Kathi and Chris Sullivan returned to painful places when they spoke last week at the second STRIVE Youth Conference, but in doing so they performed a valuable service. It is important for young people who may believe nothing bad can happen to them because nothing has yet to know that a poor choice or decision can damage lives or even end them.
Middle school students from 20 public and private schools around Berkshire County attended Thursday's conference, which was hosted by the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield and coordinated by the Berkshire District Attorney's Office Youth Advisory Board. Among those who spoke were Mrs. Sullivan, who suffered three miserable days of anguish before her 17-year-old daughter Taylor Lee Meyer of Wrentham was found dead in the woods five years ago, having drowned in a shallow river after binge drinking with friends. Chris Sullivan, who married Kathi after her daughter's death, lost an NFL career and more than $5 million in salary to drug and alcohol addiction.
Alcohol and drug addictions continue to ruin and claim lives, and hearing first-hand from victims and family members of victims can have a powerful impact. While those problems have long been with us, cyber-bullying and Internet harassment are relatively new, confronting young people with misery that their parents never experienced. Those issues were also addressed at the STRIVE conference, and sadly, it is likely that victims will be relating their own painful stories in future conferences.
These are all difficult subjects to address openly. But if young people are to avoid poor decisions, and endure the poor decisions of others, they must be.