MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Drug Education for Youth children and station Marines joined the Yuma community at West Wetlands Park Oct. 29 for the 10th-annual Red Ribbon Week walk/run event.
The DEFY kids passed out T-shirts during the event’s registration, and also participated in the day’s activities along with Marines, their families and about 350 other members of the Yuma community, said Bruce Iverson, a retired educator and volunteer who helped organize the event.
Red Ribbon Week, which ran from Oct. 23-31 this year, honors Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a former Marine who was tortured and killed in 1985 by a drug cartel he was attempting to break up. It also serves to raise youth drug awareness and promote drug-free lifestyles, which was the focus of this event, said Iverson.
“This is a preventative event that shows kids you can have fun without drugs or alcohol involved,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for parents to do something with their children -- it’s a family and youth event -- and it’s good, clean fun.”
DEFY is a Marine Corps funded program for children of station personnel ages 9-12 that teaches them the dangers of drug use and provides them with the knowledge and self esteem to resist peer pressure. Events like this show the children that the community is behind them in their fight against drugs, said Beth Ayash, station Drug Demand Reduction Coordinator who also oversees the DEFY program.
“By them being out here with the local community, it’s showing them that they’re not the only ones who want to have this lifestyle -- that they’re not the only ones who are standing up against drugs,” she said. “It takes a lot of pride and self esteem to stand up at school, so this way, they get some of that energy back form other people -- adults as well as the other kids who are out here running today.”
The event was organized and run by volunteers, and many local organizations contributed to the success of the event, including the BlueCross/BlueShied Association, Yuma Regional Medical Center, the Young Men’s Club of America, Yuma Elks Lodge 476, the DEA, the Optimist Club, the Yuma Police Department and many others. Because of all the support, the event runs smoother every year, said Iverson.
Cpl. Linda Camacho, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron administration clerk, ran the 5K event and said she was happy to participate.
“The reason I went is because I wanted to support the community in its fight against drugs,” she said. “I think the event is awesome, especially here in this town where there are so many kids getting involved with that stuff.”
Katherine Martin, Elks Lodge 476 drug awareness chairwoman who actively works to make a difference in the community through schools and government agencies, was on hand to help out at the event. She stressed that, like Camarena, everyone can make a difference if they try.
“He was one person, and look at the difference he’s made,” said Martin. “It doesn’t matter if you are just one person, if you choose not to do drugs, that affects everyone in your life. If you stand strong in your morals, that can affect your friends and keep them from doing it.”