Just say no.

Red Ribbon Week kicked off across the nation on Monday to help teach children and adults alike the importance of these three little words.

“I think Red Ribbon Week is necessary,” McAlester Public Schools Campus Police Officer Brenda Kelley Fields said. “We need to educate our young people about the harmful effects of drugs not only on their bodies, but on their families as well.”

Fields said McAlester children seem to enjoy the event.

“Most kids respond well,” Fields said. “If you can gain that trust with the kids, they’ll ask for help. That’s why it’s most important to educate young people, they’re interested in knowing.”

Fields said officers will be visiting area schools throughout the week.

“We’ll be talking with the kids about drug use,” Fields said. “We’ll ask that they wear the ribbons we give them and tie ribbons around their antennas to show support.”

Schools will sponsor different activities all week spotlighting drug prevention.

For example, today at Puterbaugh Middle School is “Sock it to drugs” day. Students are encouraged to roll up their pants and wear creative socks to show their support for Red Ribbon Week.

Fields said the Grim Reaper will visit some area schools on Friday.

“I’m playing the Grim Reaper at Puterbaugh,” Fields said. “Every 15 minutes I’ll remove a child from the classroom and paint their face white.

“They’ll still be in school, but won’t be allowed to talk or have any contact with anyone.”

Every 15 minutes, someone dies in an alcohol-related accident. The students with painted faces are meant to represent these victims.

“Hopefully they’ll realize how many lives are taken away because of alcoholism within an eight-hour period,” Fields said.

The Oaks Area Prevention Center is also taking an active roll in promoting Red Ribbon Week.

“The red ribbon is a symbol of hope for a drug free society,” Carla Sheffield, director of prevention for the Oaks, said. “We have given out over 1,000 pieces of material to grades kindergarten through sixth in the five counties we serve.”

The Oaks shared awareness items such as coloring books, silicone bracelets and red suckers.

Red Ribbon Week is the most far-reaching and well-known drug prevention event in America. The National Family Partnership, which coordinates Red Ribbon activities nationally, estimates that more than 80 million Americans participate in Red Ribbon events each year.

National Red Ribbon Week also serves as a tribute to Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico.

During Red Ribbon Week, supporters wear a red ribbon to show their commitment to drug prevention and awareness education, as well as to honor the memory of Camarena.

Contact Trevor Dunbar at tdunbar@mcalesternews.com

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