The wearing of a red ribbon can represent different causes. During October 23-31 each year, it is dedicated to awareness efforts to keep kids drug-free.  

We don’t really like to think about substance abuse, especially in reference to our children. However, our discomfort with the subject does not change its reality.  Substance abuse can affect every segment of the community. It can pop up in any age group.  While it tends to be associated with only certain types of communities, the truth is that it affects all communities.  And yes, it can reach our kids.

Red Ribbon Week is about starting a conversation. It’s about being proactive to prevent kids from ever starting down the difficult road of drug use and misuse. Ultimately, it’s about prevention.

Red Ribbon Week

The History

The Red Ribbon effort began in 1985 in honor of Kiki Camarena.  Enrique “Kiki” Camarena worked as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. He was tortured and killed in Mexico for his work against illegal drugs. After this tragic event, Kiki’s family started wearing red ribbons in his memory. 

During that decade, parents began to form coalitions, working together with the community to prevent their kids from abusing drugs.  Many of these parent-led coalitions used the symbol of the red ribbon. They wanted to show their belief that one person could make a difference. National Family Partnership was one of the first parent-led substance abuse prevention coalitions to form in 1980. Now, it has grown into a nationwide organization, still committed to preventing substance abuse in youth.

Following along with this trend, the Red Ribbon Campaign continued to grow, and National Family Partnership sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Week in 1988. And so, a simple grass-roots effort became a national campaign. One community wanted to continue the legacy of their friend. Because of this, we have an annual national reminder that one person can make a difference. 

Red Ribbon Efforts Today

While this sounds quite serious, the Red Ribbon Campaign provides fun slogans and materials for children to use for Red Ribbon Week.  Each year there is a new slogan, like “Drugs Bug Me”, “Too Smart to Start”, “Happy, Healthy, Drug Free”, and “Make a Difference”.  Many schools participate in Red Ribbon Week. During these days, they provide prevention education and fun activities, helping kids associate healthy living with staying Drug Free.

Anyone can wear a red ribbon during Red Ribbon Week to show a commitment to keeping kids drug free. It’s also a great time to start a conversation with your own kids about healthy living and how important it is to choose to be drug free. The sign for choose is here.  

We can also teach our kids that this choice to stay drug free is a smart choice. In any risky activity, we want our kids to think about the smart thing to do.  Here is the sign for smart.

Red Ribbon Week

Please note that if you wear a red ribbon for Red Ribbon Week, the ribbon is to be worn vertically, as shown in the style of this Red Ribbon from National Family Partnership, and not in a loop.  Red ribbon loops stand for other causes.

National Family Partnership also has several Red Ribbon Week resources.

Take this opportunity to have a conversation about healthy living and good choices with your kids.

Providing positive messages in all areas of life can help our kids make good choices. Signing Time is full of positive, healthy messages! Check out a MySigningTime subscription here and start enjoying educational, character-building programming right away with a 14-day free trial.