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Dozens March in Substance Abuse Awareness Walk

Dozens participated in the Young River People’s Council’s Substance Abuse Awareness Walk on January 21 in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Monica Vavages knows firsthand about the life-threatening dangers of illegal drugs and alcohol abuse.

She’s seen it. She’s felt it. She’s lived it.

At age 12, Vavages tried marijuana and alcohol for the first time. That led to more drug and alcohol abuse, and it got a lot worse before it got better for the now 44-year-old, a tortilla maker at the Round House Café. Drugs landed Vavages in and out of jail and broke up her family. A heroin overdose stole away her daughter.

Vavages shared her story and past experience with drugs and alcohol at the Young River People’s Council’s Substance Abuse Awareness Walk on January 21 in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. She warned people about the dark path that drug and alcohol abuse leads to.

“There’s nothing you can do for them when you’re behind bars and you’re hearing them crying, suffering because you’re gone because of something you did, a choice that you made,” Vavages said.

Vavages was one of about 120 people to march a little more than a mile from the Victory Acres II Clubhouse to the Canal Side Neighborhood Center, near Salt River Schools. The march included people of all ages. Shortly before the march got underway, many shared their stories of drug abuse and recovery.

The walk was part of a Young River People’s Council effort to help the Community. YRPC member Ramon Lopez was the event’s emcee, and YRPC President Dione Dallas delivered the welcome message.

The youth group easily filled up a box with used “whip-it” canisters that were collected from along the side of Community roads to illustrate the dangers happening around them. “Whip-its” are small canisters of compressed nitrous oxide or carbon dioxide gas that is inhaled for a quick high. Lopez said he was disgusted at their use in the Community.

“I think it’s ridiculous that our Community members are throwing these out the window,” Lopez said. “It only took us three stops to pick all this up.”

SRPMIC Tribal Council Member Archie Kashoya shared a prayer message and words of encouragement. Kashoya said he owes a lot to his family for being sober for 28 years.

“I think my message today is that through prayer, we strengthen ourselves through reaching out for the positive support, whether it’s a police officer or whether it’s some kind of service,” Kashoya said. “The greatest support you can have is your brothers, your sisters, your grandma and grandpa, your children.”

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