Red Ribbon event sends drug-free message
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 25, 2012 4:06PM
Myers Elementary student Hunter Farrington (left) shouts encouragement to his balloon after launching it during a Red Ribbon day drug abuse and awareness program outside the Porter County government center in Valparaiso. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
For more on the Porter County Substance Abuse Council, visit www.portercountysac.org.
Updated: November 27, 2012 10:40AM
Shouts of “I have the power!” resonated outside the Porter County Administration Building in Valparaiso on a recent morning as fourth-graders from Myers Elementary School helped kick off Red Ribbon Week, which encourages children to lead drug-free lives.
The students also helped release 100 red balloons, 53 of which were coded for the students. The student whose balloon travels the farthest will receive free movie tickets; last year’s lengthy traveler landed outside of Cincinnati, and was found by a family whose last name is Porter.
“Each one of you has so much potential. Do you know what that means? You can be anything you want to be, and we want to see you make the right choices,” said Jackie Sterling, chair of the Red Ribbon Campaign for the Porter County Substance Abuse Council.
Speakers Mann Spitler, whose daughter Manda died of a heroin overdose, and Porter County Sheriff David Lain also encouraged the children to make the right choices during the Oct. 22 program.
Spitler said a friend of his daughter’s introduced her to cigarettes when she was 13, and from there, she went on to abuse alcohol and drugs. A boyfriend started her on heroin.
“Instead of giving herself real happiness, she was giving herself fake happiness,” said Spitler, who started his presentation with a large photo of Manda for the children to see.
He said Manda’s drug overdose, which occurred while he was home with her, was the most tragic thing that could ever happen to her and to her family.
Spitler encouraged the children to protect themselves from drugs by turning to their parents or caregivers when they are troubled; surrounding themselves with good friends; and thinking of themselves.
“The last thing to keep yourself safe is yourself,” he said.
Lain reiterated that theme, sharing a story about a woman he met just after she’d been released from Porter County Jail. They shared the same birthday and were born in the same hospital, but her life was miserable because she was addicted to heroin.
“Every single one of you is the strongest person in your life,” he said, adding the children make their own choices, “and nobody can make that choice for you.”
He told the children they have the power to be whatever they want to be, or give it all away because of drugs.
Samantha White, 9, one of the fourth-graders at the program, said it was important to participate in Red Ribbon Week “so you don’t take drugs. You’re the strongest person in your life.”