The Oro Valley Police Department, Oro Valley Optimist Club, and Kyle Franks Foundation hosted the fourth annual Drug Awareness Day at Riverfront Park on March 30.
Fifth graders from six different schools were in attendance to learn about drug resistance, anti-bullying, and overcoming peer pressure.
From the Kyle Franks Foundation, Ashley West spoke to hundreds of students about the dangers of drugs, which for her, is a topic very close to home. When her brother Kyle was in seventh grade, he began smoking marijuana.
“Don’t be surprised, it’s there in middle school,” she told the students. “You have to be strong enough to know you have a choice. Your choice is going to have a consequence, and you’re going to have to live with that.”
After an injury in baseball, Kyle was issued prescription drugs, to which he soon became addicted while still smoking. After an attempted recovery at rehab, Kyle continued to use prescription pills, and later died of an overdose.
West, who has been participating in Drug Awareness Day for the last three years, said she is proud to get the message out to students. Still, her efforts don’t come without a sense of remembrance.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “If we can, through education, prevent some sort of heartache for other families out there, that is what we are seeking to do.”
Ashley led the fifth graders in a game to demonstrate the consequences of decision-making. Four student volunteers were chosen, but warned their decision to participate could come with negative consequences to be endured the rest of the day. Still, the eager volunteers made their way to the stage, where they drew items from a bucket. One lucky student drew movie tickets, but the other three were less fortunate. Leg weights, colored hair spray, and a feather boa were the items drawn by the remaining students, each of which had to face the “consequences” of the decision to participate in the game.
Following the initial activities, students were able to visit a number of stations, consisting of a Black Hawk helicopter, various police vehicles, a K-9 demonstration, and more.
More than 100 parents were present at the event, which Lt. Kara Riley of the Oro Valley Police Department said is the most the event has attracted. Riley said fifth grade is a good time to inform students of drugs, as they are entering junior high school, a time when drug use increases.
“It’s our opinion this is the age to hit them for prevention,” she said. “We started with just Oro Valley schools, and expanded it to the entire Amphitheater School District.”
Anthony Coulson, the former head of Tucson’s Drug Enforcement Agency, said there have never been as many drugs on the streets in the history of the country as there are now, making exposure to students a near-guarantee.
“We as a country do not invest enough in fixing our people, and it’s a shame,” he said. “We are losing generations to come. These kids will experience a lot of things in their teenage years.”
Coulson addressed a group of parents, telling them the time is now to have long, frequent conversations with their children about the consequences of drug use. According to Coulson, prescription drugs are some of the fastest growing, most popularly drugs on the streets.
The Oro Valley Dispose-A-Med program was present for the event, allowing parents to bring unused or prescription drugs to be properly disposed of. The Dispose-A-Med program also visits the Oro Valley Target location throughout the year.
For more information on the Oro Valley Drug Awareness Day, visit Orovalleyaz.gov. Donations can be made to the Oro Valley Optimist Club at www.orovalleyoptimistclub.org, and to the Kyle Franks Foundation at www.kylefranks.org.