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Blog Post | October 18, 2022

Seven Ways to Engage in Red Ribbon Week with SAFE Project

By Ronna Yablonski, Sr. Director of SAFE Choices

In life, we all have the power of choice. When you think of making a choice, have you ever given thought to the reasoning behind it? Do you ever think about the choices available to the youth in your life?

They may choose to play hooky to avoid taking an algebra exam, for instance. This may not be the “right” choice, but it is a choice. The point is, we don’t always opt for what is best for us, our family, or our community. We make choices based on the options that we know are available to us. But what if we are made aware of multiple paths from which to choose?

That’s what Red Ribbon Week (Oct. 23-31) is all about, with our theme being “Choose Your Path. Make SAFE Choices.” We invite you to make the choice to use our 7 ways to engage in Red Ribbon Week and encourage prevention.

Red Ribbon Campaign History

A community stricken by grief united in 1985 to take a visible stance in support of a slain DEA Agent and marine, Enrique “KiKi” Camarena, and his work in stopping drugs from entering our communities. By wearing a red ribbon, they honored his choice and commitment of creating safer communities and a brighter future for all. Growing up in poverty, KiKi made the choice at a young age to focus on his education, go to the military, and take up a career as a DEA agent. In his choices, he aimed to make the best decisions for himself, his family, his community, and his country. The Red Ribbon Week campaign has grown to be the largest, longest-running, and most-recognized substance prevention campaign in the country.

Why Invest in Prevention Programs?

With more than 108,000 lives fatally lost to substance overdose last year alone in the US, the time is now for a unified, collaborative, and proactive approach to prevention. This should be coordinated and prioritized alongside treatment, intervention, and recovery.

In the White House’s National Youth Substance Use Prevention proclamation, President Biden said, “For every dollar we spend today on effective school-based prevention programs, we save $18 in the future by avoiding potential medical costs and boosting productivity on the job.”

Prevention saves money. Investing in prevention on the front end means a huge saving on the back end because you are solving issues before they take root. With this in mind, WE all have a role in prevention. Yes, we have a choice to make. Through collective action in reducing risk factors like trauma, poverty, economic inequity, discrimination, conflict, and stress, we can systematically address root causes of behavioral problems.

Positive Youth Development is the Cornerstone of Prevention

I made the choice 19 years ago to enter a career in youth substance prevention to make a positive impact, instill hope, and offer choices to those who feel like they have no choice. I advocate for the most underrated response to the drug epidemic — prevention — and it starts with our youth. It’s about choosing prevention as a part of the solution as a forethought and not just an afterthought; it is about collectively making life-changing choices, not just during Red Ribbon Week, but throughout the entire year.

From October 23-31, we invite you to use these 7 ways to engage in Red Ribbon Week with SAFE Project:

For questions about Red Ribbon Week 2022, reach out to: