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November 6, 2013

PARTY at the PAC Puts Teen Safety in Focus

After a night of drinking in 2007, Darcy Schehr spent the night at a friend’s house and thought she was safe to drive home the next morning. She was wrong. On the way home, she fatally hit a motorcyclist, 40-year-old Daniel Christ. When her blood alcohol level was checked at the hospital about two hours after the accident, it was .11 – well over the state level limit of .08.

Speaker Discusses Killing Someone While Drinking, Driving

After a night of drinking in 2007, Darcy Schehr spent the night at a friend’s house and thought she was safe to drive home the next morning. She was wrong. On the way home, she fatally hit a motorcyclist, 40-year-old Daniel Christ. When her blood alcohol level was checked at the hospital about two hours after the accident, it was .11 – well over the state level limit of .08.

Schehr, who lives in the Milwaukee area and is now 33, will share her story at presentations on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7 to more than 5,000 students from 34 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 sponsored by the Theda Clark Medical Center Foundation.

“I feel it’s very important that I speak to teens about my experience for many different reasons. I would like them to listen my story to learn about how long alcohol can stay in your system, to have them understand that this situation was an accident but it could happen to anyone and the repercussions of my decisions the night of the accident, financially as well as mentally,” said Schehr, who was sentenced to one year of jail with work release, 15 years of probation, 100 hours of community service for each year of probation, and payment for two years of college costs for Christ’s son. She also paid thousands of dollars in attorney fees, have an ignition interlock on her vehicle for five years, and pay monthly fees while on probation.

“Teens need to realize this is a critical time in their growing future and that having a legal record can really affect their future,” Schehr said. “I hope the kids come away from today and really think about the situations they are putting themselves in and the decision making that goes along with it.”

Schehr is just one of several speakers 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 it’s important to share the message of making good choices whenever teens are in a vehicle.

“Teens are young and think ‘it can’t happen to me,’ but it can,” said Dr. Georgen, who will serve as the event’s emcee. “Statistically, teens and young adults aged 15 to 24 have the greatest incidence of trauma injury and death. It’s something we unfortunately see at the Trauma Center at Theda Clark.”

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 30,000 teens.

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. This year, event organizers decided to invite parents to attend P.A.R.T.Y. at the P.A.C. and listen themselves to medical and law enforcement professionals in addition to young adults who were injured themselves or others, said Teresa Paulus, public health nurse for Winnebago County Health Department.

“Parents play a key role in their teens’ driving behavior. Teens really do listen to their parents and we want to encourage parents to be role models and coaches to their teen drivers,” she said.

Although he’s been involved with P.A.R.T.Y. at the P.A.C. since it started, Dr. Georgen said the event’s topic and themes constantly change. “Texting while driving is a huge concern, especially among teens,” he said. “That didn’t exist when we started the program, but texting or engaging in other activities while driving is very distracting and dangerous.”

To bring that message home, Sontiana Brandts will share her story with P.A.R.T.Y. attendees. In 2007 at age 16, the Minnesota teen was texting a friend while driving and lost control of the family van. It rolled over and since she was not wearing a seatbelt, she was ejected. Brandts severed her spinal cord and was in a coma for two weeks; the accident left her paralyzed from the chest down.

“Today’s teens need to understand how dangerous texting while driving is and the devastating affects this practice has on people’s lives,” said Brandts, who speaks across the country on behalf of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign to discourage drivers from texting when behind the wheel. “My life was forever changed because I chose to text and drive. Because of that meaningless text message, I will now live the rest of my life in a wheelchair. It’s a simple message I hope all drivers take to heart: there is no text worth risking a life. It really can wait.”

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, Kaukauna, Kimberly, Little Chute, Manawa, Neenah, New Holstein, New London, North Fond du Lac, Omro, Oshkosh Lourdes, Oshkosh North, Oshkosh West, Shawano, Shiocton, St. Mary Central, 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 Sontiana Brandts, Merry Dye, Cara Erickson, and Darcy Schehr; AT&T Wisconsin; Appleton Medical Center Emergency Department; Jeffery Burkett, MD; Catalpa Health; City of Menasha Police Department; City of Neenah Police Department; Corrina De Groot; Fox Cities Performing Arts Center & Volunteers; Gold Cross Ambulance Services; Karl Greene, MD; Hannon Production Company; Amy Houlihan; Jeff Lendrum Photography; John’s Towing of Neenah; Kaukauna PRIDE Team; Lisa McGinnis; Oshkosh Police Department; Outagamie County Health Department; David Schultz, MD; Theda Clark Medical Center Emergency Department, Pastoral Care, Respiratory Therapy & Trauma Services Departments; ThedaStar  Air Medical; Town of Menasha Fire Department; 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: Annual Lamers Motor Racing Driving Event Road America, which is sponsored by McMahon Associates Inc., Commercial Horizons Inc. and Faith Technologies Inc.;  Association of Hospital Anesthesiologists, SC;   AT&T; Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region Inc.; EPIC; Glass Nickel Pizza-Appleton; Gold Cross Ambulance Service;  Jeff Lendrum Photography; Jewelers Mutual Insurance; John J. and Ethel D. Keller Donor Advised Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region; John’s Towing of Neenah; Ellen LaMarche; the  Menasha Corporation Foundation; the  Mielke Family Foundation; Nestle Pizza Little Chute Division; RR Donnelley;  SECURA Insurance; Surgical Associates of Neenah, S.C.; the Theda Clark Medical Center Foundation; and Walmart.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.