LAYTON — As mascots from local sports teams, high schools, community organizations and businesses funneled through the halls and past students at Whitesides Elementary School, the excitement — and volume level — of the students continued to rise.
Fourth-grader Sami Knecht, 9, said the parade was something she would never forget.
“I know that if anybody asks us to buy drugs, (adults) will always be there for us,” Sami said of the event the school’s PTA organized to highlight Red Ribbon Week.
Red Ribbon Week is an annual event many schools celebrate to educate youths about the dangers of drug abuse and to encourage them to stay drug-free.
“We wanted to make Red Ribbon Week bigger than it’s been before,” said Emily Felt, Whitesides’ PTA president. “So, we thought it would be fun to get community support and mascot support and have a parade for our students to get them excited.”
Felt said all the organizations and corresponding mascots volunteered their time to participate in the parade. The school also received candy donations from local grocery stores.
The school’s PTA hoped the magnitude of the event would create memories for the students that would last a lifetime.
“We wanted to do things that were memorable … things that they will think back on and remember, ‘That was for Red Ribbon Week.’ When you do something fun in conjunction with a good cause and a good message, that’s what is important,” said Jodi Knecht, a PTA member.
The parade began with a color guard from the Air Force ROTC at Northridge High School. Students stood in silence — well, almost silence — as the U.S. flag and Utah flag passed by.
The flags were followed by members of the local law enforcement and fire departments. Officers and firemen gave students high-fives as they passed.
Smokey Bear and Sparky the Fire Dog continued the high-fives and gave hugs to the kids.
Mascots from local businesses and sports teams enhanced the parade, as students gleefully held out their hands in a continuous line throughout the halls of the school.
Student representatives from Layton, Northridge and Clearfield high schools also participated in the parade.
Clearfield High’s student body officers and school mascot, Ferdinand the Falcon, wanted to show the younger students that drug-free is the way to be.
“When we are representing our high school, we’re showing that our high school doesn’t do those things. We’re showing that not everyone does (drugs), and it’s a good thing not to,” said Kalli Reed, student body officer over spirit.
The administration at Whitesides was also supportive of the work the PTA members contributed.
Diane Cahoon, principal at Whitesides, said:
“I hope (the students) remember that there are a lot of people and organizations out there that want kids to succeed and do their best. I think it’s really great that so many organizations were willing to support us.”