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Send a message. Stay drug free

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

A bow on a Christmas present. A hair tie on a windy day. A ribbon of red can be used for all sorts of things.

This month, red ribbons will serve as reminders that drugs kill people and destroy lives right here in Henry County.

The “red badges of satin” became a symbol against the destruction caused by alcohol and other drugs after Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique Camarena was killed by a drug cartel in Mexico in 1985.

Henry County A.R.I.E.S. is sponsoring several activities later this month leading up to Red Ribbon Week, which takes place Oct. 23-31 this year.

A.R.I.E.S. stands for Abuse Reduction, Intervention, Education and Support. The local program falls under the umbrella of the Interlocal Community Action Program (ICAP).

A.R.I.E.S. is sponsoring a special speaker this month for Henry County schools, as well as a presentation specifically for parents and guardians.

Former NFL player Ray Sydnor will speak Tuesday, Oct. 22 at both Tri Jr/Sr High School and Blue River Valley Junior-Senior High School.

Sydnor was a rookie tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles when his addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol derailed his football career the day before he was supposed to play in Super Bowl XV.

Sydnor started using when he was only 14 years old.

A.R.I.E.S. Coordinator Olene Veach hopes teenagers will connect with Sydnor’s story and make better choices with their lives.

“Kids tend to listen more to someone who’s been an addict, rather than a parent who has lost their child to drugs or alcohol,” Veach said.

Sydnor will also be in New Castle for a public presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the New Castle-Henry County Public Library.

Before Sydnor’s event, parents and other adults will have a chance to visit the “Hidden In Plain Sight” exhibit in the library parking lot.

The educational program takes place in a trailer designed to look like a typical teenager’s bedroom.

For adults only, the “Hidden In Plain Sight” simulations shows parents and guardians 100 different areas where their kids could be hiding drugs at home.

The traveling exhibit is from Intersect, Inc. in Anderson and is sponsored by Henry County ICAP.

Sydnor will also share his story at Shenandoah High School and at Knightstown High School Wednesday, Oct. 23. Students from Knightstown Intermediate School will also join the upperclassmen.

Veach hopes this year’s Red Ribbon Week programs will open people’s eyes to the reality their children face when it comes to drugs.

Veach surveys teens and parents every year at local summer fairs and in classrooms.

Even after running the A.R.I.E.S. program for so many years, Veach is still surprised when she reads notes from young people asking that someone help their parents understand how bad drugs are.

“Parents need to be educated just as much as kids do,” she said.

Red Ribbon Week is sponsored nationally by the National Family Partnership. This year’s theme is “Send a message. Stay drug free.”

The theme is a call to action to speak out in support of healthy choices. The theme is also a reminder that by staying drug free, you are sending a message to yourself and others about how much you value yourself, your overall health, your community and your future.

For more information, visit redribbon.org.