Image above of Efren Sanchez, walk organizer during the walk to Valdez Park. VDP Photo
500 Participate In 14th Annual “Drug Walk”
ESPAÑOLA – Early Saturday morning over 500 individuals of all ages from throughout the valley and beyond gathered outside the Catholic Church in Ohkay Owingeh to begin a 5.8 mile walk to Valdez Park in Española to bring attention and community focus to the issue of eliminating drugs from our community.
Walkers on the route
Efren Sanchez of Lyden, one of the key organizers of the event said that this year is the 14th year in row walkers have made the drug walk but this year the destination changed from the historic Santuario church in Chimayo to Valdez Park in Española. Sanchez explained that the walk was moved for safety concerns of the walkers. Walk organizers commented that this year’s turnout was greater than last with approximately 500 walkers participating.
At the end of the walk Sanchez, who will turn 80 years old this year explained that the origins of this walk started with a vision he had at the San Juan church in Ohkay Owingeh. Sanchez said, “ Years ago I was helping the priest lock the church up and as I was closing some doors I saw a statue of the Blessed Mother in a space I had not seen before.” Sanchez said he asked around to find out who placed the statue there but nobody else saw it. When he returned to show them, it was gone. Sanchez was told by the priest that he was the third person to recently have a vision of the Virgin Mary in that church.
Over the next month Sanchez prayed to better understand why he had seen that vision and one night he says he had a dream that told him to do something about the drug problem in the Valley. After several months of organizing and preparing the first Drug Walk was born.
The Drug Walk Committee is made up of several community members who organize and raise the funds necessary to make the walk a success. Officers include Efren Sanchez as president, Richard Marquez as vice president and Liz Martinez as secretary/treasurer. The committee has for teh past six years also organized a mini walk in the fall for 4th-6th grade students to walk from Hernandez Elementary to Ohkay Owingeh.
Samuel Herrera with the San Juan Church and Fiesta Council
Many participants came to represented different organizations or for personal reasons. Several recovering drug addicts also participated and spoke about their wish to help end the drug problem.’
County, city, and tribal and state police escorted the walkers during the entire route and Rio Arriba county sheriff James Lujan, a member of the drug walk organizational committee, joined the walkers on foot the entire way.
Sheriff James Lujan on the walk
Also participating in the walk was District Court Judge David Thomson who said that he first participated on this walk when campaigning last year and enjoyed it so much he came back this year as a sitting courtroom judge who deals with drug related cases on a frequent basis. Zia Credit Union President & CEO, David Woodruff also join the walk with his dog Sakari.
See below for more images of the walk.
David Woodruff and Sakari
Walkers on Riverside Drive
Participants at Valdez Park
Mike Pacheco and Bobby Martinez participate in the walk
Youth walking through Ohkay Owingeh
EVHS Color Guard escorted the walkers the entire way. Pictured above are Savana Padilla, Ray Padilla, Lilian Martinez, Johnathan Vigil, John Luke Martinez, Ricky Valdez
and the groups instructors, Major Gonzales and Captain Hogan
Volunteers serving meals to all walk participants