The fight against drug and alcohol abuse will take centre stage as next week is declared Drug Awareness Week by the Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team.
Starting Sunday, the local SAP team, along with partners throughout the district, will begin a week of activities as part of a province-wide initiative designed to encourage young people to steer clear of drugs and alcohol.
“It is just to show Fort Frances that you can have fun without drugs and alcohol,” SAP co-ordinator Brad Herbert said Friday.
Town council declared the week Drug Awareness Week at its regular meeting Tuesday night.
This is the first time area First Nations have taken part in Drug Awareness Week. All of the events being organized have been paid for by almost 20 sponsors, but SAP will be accepting donations so they can hold similar events down the road.
“The response [from sponsors] has been great. It’s phenomenal,” enthused Herbert. “Everyone is on board and really excited about this.”
Drug and alcohol abuse has plagued the north for decades, he said.
“In our area it’s huge,” Herbert remarked. “In Northwestern Ontario, we don’t have the same problems as Toronto or bigger cities, but alcohol and drugs are always present here.”
He said more dangerous drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine are heading north from urban areas. “It’s an uphill battle,” Herbert lamented.
Drug Awareness Week activities will include everything from a pancake breakfast at the U.M.A.Y.C. Youth Drop-In Centre on Mowat Avenue on Sunday at 7 a.m., followed by a sobriety walk at noon.
Opening ceremonies will be held Monday at noon at the Civic Centre as Fort Frances ambulance, fire, police, and SAP discuss the issue of substance abuse in the region.
An alcohol- and drug-free awareness fair will be at the youth drop-in centre Monday at 6 p.m., followed by a youth workshop at 7. Then more presentations and workshops are slated Tuesday at the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau (old CN station) starting at 6 p.m.
Wednesday will feature a soup kitchen at noon at the Joy of Life Fellowship Church, a presentation by Dave Schwartz at the volunteer bureau at 2 p.m., and an open house from 1-4 p.m. at Oh-Shki-Be-Ma-Te-Ze-Win at Couchiching.
There will be another soup kitchen at the volunteer bureau at noon Thursday and a variety show at 7 p.m. Friday’s activities will include a feast at the multi-use facility at Couchiching at 5 p.m., followed by presentations at 6 and a dance at 8.
The week-long event will wrap up Saturday at the Joy of Life Fellowship Church with a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m., a kids’ fair at noon, a community supper at 5 p.m., and entertainment by the “Steppers of the Moving On Up Church” from Minneapolis at 6.
Similar events are being planned in Rainy River and Atikokan.
“I’m hoping a lot of people come out,” he added. “I talk to people and they can’t believe it is free.”