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Win a red ribbon

Bicyclists of all ages get together to kick off week preaching the values of a drug-free lifestyle with a few fancy rides.

October 21, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

MEDIA DISTRICT — Eric Dansak tinkered with his bicycle while reflecting on a classroom campaign that promotes healthy, drug-free lifestyles.

But first, there was the bike ride.

“I can’t wait to get out there,” he said, as dozens of students ascended a small berm before jostling up to the starting line. “You get to show off to your friends, see who has the baddest wheels.”

Eric, a 13-year-old Jordan Middle School student, said he had no problems with the week of lecturing during Red Ribbon Week, which is designed to help students remember what to say when offered drugs. But he did object to one of the week’s restrictions.

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“I have to admit,” he said, “I’m not a big fan of helmets.”

On Saturday, he joined more than 100 families at Johnny Carson Park to commence the week in the 21st annual Burbank Safe, Healthy & Drug Free Red Ribbon Ride.

Children of all ages pedaled alongside Burbank Police officers on a large lap around the Walt Disney complex, through residential areas and back to the park where they were met by inflatable jungle gyms, a video-game trailer with massive television monitors and booths promoting healthy, clean living.

Burbank Fire Department personnel took students through a command center and fire engine while members of the Police Department highlighted an armored vehicle — all of it pure eye candy for 8-year-old Devon Jones, who missed the pack of riders and decided to hang back with his mother, Elle.

“On the way here, we rode our bikes, we passed a fire truck and two police motorcycles,” she said. “He’s at that age, and who knows, he might not outgrow it, where he wants to be either a fireman or policeman. Nothing gets him more excited.”

Jones took pictures of Devon standing on the rear bumper of a fire truck before walking him to a crafts table where the two of them designed buttons with the message: “Be drug free” and “D.A.R.E.” (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).

Along with safety services, the event was sponsored by the Park, Recreation and Community Services Department in conjunction with the Burbank Unified School District.

Teachers this month held sessions on the impacts of drug use, leading students through exercises, including creating large hand-printed posters representing “hands-off drugs.”

Older schoolchildren were presented with challenging situations and evaluated based on how they responded, said Kyle Locke, 12.

“It’s a test,” he said. “Just like the bike ride. Everybody’s watching your choices so you don’t want to mess up.”

Although newer methods to deal with early drug use have been implemented, Red Ribbon Week remains one of the oldest and largest prevention-based campaigns in the country.

The week of learning honors the life of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a special agent killed by drug traffickers in Mexico.

In 1988, the National Family Partnership coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week, which regularly draws the participation of 80 million people annually, organizers said.

“Burbank is a city of 100,000 that thinks it’s a city of 25,000,” Police Capt. Janice Lowers said, looking onto the early-morning crowd.

“Kids love it, and I think the parents appreciate the messages.”


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