the year printed on them and have been dis­trib­uted to all the ele­men­tary and pri­mary schools in the area. Funds used for the rib­bons came from an Al­co­hol and Sub­stance Abuse Pre­ven­tion Project grant from the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Be­ha­vo­rial Health and De­vel­op­ment Dis­abil­i­ties.

The red rib­bon sym­bol as a state­ment against drug and sub­stance abuse was born in 1985 when a man by the name of En­rique Ca­marena was work­ing for the U.S. Drug En­force­ment Agency, serv­ing in Mex­ico, fight­ing il­le­gal drugs that were com­ing into the U.S. He pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to the Mex­i­can govern­ment that re­sulted in 450 Mex­i­can sol­diers de­stroy­ing 2,500 acres of mar­i­juana fields that were bring­ing in $8 bil­lion a year for drug lords.

The ac­tion cost Ca­marena his life. He was kid­napped, tor­tured for 30 days and killed. He died at 37 years old, af­ter time as a Ma­rine, a po­lice of­fi­cer and 10 years with the DEA, leav­ing be­hind a wife and three chil­dren.

The peo­ple of Ca­marena’s home­town in Cal­i­for­nia, as well as peo­ple around the coun­try, were out­raged over the DEA spe­cial agent’s death and be­gan to wear red rib­bons to sym­bol­ize their anger and grief. Three years later, the Na­tional Fam­ily Part­ner­ship adopted the red rib­bon to rep­re­sent a com­mit­ment to help­ing young peo­ple choose drugfree liv­ing.

“The red rib­bon is a sym­bol of sol­i­dar­ity to show young peo­ple that we all stand to­gether against drugs and al­co­hol and for some­thing bet­ter,” says CAPI project co­or­di­na­tor Candy Hul­len­der. “We want chil­dren to know that they have choices. They can choose to say no to drugs and al­co­hol.”

Hul­len­der and her son, Jaden Maxwell, an il­lu­sion­ist and mo­ti­va­tional speaker, spoke at Lake­view Mid­dle School on Tues­day, Oct. 23, to pro­mote Red Rib­bon Week and sub­stance-free liv­ing. Hul­len­der was eight months preg­nant with her son, when her hus­band was killed by a drunk driver. She says that grow­ing up with that knowl­edge mo­ti­vated her son to re­main sub­stance-free and to even­tu­ally de­vote him­self to help­ing other young peo­ple do them same.

To learn more about Red Rib­bon Week, visit redrib­bon.org.

Il­lu­sion­ist and mo­ti­va­tional speaker Jaden Maxwell spoke at Lake­view Mid­dle School on Oct. 23 for Red Rib­bon Week, an ef­fort to help stu­dents live drug-free.

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