By Lindsay Carey
The Southington Drug Task Force recently hosted the 24 annual Red Ribbon Rally to promote a drug and alcohol free community. This year’s theme was “Take a Stand Against Drug and Alcohol.
Families, student groups and community leaders gathered on the town green for the event on Wednesday night. Trish Kenefick, from the Southington Drug Task Force, coordinated the event and Town Councilor Victoria Triano emceed.
Southington School Supt. Tim Connellan, Town Councilor and Assistant Principal of DePaolo Chris Palmieri and State Representative Dave Zoni stood with Triano to show their support for a drug free community. Triano invited several community leaders to speak.
“I want to challenge everyone here maybe somebody has strayed off course, maybe they started doing drugs, maybe they started drinking at a young age,” said Town Councilor Tom Lombardi. “I want to challenge you all to reach out to those people and bring them back, bring them positivity in their life.”
Another leader that showed his support was Southington High School Principal Dr. Martin Semmel. He spoke to the crowd and commended not only SHS students, but all of the students that attended the rally.
“We have so many activities here for our kids to get involved in. They certainly don’t need to get involved in doing drugs or using alcohol,” said Semmel, who had just left from coaching soccer practice.
Several groups from different schools in the district were welcomed up on stage by Triano to share some form of pledge to remain drug free. Cheerleaders shared cheers about remaining drug free, while other groups said “I’d rather be playing sports than doing drugs” or “I’d rather be doing community service than doing drugs.”
“I know that they’re not just going to be saying the words, but their actions also follow their words,” said Semmel.
The groups that were represented at the rally were DePaolo Peer Advocates, DePaolo volleyball team, DECA, DePaolo Soccer Team, DePaolo Leadership Club, STEPS, DePaolo Cheerleaders, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Southington Key Club, Mrs. Connecticut, the YMCA, South Valley Midget Cheerleaders, Southington Jr. Knights Football, SHS Cheerleaders and SHS football.
Steve Nyerick shared some exciting news that Alex’s Lemonade Stand raised over $12,000 for cancer research this year. He ended by pumping up the crowd and getting them to chant “Don’t drink alcohol, drink lemonade!”
“We canceled practice tonight, so our kids could come here and hear the right message,” said Southington Jr. Knights Football Mike Goralski. “We say no to drugs and yes to football and cheerleading.”
At the end of the rally, candles were lit in honor of all the youth that has passed away from an overdose. Everyone gathered in a circle around the town green facing the street for a moment of silence and then sang “God Bless America” altogether.
“This is what Southington is all about, standing shoulder to shoulder supporting one another,” said Triano. “Never again will another kid in Southington die because of drugs.”
By Lindsay Carey