Fifth graders from Oro Valley and surrounding areas no doubt had a lot to talk about on their bus ride back to class from the town’s fifth-annual Drug Awareness Day, held at Riverfront Park on Friday.
Co-hosted by the Oro Valley Police Department, Oro Valley Optimist Club, and Kyle Franks Foundation, the event combined entertainment and education to promote drug prevention and anti-bullying to students on the verge of entering junior high, where such circumstances often arise.
Ashley West of the Kyle Franks Foundation knows that fact all too well, having lost her brother at a young age to a drug overdose. She was in attendance for the fourth year to speak to the six different elementary schools in attendance.
“It starts with one tiny choice,” she said. “You have the power in that moment, even though it seems harmless, to say, ‘I choose no.’ The consequences of taking drugs are just not worth it in the long run.”
Also in attendance were Town Manager Greg Caton, Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath and Police Chief Danny Sharp.
“We don’t want anything to get in the way of you being successful,” Sharp told the young crowd. “You are our future, and that’s what we want you all to know.”
Students from each school were recognized for academic excellence after being selected as the winners of an essay contest. Three finalists were each awarded a bicycle for their efforts.
Following some initial games and dancing, students had the opportunity to watch a K-9 demonstration, in which the highly trained dogs attacked an officer wearing a protective body suit. Students then visited a number of stations located throughout the park where they interacted with police officers and border patrol and toured police cars, motorcycles, a Blackhawk helicopter, and Pima Regional S.W.A.T. vehicle.
Parents in attendance also had the opportunity to learn the growing trends of drug use and at a separate tent where Anthony Coulson, former head of the Tucson Drug Enforcement Agency, offered tips to help keep children drug-free.
Coulson warned parents that prescription drugs are on the rise.
Not coincidentally, the Oro Valley Police Department held its national Dispose-A-Med program the following day at the Oro Valley Target. The event allows citizens to bring in unwanted prescription drugs for proper disposal, greatly reducing the likelihood that such drugs make their way onto the street.
The program will return on June 15 and Aug. 17 from 8 a.m. to noon and Oct. 12 and Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
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.