Painful 'Sober Prom' paves way for painless night

The message was clear Friday: Don't drink and drive.

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— Tears flowed at an assembly at Steamboat Springs High School as students and parents gave simulated eulogies to children and friends, who were "killed" in a mock accident.
Although emotional, the Sober Prom 2000 events powerfully demonstrated the result of youths dying in a small community, even when simulated. An auditorium packed with students, parents, emergency service workers, faculty and community members watched and wiped away tears.
"In a community our size we'd deal with this for a long, long time if this happened," Steamboat Springs Police Department high school resource officer Jerry Stabile said. "If the temptation hits, think of the people that were up there today."
The hope is that students will make positive choices at the prom, which is tonight at the Sheraton. There is an after-prom party at the high school being given to keep students safe and off the roads.
"We would love for them not to drink; unfortunately, that's not going to be the case for everyone," district health coordinator Joan Allsberry said. "If you make the choice to drink, please don't drive, though."
The lead-up to Friday's assembly was a mock alcohol-related accident Monday that supposedly killed five students. Their friends made memorials to them and the students were absent from school Tuesday. Parents taped memorials to their children ahead of time and a video of the mock crash, along with the parental eulogies, was shown Friday.
The mock victims, Lisel Thompson, Joleen Fuller, Dustin Lindahl, Mallory Reust and David Marsh, were eulogized by parents and friends, who read poems, brought up memories and spoke about what would have been.
Parent Andy Reust spoke about four other people he knew, including some family members, involved in alcohol-related deaths.
"I encourage kids to find out the facts about alcohol and what it can do to your body," Reust said.
The "victims" spoke about not having a second chance, about not getting to finish their lives.
"I thought about my life and what my life would have been like," Fuller said.
Most took the assembly seriously, student Jessie Bortone said. Other students said that the program will probably make some think twice about drinking and driving.
"It made me imagine my family up there," senior Alyssa Simon said.
The gathering also was a testament to how much the community cares about the young people in it, according to Pastor Tim Cartwright of the Lutheran Church, who helped train students for the event.
"I think the love you see here is born out of a community that wants to see these kids to the next level of life," Cartwright said. "This is a community that was willing to go through this kind of pain today, to go through a mock death."
Fuller's mother, Kris Arcolesse, said that while the events were emotional, if they save one life they are worth it.
"I hope a lot of the kids appreciate that," she said about community members taking the time to show their support. "As a parent, I'm happy to see the involvement."

To reach Jennifer Bartlett call 871-4204 or e-mail jbartlett@amigo.net

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