Every year, Grade 9 students in the Edmonton area come to party at the Misericordia Community Hospital. The only one of its kind in Edmonton, this party—held throughout the year—is sanctioned by parents, teachers, police and other community leaders.
For the past 25 years, the Misericordia’s Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth (P.A.R.T.Y.) Program has been teaching students about the need to make smart choices. At this party, students hear what it’s like to be a trauma patient and learn about the consequences of risk-taking behaviour—including not wearing a seatbelt, impaired driving and texting and driving—from people who have firsthand experience.
“We don’t want to scare them, but we give them the straight goods,” says Marcia Lee, P.A.R.T.Y. Program Coordinator at the Misericordia. “Information and experiential learning helps empower youth to make smart choices.”
Kiley Geddie has been a survivor volunteer with the program for 11 years. He was left a quadriplegic after the vehicle he was riding in slid off the road and rolled several times. While the driver of the vehicle was sober, Kiley was not wearing a seatbelt and suffered a severed spinal cord.
“I had gotten out of the hospital and was trying to figure out what to do with my life,” Kiley recalls. He saw an opportunity to share his story and give back when he heard about the P.A.R.T.Y. Program from the Canadian Quadriplegic Association.
“I try to inspire the kids to make positive choices,” says Kiley. “I’m not there to tell them what to do, just to show them the consequences of their actions.”
With the help of volunteers like Kiley, the Misericordia’s P.A.R.T.Y. Program has reached more than 40,000 students since it began in 1992. At that time, Susie Coen, an emergency room nurse at the Misericordia, was invited by a P.A.R.T.Y. Program co-ordinator in Calgary to learn about the program. “As soon as I saw it in action, I bought into it,” Susie says.
She shared what she’d seen with Misericordia leaders, who fully supported bringing the program to the hospital site.
“Everyone at the Misericordia was on board,” Susie says. “People were very generous with their time and very proud of the program.”
Susie recruited more than 60 volunteers, from paramedics to injury survivors. Sgt. John Normand from the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) was one of the first volunteers and has played an integral role in the P.A.R.T.Y. Program. John continues to speak to student participants and believes the program can motivate youth to make positive decisions. He and other EPS members share their on-the-job experiences to help youth understand they aren’t as invincible as they may think.
“We want to prevent them from becoming a statistic,” John says. “I want them to know they are in charge of their destinies and can make choices for themselves.”
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