The Portsmouth Prevention Coalition is launching a community-wide anti-substance abuse awareness campaign, Project Purple, which will run from Jan. 27 to 31.
Project Purple is an initiative of The Herren Project, a nonprofit established by Portsmouth resident Chris Herren, a Fall River native and former NBA basketball player whose career was derailed by substance abuse. Mr. Herren detailed his life with drugs and subsequent recovery in a book he co-wrote with Bill Reynolds called “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir.”
Project Purple encourages people of all ages to stand up against substance abuse and make good decisions in the coming year. Events will be held nationwide at registered Project Purple schools and within communities that will sponsor “Go Purple” assemblies, athletic events and pep rallies. Additionally, students will be encouraged to sign the Project Purple pledge and wear purple in support of those affected by substance abuse.
“It is our hope that through The Herren Project’s initiative, Project Purple that we can all join together to make a difference, celebrate life and support one another,” said Ray Davis, coordinator of the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition. “Project Purple week is about celebrating healthy choices that young people make on their own and we honor and support those who do.”
On Sunday, Jan. 25, Father Peter Andrews will lead a recovery Mass starting at 5 p.m. at St Barnabas Church on East Main Road. The church has also planned prevention activities for their 532 children in grades 1 to 10.
The Town Council will formally kick off Project Purple Week by issuing a proclamation during its meeting at Town Hall Monday night. Town Hall, the police and fire departments, library and St. Barnabas Church will have purple lights, ribbons and wreaths up during week to celebrate the event.
The Coalition is encouraging as many business owners and residents to show their support by creating a “winter wonderland” of purple on their clothes, vehicles and properties. Carlone’s Florist, Inc. has donated a large portion of the decorating costs and will offer a discount for anyone wanting to purchase purple ribbon to wear that week. Numerous Portsmouth businesses will also display signs and purple bows to show support.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be a grassroots thing. Anyone who wants to wear purple should do so,” said Marianne Raymo, chairwoman of the Coalition, adding that she’s also put up purple lights in her home and has tied purple ribbons around her trees.
All of Portsmouth’s public schools have events planned for the week, Ms. Raymo said. On Friday, Jan. 31, the PHS boys’ basketball team will be displaying some purple pride before its 7 p.m. game at home.
“They’re playing North Providence and the kids are going to have warmup outfits that are purple. The SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) group is going to hand out purple ribbons,” said Ms. Raymo.
Origins of Project Purple
Project Purple was launched to break the stigma of addiction, bring awareness to the dangers of substance abuse and shed light on effective treatment practices. It was developed when Mr. Herren spoke at a local high school in 2011 and the front row of students were wearing purple shirts. After he shared his story, one of the students wearing purple raised her hand and stood up to speak.
“Thank you, Mr. Herren, for validating what we do. We are the sober students of this high school and each year we take a pledge to not use drugs or alcohol,” she said, as snickering and laughter could be heard throughout the auditorium.
Mr. Herren said the students’ courage inspired him to launch a project in hopes of making a difference amongst adolescents nationwide.
For more about Project Purple, visit http://goprojectpurple.com.