Annual Red Ribbon Week celebrates drug-free living – Sequoyah County Times

October 28, 2022
Red Ribbon Week is so important, that this year, the week is actually nine days long.
The annual celebration of drug-free living began Sunday, and continues through Monday.
“This month is National Substance Abuse Awareness Month, too, so it ties in well together,” says Amy Edwards, prevention services director for Sallisaw NOW Coalition, which has spearheaded local Red Ribbon Week awareness since the coalition began in 2007.
Red Ribbon Week is sponsored by the National Family Partnership, a nonprofit organization founded in 1980 by parents who took a proactive role in drug education and prevention. Since its grassroots beginning 42 years ago, the organization has grown to become a nationwide leader in drug prevention awareness, education and advocacy.
Use of a satin red ribbon began in 1985 as a symbolic response to the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena.
Upon joining the DEA in 1974, he was determined to do his part to make a difference in the battle against illegal drugs. After leaving his office for a lunch date with his wife in February 1985, Camarena was kidnapped by five assailants. A month later, Camarena’s mutilated body was found after he was tortured to death by a local drug cartel.
In 2017, Miguel Angel Felix, co-founder of the Guadalajara drug cartel, was sentenced in a Mexican federal court for the murder of Camarena.
Since 1988, the NFP has sponsored the National Red Ribbon Celebration.
In Sequoyah County, Sallisaw NOW Coalition partners with local schools to celebrate Red Ribbon Week by providing the schools with Red Ribbon merchandise and educational materials.
“All the schools around here participate in Red Ribbon Week, which is kinda like a spirit week — they do theme days. And we’re able to, through our grants, provide all the K through 8th grade county schools with all their Red Ribbon items, like bracelets, basketballs, cups, stuff to give away, and they can be used as incentives if a classroom wins something or a certain student,” Edwards says.
“We went out to Sallisaw High School — we were at Vian Middle School before that — and did a presentation about awareness to fentanyl and how bad that’s getting, especially with Halloween coming up. We have a lot of presentations lined up this week through the community, and not just at schools. For instance, one of the apartment complexes, they’re wanting us to train all their apartment managers what to look for. It’s just a really good reminder that, hey, we’re here, this is what we do.
“Our [county] school kids are pledging to be drug and alcohol free. It’s also to remember those who have lost their lives to substance use or alcohol disorder. It’s just uniquely celebrated across America, all schools do it in different ways,” she explains.
A proclamation signed Monday by Sallisaw Mayor Ernie Martens designated the city’s observation of Red Ribbon Week, and noted that “alcohol and drug abuse affect individuals, families and communities all across the nation.” In addition, the proclamation emphasized that “our businesses, government, law enforcement, media, healthcare providers, religious institutions, schools and other community-based organizations can also demonstrate their commitment to healthy, drug-free lifestyles by wearing red ribbons and participating in drug prevention activities.”
This year’s Red Ribbon Week theme is “Celebrate Life. Live Drug Free.” The Red Ribbon campaign uses evidencebased principles for the prevention of substance abuse, and advocates parents discussing openly with their children the perils of drug abuse.
The final day of Red Ribbon Week coincides with Halloween, and emphasizes a healthy skepticism about candy gathered by trick-ortreaters, especially with strategies being implemented by those who produce illegal drugs.
“Rainbow fentanyl, they call it,” Edwards says of the latest designer drugs flooding the market. “ TSA just confiscated a ton coming across [the border] in Halloween candy bags. [Drug suppliers] took the time to empty out the candy, put the fentanyl in the boxes and seal it up, so they’re using that as a way to push it, where it looks like mini-Skittles. So we’re really trying to make people aware — do not take anything that’s homemade, don’t take medicine if you don’t know where it’s come from, because there’s just so many things that’s being laced with it right now. It’s really scary out there.”
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