P.A.R.T.Y. Program Teaches Bow Valley Teens How to Stay Safe and Assess Risk
When Renate Grob’s daughter was 13 she went through the P.A.R.T.Y. program, designed to teach grade nine students in the Bow Valley about the dangers of drinking and driving, along with other high risk activities.
“She was shocked,” says Renate. “She said, ‘Mom I will never get into a car with somebody who is drinking and driving.’ And she really didn't.”
For grade nines participating in the program, the day starts at the Canmore General Hospital with an accident scene outside: there has been a collision involving a drunk driver. From here, students go through different stations that show them how things unfold after an accident, with firefighters, EMS, nurses, doctors, along with volunteers to play students and family.
Soon after her daughter went through the program, Renate saw a call for volunteers. She started by helping students get around throughout the course of the day, but not long after that, she took on a larger role: that of the mother whose child initially survives the drunk driving accident, then dies from injuries in the hospital.
Every year after acting this sequence out multiple times a day for days in a row, “I need about two weeks to recover,” says Renate of the emotional scene.
“It's so important to play that role,” says Renate, who notes that it had been a part volunteers had been reluctant to do twice until she took it on about a decade ago. “I get feedback from the emergency staff who know families whose children are in the program and they come to me and they tell me the mom made a huge difference for them,” she says. “It becomes real when mom shows up.”
For Julie Denouden, the P.A.R.T.Y. program had a similar impact on her that it had on Renate’s daughter.
“It's probably the only thing I really remember from grade nine,” says Julie. “I don't remember grade nine prom, but I do remember doing the P.A.R.T.Y. program.”
Julie, who grew up in Banff and is now a nurse at the Canmore General Hospital, coordinates the P.A.R.T.Y. program. While it initially began as a way to warn teens entering high school about the risks of drinking and driving, it’s expanded to talk about other behaviours, whether that’s cannabis use or texting and driving. Or even how to assess risk at the ski hill.
The aim is not just to understand that high risk behaviours put teens’ lives at risk, but that this also has an impact on friends, family and the community at large.
“The people who are involved directly in the accident are affected, but it also really affects the first responders as well that they have to see what they're seeing,” says Julie. “One student had mentioned to me that they never thought about that before.”
Ultimately, the takeaway message is “just reminding students to stop and think before doing these risky activities that, when you're 14, you might be getting more involved with it.”