UNION, Ky. (AP) — A woman whose 15-year-old daughter died a tragic death after a night of binge drinking in northern Kentucky is turning her personal pain into a lesson for other teens.
Karen Kappelman died in 2010 of hypothermia after sneaking out of her home and drinking with friends. The family had just moved to Boone County from Alabama a few months earlier.
It would have been understandable for Karen’s mother, Danette Kappelman, to turn her back on her new community and blame the other young people involved for her daughter’s death. Instead, Kappelman, 53, forgave those involved in the incident and decided to share her family’s personal tragedy to send a message about what can happen when children make bad choices.
She joined the Boone County Alliance for Healthy Youth and has become one of the region’s most fervent supporters of educating parents about the dangers of underage drinking, The Kentucky Enquirer reported (http://bit.ly/QnRhCC).
“I want to share this story because I want this to be a teachable moment,” Kappelman said. “People don’t think this will happen to them, and never did we expect this to happen to us.”
Michelle Eversole, chair of the Boone County Alliance for Healthy Youth and a senior health educator with the Northern Kentucky Health Department, said Kappelman’s story strikes a chord with parents.
“We can have all the data, numbers and graphs that show the issue, but when you have such a heart-wrenching story that people can relate to — that is the most powerful message,” Eversole said.
Kappelman, a nurse, and her husband, David, an engineer, moved to the area just as Karen was starting her freshman year at Ryle High School.
The night of Feb. 27, 2010, a friend spent the night with Karen, and the two slipped out of the house after her parents went to bed.
“It wasn’t even a planned party that night,” Kappelman said. “From what I understand, the girls were trying to obtain alcohol within the apartment complex from some teenage boys there.”
Karen reportedly drank eight shots of hard liquor in less than an hour, then got sick and passed out. The teen boys then drove home Karen and the friend.
The girls were dropped off near the home and the friend made her way inside, but Karen never came in. The friend was asleep in the apartment when Karen’s body was discovered outside, in the cold.
Karen’s blood alcohol content was recorded at 0.128, more than one-and-a-half times the minimum for a driver to be considered impaired. It might have been much higher since she was already deceased and was found more than seven hours after she was dropped off.
Since Kappelman has begun to speak publicly, she has discovered how difficult it is to educate parents. At a speaking engagement at a high school with an enrollment of more than 1,000, only two parents showed up.
“It can be disheartening to do the work and not get the result that you’d like,” Kappelman said. “But if one person is touched, it’s going to make a difference and hopefully can start a ripple effect.”
Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, http://www.nky.com
Published in The Messenger 10.22.12