This month, you likely will see lots of pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness and purple ribbons for domestic violence awareness in the community.

But a group of Seymour High School art students and downtown merchants are making sure you see red ribbons, too.

On Monday morning, around 30 of teacher Don Brown’s second-year and advanced art students walked from the high school to downtown Seymour.

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Armed with lots of paint brushes and red tempura paint, the group spent the day decorating storefront windows with red ribbons to bring attention to Red Ribbon Week.

This was the first time art students have been involved with the anti-drug campaign, which runs from Oct. 23 to 31.

“This is our first year,” Brown said. “I hope it becomes a tradition.”

Junior Haley Weaver said she grew up in a household where drugs were a common thing to see. She now wants to be part of prevention efforts, such as Red Ribbon Week, to keep other kids from going through the same thing.

“I’ve since gotten out of the situation, but I would like to bring awareness to the destruction of substance abuse and its ability to tear families apart,” she said.

With the high number of overdoses and drug-related deaths in Jackson County, including that of teenagers and young adults, Weaver said something has to change.

“Seymour isn’t exactly picturesque when you look at the number of overdoses and drug-related deaths in our county alone, but I think that our youth are trying to change that reputation by supporting this cause,” she said.

Weaver wants the community to take notice.

“I hope the community looks at our painted windows and sees that not everyone is standing by and waiting for things to change,” she said. “Some people are trying to be active and actually make a change themselves.”

And that’s what she is most proud of.

“I am very proud of my peers for supporting this cause alongside me, making a change one brushstroke at a time,” she said.

Seymour Main Street Executive Director Becky Schepman approached the school to see if students would be interested in helping publicize Red Ribbon Week outside of the school and in the community.

She had taken part in Jackson County United Way’s community conversations last year and realized drugs is the biggest problem the community is facing right now.

“I heard the message loud and clear that our community has a drug problem and that our community cares and wants it to stop,” she said. “I have seen too many families ripped apart because of drugs, and I have kids that are growing up in this community. It is an issue that is close to my heart for my family and all the other families in our community.”

She decided downtown Seymour would be the perfect location to help get the word out about Red Ribbon Week.

“The response from the downtown business owners was huge,” she said. “I sent the email to see who was interested and immediately started getting responses.”

A total of 13 downtown businesses signed up for the Red Ribbon treatment. They are Andrea Hall Financial Adviser, Bullwinkles, Chillicen, CrossFit Seymour, Greemann’s Furniture, Gypsy Wagon, Java Joint, Lea Boutique, Prestigious Affairs, Rails Craft Brew and Eatery, STEPS Dance Center, Tiemeier’s Jewelry and Indiana Vapor LLC.

As the students painted, others asked if they could have their windows painted, too.

“We’re so thankful to the students and Mr. Brown at Seymour High School for donating their time and talents to make it happen,” Schepman said.

Each merchant is required to remove the paint on their own at the end of Red Ribbon Week. By using tempura paint instead of acrylic, the students made sure business owners would be able to remove the paint easily.

Seymour senior Maddie Pifer said students want to help raise awareness in the community about the drug epidemic.

“Painting windows seemed to be the perfect way to help grab the communities’ attention,” she said.

Being able to spend the day painting with her classmates was fun but also served an important purpose, she added.

“This activity was important to me because I could tell and inform others about Red Ribbon Week through art,” she said. “It was also nice to be able to think outside of the box or even the classroom. I hope that our painting will inform others and help bring more attention to Red Ribbon Week.”

The Red Ribbon Week campaign has been recognized in Jackson County since 1988, when the Jackson County Substance Abuse Task Force, now the Jackson County Drug-Free Council, organized the first Red Ribbon Week celebration.

It started nationally in 1985 to raise awareness of the killing and destruction caused by drugs and now serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities.

On Oct. 27, Seymour Main Street is culminating Red Ribbon Week with a downtown event called “GET LOUD NOW.” From 5 to 8 p.m. that day in the farmers market parking lot on Walnut Street, there will be food trucks, live music from Donovan Harris and speakers Kyle McIntosh and Stacy Phillips sharing their stories of drug addiction and recovery.

“This night is about getting loud about the drug problem,” Schepman said. “We need to admit there is a problem, but we also need to be loud about the fact that we want it to stop, and it can stop if we all join together and support each other and the community as a whole.”

By having two local recovering addicts and their family members speak about the journey to recovery, Schepman hopes to offer hope to those currently struggling with addiction or who have a family member who is.

“It is important to see the person and realize it is someone’s mom, dad, sibling, spouse, aunt, uncle, cousin, nephew, niece, daughter or son and realize how hard addiction is and the damage it can do,” she said. “My prayer for the night is that we gain hope as a community and gain knowledge about drugs and recovery for so many families who are in pain.”

Junior Elizabeth Wehrkamp said she enjoyed getting to be part of painting the downtown red.

“I want the community to think about ways to improve the drugs and violence in our communities and communities everywhere so we can all make the world a better place one step at a time,” she said. “I want people to remember how the young people in our community took time out of their school day to make a change for everyone by standing up against drug use in our youth.”

Because of the work being done in local schools to address drugs, Schepman said she believes Seymour is on the right track to preventing drug use, addiction and overdoses.

“With groups like SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) in our schools and DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programs, we are blessed to live in a community that cares, and if everyone joins together, I believe we can see a change for the good,” she said.

If you go

What: GET LOUD NOW, an event to culminate Red Ribbon Week

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 27

Where: Farmers market parking lot on Walnut Street in Seymour

There will be food trucks, live music from Donovan Harris and speakers Kyle McIntosh and Stacy Phillips sharing their stories of drug addiction and recovery.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.