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The silver ring thing

MEDFORD — In a stark contrast to stereotypical teenage concerns like sex, drinking and pregnancy, some 400-500 teens and preteens and nearly as many parents settled in for a night of humor, music and a relatively serious talk about abstinence and faith.

Part of a national abstinence campaign dubbed Silver Ring Thing, the event was hosted by Campus Life and Rogue Valley Youth for Christ at North Medford High on Saturday.

Though sending a serious message to teens, the event was presented with teen-inspired loud music, videos on a big screen, lighting effects and "hip' "oung actors portraying real life situations with testimonials and even well-placed humor.

The event included a parent session, during which parents were encouraged not to shy away from talking to teens about sex and were provided with some sobering statistics on teen sex.

Brad Bills, executive director of Youth for Christ and one of several event coordinators, said the message of abstinence has not been made clear enough by parents of today's teens.

"Obviously the message of abstinence and sexual purity is very important for teenagers today and I think we need to encourage our teens to aim for the highest level of purity," he said.

"We say not to do drugs but with sex we pass out condoms and tell them to be careful. It's not enough. We, as parents, need to tell them to wait and tell them why. We feel like it's an important message."

Beth Sheets, an advocate from the Rouge Valley Pregnancy Resource Center, said she attended to the show to see first-hand the message provided to a segment of the population in dire need.

Statistics, both she and event hosts pointed out, show that some 65 million Americans live with an incurable STD.

"It's unacceptable that we as parents don't talk to our kids enough about sex and about waiting," she said.

"There are a lot of kids here but we could certainly do to get more kids here to listen. This is an extremely important message."

Phoenix resident Yolanda VanDerVeen agreed wholeheartedly, and brought her 12-year-old nephew to attend the event.

At the end of the event, teens could take a vow of celibacy and purchase a silver ring to wear on their left hand — parents could purchase rings as well to show support of their teen's decision.

"When I told him what it was about, he said he believes so much in the message, and in waiting, that he even wanted to get his sister a ring," she said.

As part of the show, various actors and speakers presented kids with personal testimonies and statistics. For example, if two individuals, each having had 12 partners each, were to become sexually active, they'd be faced with the sexual histories of 4,095 individuals.

Both statistics on teen sex and the event's turnout "really surprised" 12-year-old Donisha Manninen of Central Point.

"I came because my church was coming but I also came because I thought it was important to hear what they had to say," she said.

"I thought it was very interesting."

Sixteen-year-old Sydney Ruddock of White City planned to wear a silver ring and hoped the message would reach more teens.

"I think this is just really cool that people do these purity things for teens to be part of and I hope the message gets out," she said.

"I'm all for saving yourself and staying pure. I think it's important."

On the web: www.silverringthing.com