Since Mary Ciammetti lost her son in 2015, she’s been working tirelessly to alert young people about the dangers of alcohol poisoning.
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This summer, her organization has taken its message to the New Jersey Shore, flying a banner every Sunday from Cape May to Brigantine and along the back bays. That’s a 115-mile stretch with the banner toting the message: “Do you know the signs of alcohol poisoning? Learn the signs. Don’tStall.org!”
The message becomes increasingly important as students prepare to return to campus this month for the start of the fall semester.
“If we can save one life, every time that gets flown, how wonderful is that?” said Ciammetti, of Conshohocken.
Binge drinking remains a major problem on campuses. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 38% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 engaged in binge drinking within 30 days of the survey and 10.5% engaged in heavy alcohol use, defined as binge drinking on five or more of those days. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has reported that 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries.
Ciammetti’s son had developed a habit of binge drinking. On the night he died, he started drinking and then went to a party. When he returned, he could barely stand or talk. His roommates got him to bed and watched over him, placing him on his side, making sure he didn’t vomit. But they didn’t realize his body temperature had dipped dangerously low. He went into cardiac arrest.
“No one, no one, should ever die of this again,” Ciammetti said in 2016, describing her efforts to educate young people on the dangers. “Everyone needs to learn the symptoms of alcohol poisoning.”
Mumbling. Stumbling. Passed out. Cool to the touch. Vomiting. All are signs, warns her nonprofit, which is overseen by an 11-member board of business and medical professionals.
Since she started it, Ciammetti and others from her organization have talked at churches, schools, and colleges, hosted tailgates and focus groups, and handed out wristbands, car magnets, and dorm stickers. They’ve pushed their message on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and posted an educational message on an electronic billboard at the center of Temple’s campus last year.
A couple of years ago, while vacationing in New Jersey, she got the idea of flying a banner over the coast.
“I thought: This is a captive audience," she said. "People are sitting there. There is an opportunity for awareness and conversation.”
The Allstate Foundation Helping Hands Grant and agent Jim Ottomano from the Maple Glen office, along with 10 associate agents, have funded the banner, Ciammetti said. She said the company that flies the banner estimates its message will reach 395,000 beachgoers.
Many people have told her they have seen the banner, she said.