OGDEN — Seven-year-old Aisley Lewis got the Red Ribbon Week message.
“I learned that taking drugs can make you sick or hurt, or even die,” said the second-grader at Shadow Valley Elementary School in Ogden.
“And I like basketball a lot,” she added. “I’m probably going to sign up soon.”
Aisley was on her school playground Friday, waiting in line to shoot a basketball at a hoop far above her head.
Standing by to encourage her were several members of the Weber State University women’s basketball team.
And surrounding the playground was a chain-link fence rustling with hundreds of red ribbons, each tied in place by one of the school’s 600 students as a pledge to avoid illegal drugs and instead live a healthful life.
The Shadow Valley Parent Teacher Association took over Red Ribbon Week this year and made it special by inviting Weber State athletes.
“The kids love to have visitors, and athletes from Weber State are special,” said Don Mendenhall, principal at Shadow Valley.
On Tuesday and Thursday, players from the WSU men’s basketball team greeted students as they entered the school and spoke on the school’s morning news program about healthful lifestyle choices.
“We decided to make the messages not just about avoiding drugs, but also about living a healthy life, continuing to stay active and maybe participating in team sports,” Mendenhall said.
He took over at Shadow Valley this fall after working as an assistant principal at Ogden High School.
“I have seen zero drug issues here at Shadow Valley,” he said.
“In junior high, we know that’s where it starts to be a significant problem. If we can get the message to kids now, they can make better decisions when they need to.”
Seven members of the WSU women’s basketball team, accompanied by assistant coach Penny Jones, showed up for recess Friday.
“Even if they don’t grow up to be a college athlete, they can be a successful adults,” Jones said of Shadow Valley students.
“We want them to know they do not have to give in to peer pressure on drugs. They can just say no.”
Jones also wanted to drum up interest and invite students to a free WSU women’s basketball game on Dec. 20.
All elementary students are invited to attend, and last year, the game drew close to 3,000 children from various schools, she said.
Carlee Lough, 19, a sophomore team member, said leading a small herd of children in a basketball game takes some energy.
“But it’s energy I’m happy to give,” she said.
“It’s just great if you can give back to the community. They support us, and we support them. I love being here, playing with the kids and promoting a healthy lifestyle.”
Freshman team member Kalie Matthews, 18, said the interactive event was fun.
“We’re here to teach kids that drugs are bad and sports are good,” she said. “It’s better to learn early rather than late.”
Second-grader Jared Daines, 7, said he agrees with the week’s messages.
“Drugs can hurt you really bad. They can even kill you,” he said.
“And exercise can make you really strong. I like playing basketball, football, soccer and volleyball. I’m not that great at volleyball.”
So does Jared want to be a college athlete?
“No, I want to be a cowboy.”