NEWS

Group raises awareness about underage drinking

Todd G. Higdon

On New Year’s Eve, a group called Youth in Action, associated with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was stationed outside four convenience stores that provide alcohol.

The group was participating in a “shoulder tap” survey designed to determine the availability of alcohol to minors and ascertain if an adult is willing to purchase alcohol for a minor.

The immediate goal was to increase awareness and knowledge about adult strangers purchasing for youth younger than 21.

The long-term goal was to change community-wide perception about purchasing alcohol for minors and reduce the number of adults willing to purchase alcohol for those younger than 21.

“This is our first time doing this shoulder tap survey,” said Lori Morgan, Youth in Action leader.

The teenagers, ranging in age from 10 to 20, along with adult supervisors in vehicles, approached customers with the following statement: “Excuse me, I am too young to go into this store or to purchase alcohol. I was wondering if I gave you some money, would you be able to buy a six-pack?”

Morgan said those who responded “yes” were given a small card that stated, “Did you know that it is illegal to purchase or provide alcohol for someone under 21? Penalties can include fines and jail time. Next time, make the legal choice and say no.”

On the “no” card, it stated, “Thank you for supporting the legal drinking age. …Thank you for helping save a life.”

“We had surveyed 59 people and handed out 55 ‘no’ cards and four ‘yes’ cards,” Morgan said.

But aside from the shoulder tap, it was also a personal message for those who participated. Each of the participants either knew or were related to Christina Marie Elizabeth Freeman, who died Feb. 12, 2006, and Latisha Dawn Morgan (Lori Morgan's daughter), who died July 7, 2007.

After Christina was killed, MADD contacted the family. Now her mother, Kerry Freeman, is the president of MADD of Jasper and Newton County.

“It is her way to escape from the stress and everything,” Christina's sister Megan Freeman said. “It also helps my dad, Gregg, a lot.”

“I lost my best friend, Latisha Dawn,” Shyla Stribling, 16, said. “One of the things that I will remember about Latisha she would help me with my boy problems and I would help her with her boy problems. I still miss her.”

With the shoulder tap, Stribling was hoping to pass on a simple message.

“I am hoping to tell everyone not to drink and drive,” she said. “I see teenage drinking going up.”

Trevor Freeman, 16, Christina's brother, also had fond memories.

“I remembered she always played softball, talked about softball,” he said.

“Alcohol is the No. 1 drug that kills teenagers today,” Lori Morgan said. “I do not, nor do any of these kids here, want another family to feel anything of what we have felt.”

Neosho Daily News