Red Ribbon Week kicked off Sunday,October 23 and will end October 31. It comes as the nation’s oldest drug prevention program that began decades ago and has grown to reach nearly 80 million Americans each year.
The week is dedicated to alcohol, tobacco and other drug and violence prevention awareness.
The campaign, considered one of the largest in the nation, aims to unify communities to take a stand against drugs by wearing red ribbons and participating in community anti-drug events throughout the week.
According to Justice.gov, Red Ribbon Week got its start in honor of a DEA agent whose mission was to combat drugs. Special Agent Kiki Camarena, an 11-year veteran of the DEA who was assigned to Mexico to track the country’s biggest marijuana and cocaine traffickers, was kidnapped and murdered by Mexican drug traffickers in 1985. His death was chronicled in the media and his story ultimately sparked nationwide public awareness of the dangers of drugs and the drug trade.
Originally, red ribbons where worn in his honor in his hometown and became a symbol of a drug-free commitment.
Following his death, a friend, David Dhillon, teamed up with Congressman Duncan Hunter and launched “Camarena Clubs” where hundreds of club members pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor of Camarena and his work combating drugs. The pledges got the attention of First Lady Nancy Reagan and everything took off from there.
The first Red Ribbon Week celebrations were held in La Mirada and Norwalk, California and in 1988, the National Family Partnership coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week with President and Mrs. Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons.
Today, millions sport red ribbons during the last week of October as a symbol of their drug-free commitment.