By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Schools everywhere in Madison County are gearing up for the Red Ribbon Week celebration Oct. 23 - 31.
Wendy Cook, a project coordinator with Intersect, said the county is holding a rally Saturday to kick off the week.
Intersect is a nonprofit organization in the county with a major focus on curtailing drug abuse. Cook said they work especially close with the schools to encourage students of all ages away from drugs.
Intersect oversees all of the schools’ Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) clubs in the county. Cook said this is a big week for the SADD clubs as students help their classmates understand the dangers drugs and alcohol can have on them.
The Red Ribbon Rally — put on by Intersect, St. Vincent Regional Health, St. Vincent Mercy and the Madison County SADD students — will be at the Impact Center from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Cook said while their main focus is preventing drug problems, the rally is also about encouraging people to make healthy decisions in general, from not doing drugs to getting off the couch and going for a walk.
“The whole theme is healthy living,” Cook said. “Everything we put on is going to have an emphasis on getting up and moving.”
Activities throughout the day will be promoting different ways to exercise — from a walk, bike and run event at 4:15 p.m. to a three-on-three basketball tournament.
There will also be a Zumba demonstration at 1:30 p.m.
Cook said it is never too early to start talking to children about the dangers of drugs. She said children in elementary school can begin experimenting with cigarettes.
“Education is very important,” Cook said. “We live in a society where drugs are easy to get.”
While events like the Red Ribbon Rally and the weeklong programs the schools put on certainly help, Cook said parents play a huge role year round in helping their children make the right decisions.
“Parents can be a big influence,” she said. “We need to be setting good examples for them.”
Community involvement is also a big theme to the event. Cook said it’s showing the community’s young people that adults are behind them and support them when they make good decisions.
She said a recent survey found less than 40 percent of students in grades eight and nine think their neighbors notice or compliment them when doing a good job or making the right choices.
Sometimes there is too much emphasis on the negative decisions instead of rewarding the good decisions, she said.
Cook said she hopes the rally will let the children know the community is behind them as they make drug-free choices.
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB or call him at 640-4847.