On September 5, 2004, the lives of Rick and Patty Spady changed forever. Their young daughter, Samantha, was found dead in a fraternity house at Colorado State University where she was a student. The cause of her death was acute alcohol poisoning. Struck by this senseless tragedy, the Spady’s vowed to help prevent further alcohol poisoning deaths from occurring. To accomplish this, they established a foundation in their daughter’s name.
The mission of the Sam Spady Foundation is to educate parents and young people on the dangers of alcohol, specifically high-risk consumption, and the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning. Since its inception, Patty Spady has worked to further the mission of the foundation by traveling the United States, not only telling the story of Samantha’s life and tragic death, but encouraging young people to make healthy, wise, and safe choices toward alcohol. In June 2006 a DVD titled “Death by Alcohol: The Sam Spady Story” was made available. The 30-minute film has been distributed across the United States and beyond. It has received rave reviews not only for its relevancy to young people today, but also for its candid and straight-forward approach to alcohol use and misuse that has become so prevalent across the country.
Patty shares Samantha’s story to help put a face to the mission of the foundation and wants you to know that she is a mom with a message and not a professional speaker. Her message comes from the heart and from an experience she hopes no other parent, sibling, or friend has to endure.
See the Sam Spady story, and learn how easy it is for a tragedy like this to happen. Learn how to protect yourself and your friends from this happening to you.
Click here to read a preview of the story and view a clip from the DVD.
Sam Spady was 19 when she died of acute alcohol poisoning. After hours of binge drinking, the Colorado State University student was left alone in an empty room in a fraternity house to sleep, according to newspaper reports. A fraternity member later found her unconscious while giving a tour of the house.
“It’s a very compelling, powerful story,” said Nancy Hans, council coordinator. “And if it helps one young adult or one young person to make a better decision, then we’ve done what we’ve needed to do.” Patty Spady gave a presentation at Hollins University on March 22, 2009. Hans said Spady’s presentation can help encourage communication between parents and their high school and college-age children about alcohol abuse.
That’s important because local and national surveys show that binge drinking is occurring before students get to college.
The prevention council surveys students every two years about risk behaviors. While binge drinking among high school students continues to be an issue, the council has seen a decrease in the percentage of Roanoke County students who report they have engaged in binge drinking, Hans said.
Last year, 24 percent of about 4,500 ninth- through 12th-graders surveyed in Roanoke County reported binge drinking, Hans said.
In 2006, it was 25.4 percent, and in 2004, it was 26.2 percent. The number of students responding to those surveys was a little less than 4,500, she said.
Hans said she can’t attribute one single factor for the decrease but she does believe that alcohol education from the council and in the community has helped.
But there is more work to do.
“Risk behavior and awareness of different kinds of risk behaviors is an ongoing process,” she said.
The prevention council, which aims to educate youth about drug and alcohol risks, partnered with Carilion Clinic and Hollins University to bring Spady to town.
Sam Spady, who was a homecoming queen and honor student in high school, died Sept. 5, 2004. The Spady family later established a foundation in their daughter’s name to educate parents and young people about the dangers of alcohol and the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning.
Patty Spady’s appearance also included the presentation of the 30-minute film “Death by Alcohol: The Sam Spady Story.” The Prevention Council owns a copy of the DVD, and it’s available for groups that want to borrow it, Hans said.
Recent surveys from students in the Roanoke Valley indicate that binge drinking is happening before students get to college.
Binge drinking—as defined by researchers, medical officials and representatives working with alcohol education — is four drinks within a two-hour period for women and five drinks within a two-hour period for men, said Nancy Hans, council coordinator for the Roanoke County Prevention Council.
Kathy Graham Sullivan, coordinator of the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition, said one of the goals with the coalition is to educate parents and youth about the dangers of underage and binge drinking.
“We feel very strongly that there is an issue with underage drinking and it’s widespread,” she said. “Teens who drink before 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who wait until age 21.”
Here is a snapshot of the number of students who have reported binge drinking in recent surveys taken in the city of Roanoke and Botetourt County.
- 24.6 percent of 10th- and 12th-graders in the city of Roanoke reported binge drinking in 2007. There were 276 students who responded to the youth risk behavior survey. That percentage was an increase from a 2005 survey when 22.8 percent of 294 students reported binge drinking.
- 35.3 percent of 10th- and 12th-graders in Botetourt County reported binge drinking in 2007. There were 548 students who responded to the survey. That percentage also was an increase from a 2004 survey when 33.9 percent of 550 students reported binge drinking.
SOURCE: Data collected by the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition.
The Roanoke Times story by Sharla Bardin