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Red Ribbon Week kicks off

Red Ribbon Week kicked off nationally Monday and a flurry of local activities will begin today as the city of Troy focuses on the challenge by Mayor Jimmy Lunsford to make Troy a healthy, drug-free community.

“Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country,” Lunsford said. “It is a way 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, it’s also a time for each one of us to commit to live drug free lives and, by doing so, we can reach the ultimate goal of a drug free city, state and country.”

Lunsford said 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 America and children safe.

Lunsford said Camarena grew up in a dirt-floored house and dreamed of making a difference in the lives of others.

“From what I’ve read, Kiki Camarena worked his way through college and served in the Marines before becoming a police officer,” Lunsford said. “His mother tried to talk him out of joining the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration but he said he wanted to make a difference.”

In 1985, Camarena was working undercover in Mexico investigating a major drug cartel. As he was leaving his office for lunch on Feb. 7, five men came out of nowhere and shoved him in a car. A month later, his body was found in a shallow grave. He had been tortured to death.

In a short time, Camarena Clubs were formed in Imperial Valley, Calif., which was Camarena’s home.

The club members began to wear red badges in memory of Camarena. Red Ribbon Week emerged from the efforts of those clubs.

“Red Ribbon Week is recognized all across the country as a memorial to Kiki Camarena and to further the cause that he gave his life for,” Lunsford said. “But still, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs has reached unacceptable levels among our young people so we must implement prevention efforts to reduce the demand for drugs. During this week, Oct. 25-29, as the mayor of Troy, and on behalf of the city council, I am asking all citizens to make a commitment to a healthy, drug-free community.”

The mayor said the schools are doing their part in bringing greater awareness to drugs and their ability to destroy lives.

Red Ribbon Week in Troy will kick off today with an assembly for sixth through 12th graders at Pike Liberal Arts School at 9 a.m. with featured speaker Darin Chancellor and a demonstration by Sgt. Benny Scarbrough and Sgt. Tim Hunter of the K9 Unit and Rex “the drug dog.”

Scarbrough will also talk with PLAS Elementary School students about the history of Red Ribbon Week and the pitfalls of drug abuse followed by a demonstration by Hunter and Rex.

Scarbrough, Hunter and Rex will be at New Life Christian Academy and Covenant Christian on Wednesday and Thursday is open for Troy Elementary School.

On Friday, Chancellor will speak to the students at Charles Henderson Middle School and Scarbrough, Hunter and Rex will also be on the program.