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October 8, 2014

PARTY at the PAC Focuses on Accident Prevention Making Safe Decisions

Pakou Xiong wants young people to not make the same mistake she did: texting while driving. The now 21-year-old Appleton woman was doing just that when she hit and killed a bicyclist in Kimberly in 2012.

More than 5,000 High School Students Scheduled to Attend Annual Event

Pakou Xiong wants young people to not make the same mistake she did: texting while driving. The now 21-year-old Appleton woman was doing just that when she hit and killed a bicyclist in Kimberly in 2012.

“I think back and wonder why did I text and drive? Why wasn’t I more careful? Why couldn’t I have waited?” said Xiong, who was sentenced to one year in jail and five years of probation for the death of Jim Weiss. “The text wasn’t important and it cost Jim his life. It’s very hard to deal with. I want to let other people know – especially teens – that it’s not OK to text and drive.”

Xiong will share her story on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 to more than 5,000 students from 35 area high schools at ThedaCare’s annual 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.

Xiong is one of several speakers who will share their stories at P.A.R.T.Y., a reality-based education program for students that shows them the consequences of not wearing a seatbelt, driving while impaired or driving while texting. Ray Georgen, MD, trauma director at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, 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 whenever in a vehicle.

“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,” said Dr. Georgen, who will serve as the event’s emcee.  “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.”

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. Since ThedaCare began offering the P.A.R.T.Y. program in 1998, it has reached more than 35,000 teens.

As part of Xiong’s probation, she needs to speak to at least 100 teens annually for the next five years about the dangers of texting and driving, while wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and a button with Jim’s photo on it. “It’s really not easy to talk about, but I hope others will learn from what I did and think twice before texting and driving,” she said.

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. Event organizers also are inviting parents to attend the event and listen themselves to medical and law enforcement professionals in addition to young adults who were injured themselves or others in accidents.

Although Dr. Georgen has been involved with P.A.R.T.Y. at the P.A.C. since it started, he said topics and themes constantly change. “Right now, there’s a big focus on texting and driving and when we started the program, that didn’t exist,” he said. “But anything that interferes with your focus when driving – whether you’re distracted by your phone or under the influence of drugs or alcohol – can be disastrous. We want teens to really think when they get in a vehicle and make good decisions.”

High schools planning to participate in the half-day event include 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, Oshkosh Lourdes, St. Mary Central, Seymour, Shawano, Shiocton, Stockbridge, Valders, Valley Home School, Valley New School, Weyauwega-Fremont, Wild Rose, Wisconsin Academy, and Xavier.

Dr. Georgen from the Trauma Center at Theda Clark Medical Center will be the emcee for the P.A.R.T.Y. at the P.A.C. Participants include: speakers Cara Erickson, Darcy Schehr, and  Pakou Xiong; Appleton Medical Center Emergency Department; Catalpa Health; City of Neenah Police Department; Corrina De Groot; Joseph Engels; Fox Cities Performing Arts Center & Volunteers; Gold Cross Ambulance Services; Karl Greene, MD; Amy Houlihan; Jeff Lendrum Photography; John’s Towing of Neenah; Lisa McGinnis; NorthCoast Productions; Oshkosh Police Department; Outagamie County Health Department; Jeffery Roehrig; David Schultz, MD; TeenStage Players, Theda Clark Medical Center Emergency Department, Pastoral Care, Respiratory Therapy & Trauma Services Departments; ThedaStar  Air Medical; Town of Menasha Fire Department; Tim Wiitanen; Winnebago County Health Department; Winnebago County Sheriff’s  Department; Wisconsin State Patrol; WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety; and Phil Yazbak, MD.

Funding for this year’s P.A.R.T.Y. at the P.A.C. comes from: the Annual Lamers Motor Racing Driving Event Road America, which is sponsored by McMahon Associates Inc., Commercial Horizons Inc. and Faith Technologies Inc.;  Bergstrom Automotive; Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region; SECURA Insurance; U.S. Venture; Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company; John J. and Ethel D. Keller Donor Advised Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region; Surgical Associates of Neenah, S.C.; Community First Credit Union; Gold Cross Ambulance Service; John and Katrina Rosculet; St. Francis Xavier Catholic School System Inc.; Epic; Ellen LaMarche; Shopko Foundation; Wal-Mart; and Westgor Funeral Home.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of seven hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, Shawano Medical Center, Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca, Community Memorial Hospital in Berlin, and Wild Rose Memorial Hospital. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare At Home. ThedaCare is one of the largest employers in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.