In 17 Years, Program has Reached 50,000 High School Students
When Kevin Wilkinson takes the stage this week for a reality-based education program for high school students that shows them the consequences of making poor choices while behind the wheel, he’ll be playing a dual role: father and police officer.
Wilkinson, chief of the Neenah Police Department, will share his perspective on what can happen when students don’t wear seatbelts, drive while impaired or text while driving to more than 5,000 students from 35 area high schools at the annual ThedaCare P.A.R.T.Y. (Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth) at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. P.A.R.T.Y. is put on by the Trauma Center at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah and is sponsored by the Theda Clark Medical Center Foundation. Two programs are held on both Wed., Nov. 4, and Thurs., Nov. 5.
“P.A.R.T.Y. at the P.A.C. is different from anything else these teens have seen,” Chief Wilkinson said. “In school, they hear about making good choices but they’re being preached to. Here, they are being taken as close as possible to an actual situation. They can hear the emotion in a speaker’s voice as she talks about the repercussions of texting and driving, for example. Hearing it live and in person is very powerful.”
Chief Wilkinson has participated in the event many times since ThedaCare launched it in 1998, but this time he is taking on a larger presence to help teens better understand the legal implications – as well as the physical and emotional ones when they make poor choices. This year, the 17th P.A.R.T.Y. will have reached 50,000 high school students.
“When my daughter attended and saw the impact of what can happen when you text and drive, she vowed never to do it,” he said. “P.A.R.T.Y. leaves such an impression on students.”
Ray Georgen, MD, trauma medical director at Theda Clark Medical Center, said teens and young adults aged 15 to 24 have the greatest incidence of trauma injury and death so it’s essential to get out the message about making good choices. Dr. Georgen said the message P.A.R.T.Y. shares with teens is vital.
“Everyone thinks ‘it can’t happen to me,’ but it can. It’s something we unfortunately see too often at the Trauma Center at Theda Clark,” he said. “We do this event every year and while some of the stories change – whether it’s drinking and driving or texting and driving – the message is the same: teens need to make good choices when they get behind the wheel.”
Dr. Georgen said P.A.R.T.Y. at the P.A.C. empowers young people to make informed, safe choices by shedding light on the dangers of risk-taking behaviors, their life-altering outcomes, and the importance of personal responsibility. “When we started this, no one imagined the dangers caused by texting and driving since we all weren’t carrying around phones, but now that is a big topic,” he said.
A Canadian hospital developed P.A.R.T.Y. in 1986 to educate teens about the perils of dangerous, risk-taking behaviors — drinking and driving, not wearing a seatbelt, and texting or talking on the phone while driving and the tragic consequences that can result from them.
High schools planning to participate in one half-day event include Appleton Central, Appleton East, Appleton North, Appleton West, Berlin, Bonduel, Brillion, Chilton, Clintonville, Fox Valley Lutheran, Freedom, Hilbert, Hortonville, Kaukauna, Kimberly, Little Chute, Manawa, Menasha, Neenah, New Holstein, New London, North Fond du Lac, Omro, Oneida Nation, Oshkosh Lourdes, Plainfield, St. Mary Central, Seymour, Stockbridge, Valders, Valley Home School, Valley New School, Weyauwega-Fremont, Wild Rose, and Xavier.
In addition to Dr. Georgen, who is the emcee for P.A.R.T.Y., and Chief Wilkinson, other speakers include Cara Erickson, Darcy Schehr, PaKou Xiong, Jeffery Roehrig, Outagamie County Judge Mark McGinnis, Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby, David Schultz, MD, and Phil Yazbak, MD. Organizations participating in the event include Calumet County Health Department; Catalpa Health; City of Appleton Police Department; City of Appleton Health Department; City of Menasha Police Department; City of Neenah Police Department; Fond du Lac County Health Department; Gold Cross Ambulance Services; Goss Autobody; Grand Chute Fire Department; John’s Towing of Neenah; NorthCoast Productions; Oshkosh Police Department; Outagamie County Circuit Court; Outagamie County Health Department; Theda Clark’s Emergency Department, Pastoral Care Department, Respiratory Therapy, and Trauma Services Departments; ThedaStar Air Medical; Town of Menasha Fire Department; Town of Menasha Police Department; Winnebago County Coroner’s Office; Winnebago County Health Department; Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department; Wisconsin State Patrol; and WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety.
Funding for this year’s P.A.R.T.Y. at the P.A.C. comes from: graduate sponsor – the 2015 Lamers Racing Driving Experience, which is sponsored by Commercial Horizons Inc., McMahon Associates Inc., and Faith Technologies Inc.; senior sponsor — Bergstrom Automotive; junior sponsors – AAA Wisconsin and SECURA Insurance; sophomore sponsors — Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, John J. and Ethel D. Keller Donor Advised Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Schmidt Family G4 Fund, and Surgical Associates of Neenah, S.C.; freshman sponsors – Community First Credit Union, Gold Cross Ambulance Service and the Menasha Corporation Foundation; and contributing sponsors – RR Donnelley, John and Katrina Rosculet, Shopko Foundation and Westgor Funeral Home.
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 35 clinics in 14 counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. Construction of ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton is underway. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.