Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. Although the start and end dates can vary slightly depending on the organization and source, Red Ribbon Week generally takes place the last full week in October, with the weekends before and following the last full week included as appropriate celebration dates. This year Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated October 22-30, 2011.
Red Ribbon Week serves as a vehicle for communities and individuals to take a stand for the hopes and dreams of our children through a commitment to drug prevention and education and a personal commitment to live drug free lives with the ultimate goal being the creation of drug free America.
And, perhaps more importantly, Red Ribbon Week commemorates the ultimate sacrifice made by DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who died at the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico while fighting the battle against illegal drugs to keep our country and children safe.
Camarena grew up in a house with a dirt floor. He had hopes and dreams of making a difference. He worked his way through college, served in the Marines, and became a police officer. When he decided to join the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, his mother tried to talk him out it. “I can’t not do this,” he told her. “I’m only one person, but I want to make a difference.”
The DEA sent Camarena to work undercover in Guadalajara, Mexico investigating a major drug cartel believed to include officers in the Mexican army, police and government. He was extremely close to unlocking a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline.
On Feb. 7, 1985, the 37-year-old Camarena left his office to meet his wife for lunch. Five men appeared at the agent’s side and shoved him in a car and kidnapped him. One month later, Camarena’s body was found in a shallow grave. He had been brutally tortured to death.
Within weeks of his death in March of 1985, Camarena’s Congressman, Duncan Hunter, and high school friend Henry Lozano, launched Camarena Clubs in Imperial Valley, California, Camarena’s home. Hundreds of club members pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Camarena and others on behalf of all Americans. These pledges were delivered to First Lady Nancy Reagan at a national conference of parents combating youth drug use. Several state parent organizations then called on community groups to wear red ribbons during the last week of October as a symbol of their drug-free commitment.
The first Red Ribbon Week celebrations were held in La Mirada and Norwalk, California. In 1988, the National Family Partnership (NFP) coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week with President and Mrs. Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons.
Today, Red Ribbon Week is nationally recognized and celebrated, helping to preserve Special Agent Camarena’s memory and further the cause for which he gave his life. The Red Ribbon Campaign also became a symbol of support for the DEA’s efforts to reduce demand for drugs through prevention and education programs. By wearing a red ribbon during Red Ribbon Week, Americans demonstrate their ardent opposition to drugs. They pay homage not only to Special Agent Camarena, but to all men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our nation’s struggle against drug trafficking and abuse.
Here are just a few ways to celebrate Red Ribbon Week. I’m sure you can think of many more.
· Wear a red ribbon yourself, and encourage your relatives, your friends, your neighbors, your boss, and your coworkers to do the same.
· Place red ribbons and bows all over the community – office buildings, posts, trees, billboards, mailboxes, bicycles, dogs, buses, car antennas, front doors, fire trucks, police cars, hospitals, schools, churches, offices, businesses, etc.
· Hold decoration contests.
· Involve Civic Clubs, volunteer organizations such as the Senior Citizens, youth organizations such as YMCA, Boy and Girl Scouts, and Sunday School classes.
· Invite a speaker to talk to your school, organization, or business about current drug trends, and the harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs on lives, families, brains, bodies, and futures.
· At school, involve English, Social Studies, Science, Health, Speech, Journalism, and Audio-Visual Communications classes in research and reports regarding the current use and harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Mathematics, and Economics classes could examine the effect on our economy regarding the costs of drug use, law enforcement, and public health care.
· Take 5 minutes of yours and your child’s time to express clearly your stand on the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.
· Make family pledge cards and everybody in the family sign one.
· Write thank you letters to businesses in your community for celebrating Red Ribbon Week.
Let’s work to make this a drug free community.