By Russell Huffman
El Defensor Chieftain Assistant Editor

The Red Ribbon Relay performed by Alamo Navajo Community School on Sept. 7 was a mixture of running and bicycling across 77 miles to the town square in Socorro. The event had a special meaning for those taking part to raise awareness about drug and alcohol abuse.

The Red Ribbon Relay hits incredibly close to home for coordinator Julie Guerro who lost a sister to a drunk driver. Guerro serves as a behavioral health case manager in Alamo, and on Wednesday, she was referred to as “the boss” as she directed the workers, riders and runners.

“This is something that we take very seriously because we want to raise the awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and our athletes are very supportive,” Guerro said.

The runners were also exhausted when they arrived in Socorro at around 3:30 p.m. – they had been on the road since 6 a.m. and averaged just a little over 8 miles an hour.

Runner Claire Apachito is also a member of the school’s volleyball team, but she took time away from her sport to lend a hand.

“We have a huge problem with drugs and alcohol in our area, and I wanted to take part in the Red Ribbon Relay because it’s important for us to raise awareness of what is happening,” Apachito said.

The Red Ribbon Relay run originally honored U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration undercover agent Enrique (Kiki) Camarena Salazar, who was tortured and murdered by Mexican drug cartel members in 1985.

Today Salazar is still being honored, but the focus of the relay has become more about raising awareness about drugs and alcohol and getting information about where to get help.

Senior runner Mike Monte echoed Apachito’s thoughts, and he hopes to one day become a nurse.

“I took part because I know there is a big problem, and I want to help,” Monte said.

Alamo cross country coach Wendall Apache was proud to see his runners participating.

“We have been a part of the Red Ribbon Relay for several years. It’s a great way to keep kids interested to be a part of it,” Apache said. “That and getting to spread the awareness of drugs and alcohol.”