The day Sarah had waited for was finally here! She was turning 18 and could not wait. But what Sarah didn’t know was that her life would soon change forever and not in the way she would think.

To celebrate her birthday, Sarah invited all her friends. She had her older cousin Heidi buy about $500 in alcohol for the party. The night of the party, everyone had a great time, drank a lot and then the guests started to drive home. Soon, there were reports of an accident down the road. Someone was hurt.

Jason and Liz had to be home before curfew. They were both drunk, but Jason was sure that he could drive. So he did. When they crashed into a tree, Jason and Liz were killed instantly. Brad and Emily were in the backseat and suffered head trauma, broken bones, and internal bleeding.

But this is where the story begins. Sarah buried her friends the week after her 18th birthday. She watched Emily and Brad continue to suffer from their horrific experience. Six months later, she was in court. She had to answer to charges for contributing to the delinquency of minors when she hosted that party for underage youth. A year later, her cousin Heidi was sentenced to jail for buying the alcohol that led to Jason and Liz’s deaths.

Sarah is still alive, but her decisions to celebrate her 18th birthday will stay with her for the rest of her life. Jason and Liz became two of the more than 6,000 teens that die every year in drunk driving accidents. Nobody wins when it comes to underage drinking.

While some adults think that underage drinking is a rite of passage and part of growing up, underage drinking can have long-term effects for our youth. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 40% of those who start drinking before the age of 15 meet criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives. These long-term effects partnered with current effects like poor academic and athletic performance, sexual assaults, crime, violence, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, injuries, and death, mean underage drinking is not as innocent as we maybe thought.

On January 17th, you are invited to a public presentation on underage drinking and the effects it has on a family when they lose a child to a drunk driving accident.

This event will be held in the North Fayette Performing Arts Center at 9:00 a.m. and Judy Larson, West Union resident and mother to Amy Larson, will be the guest speaker. Helping Services for Northeast Iowa and the Fayette County Substance Abuse Coalition are sponsoring the event in partnership with North Fayette.

To learn more about underage drinking and the current efforts to reduce it, check out our website at www.helpingservices.org/getinvolved.

If you have any questions regarding the strategies being implemented in Fayette County or would like to serve on a subcommittee that focuses on these strategies, please feel free to contact Stacie Schroeder at sschroeder@helpingservices.org or (563) 380 – 7983.

It's not about taking their keys. It's about not providing to minors.

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