Red Ribbon Week, the annual celebration encouraging young people to stay away from drugs and gangs, is set for Oct. 23 to Oct. 29. Courtney Kom, spokesperson for the Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment, said the event will start with a parade in Bouse on Saturday, Oct. 23 and will be followed by Family Fun Day on Sunday, Oct. 24 at Pop Harvey Park.

This year’s theme will be related to outer space and the “Star Wars” movie:  Keep our Space a Drug-Free Place.

At the organizational kick-off meeting held Aug. 24 at Players Ninth Street Youth Center, Kom said the space theme appears to be popular with young people, and the entire “Star Wars” series is well-known among them.

The days from Oct. 25 to Oct. 29 will be Red Ribbon Spirit Week. Each day of the week will follow a specific theme, and young people are asked to dress appropriately for that theme. Young people can upload photos of themselves dressed for that occasion to PAACE’s Facebook page and be entered in drawings for prizes.

Kom said they are also planning “incentives,” special deals from local merchants for students wearing their Red Ribbon Week wristbands. 

Until 2020, Family Fun Day was held at Pop Harvey Park on the Sunday that marked the end of Red Ribbon Week. It was moved to the start of the week so it wouldn’t interfere with the Town of Parker’s Trunk or Treat event on Halloween at Pop Harvey Park.

Family Fun Day featured activities and games with an anti-drug theme, all of which are free for the young people attending. There may be demonstrations of drug-interdiction techniques, such as drug-sniffing dogs looking for contraband. The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s helicopter has made appearances at Family Fun Day, as has Wells Fargo’s horse-drawn stagecoach.

The plan is for a full-fledged fair and event at Pop Harvey Park this year. In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fair had to be cancelled. Young people got “goodie bags” from a drive-through line outside Players.

PAACE will also hold raffles for prizes for those young people and adults who register for the event. Kom asked those planning to have exhibits or displays at Family Fun Day not to hold their own raffles as this could cause confusion with PAACE’s raffles.

PAACE has several forms related to Red Ribbon Week that are available online or at Players Ninth Street Youth Center, which is located on Ninth Street next to Pop Harvey Park. Two of these are forms for t-shirts and donations.

T-shirts for adults are $12 and shirts for Youth are $8. Please add $2 for 2x, 3x, or 4x sizes. Orders must be in by Monday, Sept. 27.

As for the donation form, PAACE will have their standard donation form for businesses, groups and others who would like to have their names on the back of a Red Ribbon Week T-shirt, or printed on posters and banners. 

Among the other activities planned include a poster contest, a door decorating contest for school classrooms, and a business decorating contest. Government entities can also become involved in the business decorating contest.

If there are any questions, or for more information, call Kom at 928-669-5565 or send her an e-mail to Courtney.paace@gmail.com.

About Red Ribbon Week

Red Ribbon Week was created in honor of US Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was tortured and murdered in 1985 in Mexico, allegedly by members of a drug cartel.

Within weeks of Camarena’s death, his Congressman, Duncan Hunter, and Henry Lozano, a high school friend, launched Camarena Clubs in Imperial Valley, Calif. Club members pledged to lead drug-free lives in honor of Camarena and the sacrifices of other Americans who fought against illegal drugs. The members began wearing red ribbons as a symbol of Camarena’s memory.

Today, Red Ribbon Week is a national event that encourages young people to lead drug, gang and violence-free lives.

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