Red Ribbon Week

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Red Ribbon Week
Red Ribbon Week encourages drug prevention and education
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Learn about the Red Ribbon Week drug prevention campaign

What is Red Ribbon Week?
Red Ribbon Week is the largest and longest-running drug education and prevention program in the United States. It encourages communities to stand up against drugs, alcohol, and tobacco and it encourages children to shape their future by making a commitment to be drug-free. During Red Ribbon Week, participants usually wear red ribbons or red bracelets to signify their participation in the celebration.

When is it held?
Red Ribbon Week is held every year, usually during the last full week of October. In 2009, Red Ribbon Week is celebrated from October 17-25.

How did Red Ribbon Week start?
It all started with DEA Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena. He was a Marine and then a police officer. He then chose to become a DEA agent because he wanted to make a difference in the world.

Camarena was sent to Mexico on an undercover mission in order to investigate a Mexican drug cartel and remained there for four years. His efforts helped put a stop to several major drug manufacturing operations, but after shutting down these operations, the drug cartels were not happy and wanted revenge on the men who brought them down. Camarena left his office for a lunch date with his wife one day in early February of 1985. A car pulled up and kidnapped him, and a month later his body was found, tortured and murdered. Camarena's pilot was kidnapped the same day and his body was found alongside Camarena's.

Soon after his death, people in Camarena’s town began wearing red ribbons in his honor and to make a statement about the need for prevention of illegal drugs. Then Camarena’s high school friend, Henry Lozano, and his Congressman, Duncan Hunter, launched Camarena Club. Hundreds of people joined the club and pledged to be drug-free in order to honor the sacrifices that Camarena and others made for Americans. They also began wearing rid ribbons to symbolize Camarena’s memory, and schools in several states began participating. In 1988, the U.S. Congress, chaired by Nancy Reagan, proclaimed the first national Red Ribbon Week, and now most schools in America participate.

The holiday celebrated by millions still honors Camarena’s life and others who lost their lives for this cause, but is also used to further the cause that he fought for, which is to live drug-free, alcohol-free, and tobacco-free lives. Schools use this as a time to teach their students the importance of learning about drugs and encouraging them to stay away from them. Wearing the ribbon symbolizes a pledge to support the DEA’s efforts of drug education and prevention and to pledge to support a drug-free lifestyle.

How do I participate?
Most American schools participate in Red Ribbon Week by offering drug prevention education, doing classroom exercises, and by giving the children red ribbons to wear for the duration of the week.

If you do not have a child at a school that is participating, you can still get involved in the celebration by working together with your community to strive to be drug-free. You can purchase Red Ribbon Week supplies online, such as ribbons, silicon bracelets, pencils, stickers, water bottles and more to help promote your participation in the event.

Red Ribbon Week is a fantastic time to talk to your children about drugs. You can teach your kids about the harmful effects of drugs and why living a drug-free life is important. Red Ribbon Week also serves as a reminder to parents to be vigilant about their children’s activities; the National Family Partnership uses Red Ribbon Week to encourage parents to keep their prescription medicine locked away so that their children do not have the opportunity to misuse them, which is becoming an increasingly common problem in America.

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