BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
BOUNTIFUL — Strong winds didn’t deter Valley View Elementary students from launching 430 red balloons on Monday morning to kick-off Red Ribbon Week.
Tied to each balloon was a pledge signed by a student, committing each to remain drug free.
“Being addicted can just ruin your life and everyone’s lives around you,” said Emil Geisler, a sixth grader.
“Some kids get addicted to drugs and end up stealing and don’t have a very good life,” said fellow student Rachel Golightly.
It’s not too early to teach kids about drug and alcohol-abuse prevention, according to parents and teachers involved in the discussion.
“At the youngest age possible they need to start learning about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and the importance of staying drug free,” said Mandy Ray, a parent supporting the activity.
It is important that the discussions she has at home with her 6- and 8-year-old children who attend Valley View are reinforced at school and around their friends, said Ray.
An important message is that one exposure to drugs can lead to a lifetime of fighting addictions, she said. In addition, she said, children need to learn about eating healthy foods.
Studies show substance abuse risks decline when children talk to their parents about the dangers of drugs, according to information provided by the National Red Ribbon Campaign.
To encourage that discussion, the national organization is sponsoring a contest. Families that decorate their front doors, mailboxes or fences with this year’s theme, “The Best Me is Drug Free,” can enter by taking a picture of their family with the decoration and sending it in. Winning entries will earn $1,000 for their public schools and a new iPad for their home. Details are outlined at redribbon.org/contest.
Physical Education teacher Ted Hallisey has taught workshops on healthy habits around the country. In his travels, he has found children as young as 9-years old using chewing tobacco.
“They’re already making those choices,” he said. Red Ribbon Week “just reinforces what we try and tell them every day about healthy lifestyles and no drugs.”
“We talk about it more than just this week,” said kindergarten teacher Judy Wallace. “It helps them understand the importance of their bodies and keeping their bodies healthy.”
This week’s activities at Valley View are sponsored by the PTA and include a day to wear red, and another to wear crazy socks as a “sock-it-to-drugs” message. Organizer Sunny Mason said the balloon-launch was a way to kick-start the week’s activities. Though the day was windy, organizers were happy the rain held off.
Schools around the district are holding similar-themed events this week and in coming weeks. Red Ribbon is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. It started in 1985 after the murder of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. At that time, parents, youth and teachers began wearing red ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the destructive nature of drugs.