Red Ribbon Rally mixes fun, anti-drug message

Posted: Friday, October 23, 2009

Like many Alaskans, ripple effects of alcohol and drug abuse have found their way into Mayor Bruce Botelho's life. He remembers his favorite Russian literature professor from college drinking, driving and dying.

And the former state attorney general continues to see it in his volunteer work, too.

"I also do some pro-bono work with domestic violence and invariably alcohol has been a major factor for the violence and breakup of the family," he said.

Botelho is scheduled to speak at Saturday's 22nd annual Red Ribbon Rally at the Mendenhall Mall, an event that mixes fun with an anti-drug message. The rally, from noon to 5 p.m., is part of Red Ribbon Week, a drug prevention awareness campaign observed in October.

"The underlying message is having people understand the risks to health and life due to the abuse of alcohol and drugs and tobacco, and encouraging people to abstain and use this time for reflection and guidance for other people, to show solidarity with one another and to reinforce to young people that there are healthy choices in life," Botelho said.

Amid live music, games, poetry readings, several dance performances, costume sales, a variety show, and other activities, information from D.A.R.E. officers, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Teens Against Tobacco Use, ELKS, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and others will be available and presented.

Costumed children can sign up for a "Say 'Boo' to Drugs Parade" at 1:30 p.m. and again at 3:30 p.m.

Officer Blaine Hatch of the Juneau Police Department and a police car will also be on site for photo opportunities.

"It is a nice attraction for people to come up to us and communicate with us and get to know us," the 16-year JPD veteran said. "It allows us to break the ice. If visitors want to discuss current drug use or whatever else is going on in the city, fine ... if they just want to get a photo, great."

Red Ribbon Week began after the kidnapping, torture and brutal murder of Drug Enforcement Administration Enrique "Kiki" Camarena in 1985. Citizens in his hometown of Calexico, Calif., donned red ribbons in his honor. The red ribbon became their symbol for prevention in order to reduce the demand of illegal drugs. Local dance instructor Janice Holst started Juneau's Red Ribbon Rally in 1987. Congress proclaimed the first National Red Ribbon Week in 1988.

While Saturday's rally is only a one day event, drug-free promises may go longer.

"The big issue is just to promote awareness overall, a promise to be drug free for some period ... a day is better than no day," Hatch said.

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