Elk Valley teenagers are learning about the harsh realities of partying this month with the PARTY program. PARTY stands for Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth, and Grade ten students from Fernie Secondary, The Academy, Sparwood Secondary, and Elkford Secondary schools all take part.
"The PARTY program was started years ago in Toronto because they were tired of seeing young people come into the emergency room," explained Program Site Coordinator Mary Jane Leppard. "They started this program up where it was sort of a reality, hands on, shock to the kids to try and get them to wake up and look at their choices and the consequences. It went over so well, it's actually worldwide now."
The program is volunteer based, with firefighters, RCMP, doctors, nurses, funeral directors, and the local coroner showing the students what happens when they make poor choices.
"It's not just about drinking, it's all about choices; like cliff diving, not looking first at Silver Springs, things like that," remarked Leppard.
She went on to say, "We have the most volunteers of any PARTY program, everyone's amazing. The kids often think they're just actors, but these are real people taking time off to try and keep you safe and make you think."
The students begin the one day program outside the Elk Valley Hospital where Fernie Fire Rescue performs a mock extraction of car crash victims from a vehicle, picking a student volunteer to experience it first hand from inside the vehicle.
"We're one of the only ones that have the firemen do the actual extraction," said Leppard. "We're really lucky the firemen are fully on board with us."
Following the extraction, the teenagers head inside the hospital for the remainder of the day. A member of the Elk Valley RCMP gives a powerpoint presentation, the funeral director from Cherished Memories talks about what they do with deceased bodies, and the students watch a mock scenario with a trauma doll in the emergency room.