Mission Viejo hosts annual Walk Against Drugs

OC sheriffs ride on horseback during Walk Against Drugs Neda Parvaneh| Lariat

To fight against drugs, children should “lean on your friends,” Angels pitcher Patrick Sandoval said at Mission Viejo High School’s football stadium on Oct. 15 to kick off the city’s 34th annual Walk Against Drugs.

“If I could say anything to the young kids out here, I would say lean on your friends, lean on your family and know who to trust.” Sandoval said. “Communication is huge. I’ve seen first hand the negative effects of drugs and how it can affect your life and the people around you, and it is a serious, serious thing.”

The Walk Against Drugs began as part of an initiative started by former Mission Viejo Mayor William Craycraft in 1988. Sandolval, a Mission Viejo native, spoke along with Mayor Wendy Bucknam, U.S. Representative Young Kim and Orange County Sheriff Jeff Alec before everyone walked almost one and half miles to Oso Viejo Community Park.

“One of the things that’s so great about serving on city council is that we get to build on the traditions that were established many years ago and keep going and doing them even better every year,” Bucknum said at the opening rally.

This year’s message focused on the mantra “strike out drugs,” a statement that was highlighted and imprinted on red T-shirts participants received for free at the opening rally.

“Throughout this country, we’re facing what is really a national drug epidemic that is impacting us here in Orange County,” said Alec, following Bucknam. He then added, “there have been over 100,000 drug overdoses in this country in the last 12 months.”

Drug use is still a leading cause of “injury-related death,” most overdoses caused by opiods,the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in a Feb. 14 study. Rep. Kim stressed the importance of traditions like the Walk Against Drugs.

“I want to commend the community, the school community, law enforcement and the city for bringing this tradition together to stand against drugs,” Kim said.

Mission Viejo resident Lauren Pivitera lost her son to an overdose and found this event when searching for a way to honor Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.

“I didn’t see anything so I thought this was a good way to get into the community, make my voice heard and share my story to somebody who I could maybe save their life,” she said.

Liliann Jones’ daughter is on the Mission Viejo Nadadores, a swim team consisting of 25 members. This is the first time they have participated.

“We fully support this cause, and we are fully against drugs,” Jones said. “We see the big problem in the younger generation and other communities and what drugs cause, so we wanted to do something too.”

The event concluded at the Oso Viejo Community Park, located at 24932 Veterans Way, where a community fair was held. Attendees received prizes, played games and interacted with representatives at sponsored tables.