Written by Tom Gould, oysterbay@Antonnews.com Thursday, 21 November 2013 00:00
The social workers in Oyster Bay perform an enormous job that often has life and death consequences. During Red Ribbon Week, the social workers join in a nationwide effort to protect children from the effects of destructive decisions.
Red Ribbon Week was started in 1985 by the family and neighbors of Enrique Camarena, a federal drug enforcement agent who was killed in the line of duty. His family members wore red ribbons and the idea quickly spread until the red ribbon became the symbol of drug and alcohol prevention across the nation. This annual event focuses on the importance of living healthy and preventing drug and alcohol use and abuse.
In Oyster Bay, each school plans a week full of activities and fun ways to raise awareness about these important issues.
A major event at the high school is Grim Reaper Day. Grim Reaper Day is an annual event that draws attention to the devastating effects of driving while compromised. An adolescent senselessly dies every 32 minutes as a result a direct result of drugs or alcohol. SADD officers and volunteers train to be part of the event. They “symbolically” die every 32 minutes when the gong rings over the loud speaker. The grim character of the “reaper” (students dressed in costume), enters a room and taps a predetermined student on the shoulder. They stand and wear a placard explaining the tragic circumstances of their untimely death for all of their fellow students to read throughout the day. They remain silent and non-interactive throughout the course of their regular day as if they were “dead” to us. Their presence is a somber reminder to make good decisions to keep them, their friends and family safe, and especially to never drink and drive.
Grim Reaper Day has become a tradition at Oyster Bay High School. This was once only for high school students. The presence of seventh- and eighth-graders at the high school gave rise to the need to incorporate middle level students and age appropriate situations into the somber event. The goal is to empower middle level students to decline rides from compromised adults, refrain from experimentation with alcohol and drugs, and to avoid risky behaviors and activities, even when they are sober.
After the last bell, all volunteers congregate in the gym lobby so individuals can read all of the placards and SADD officers can continue to share facts. As students assembled they were serenaded by Oyster Bay High School students. Laura Broffman kicked off the entertainment singing and playing guitar. Stevie Matthews led a band of musicians singing “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” Stevie sang and played the piano. He was joined by Chris Roerden on the bassoon, Josh Tepper on muted trumpet and Jamie Burke on guitar and vocals. Jamie also performed with her guitar.
In general, the students feel that this is an effective and necessary event to raise awareness and educate. The event is scheduled as part of Red Ribbon Week which also shares that mission.
On the same day, John Halligan shared “Ryan’s Story” with Vernon students. His son, Ryan committed suicide when he was 13 years old as a result of being bullied.