“Every seven minutes someone dies because of an alcohol or drug related incident,” was the message at the candlelight vigil organized by Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol [GAMMA] Wednesday night at Lake Osceola.
It was a sad and sobering ceremony. The vigil is an annual event brought to campus by Jennifer Brack, Assistant Dean of Students.
“It provides a nice time to stop and reflect on the people we’ve lost and how that loss will affect our future choices. It shows us what a tragedy death really is,” Brack said.
All the Greek chapters at UM were represented and Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Pat Whitely was also present.
The ceremony began with everyone dedicating a candle to someone they had lost.
“It happens too often and too much and people don’t realize the consequences,” said Lesley Jackson, a sophomore in the School of Business.
Coach Larry Coker, UM head football coach, was one of the guest speakers.
“We were doing great and were on a euphoric high from an exceptional season, and then reality hit home with the death of Chris Campbell. It had a sobering effect on us-as a football team and as a community,” Coker said.
Campbell, linebacker for the UM football team, died in a car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol on Feb. 16. He was 21.
“The use of alcohol is highly glamorized. All I can say is be responsible-Watch your back, son!” Coker advised.
The night was full of teary eyes and the mood was mellow, as peers reflected on the recent tragedies of Campbell and freshman Chad Meredith.
Meredith, drowned on Nov. 5 last year while swimming in Lake Osceola early that morning.
“If it happened to him, it could happen to anyone, anytime. No one is above it,” said Melissa LeFevre, organizer of the event.
Travis Montgomery, a Kappa Sigma brother, who survived the accident involving Meredith, also told his story.
“It was the biggest mistake we ever made. But I got lucky and Chad didn’t,” he said.
Montgomery urged students to stop getting “lucky” and said that everyone could make a difference in this world through their decisions.
“There are two things that kill-natural causes and people’s decisions. You guys all have the power to make your own decisions,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery talked about Chad and what a special person he was, and that his spirit would always be with him.
“At the end of the night, the candles will burn out, but you must keep it burning inside of you,” he said.
Alpha Epsilon Pi presented a check worth $200 to GAMMA, toward their alcohol awareness program.
GAMMA offers numerous other on-campus programs such as the Referral State, where anyone can refer someone with an alcohol or drug problem and GAMMA will try and help them.
They also have the IBIS Shuttle Service and are currently undertaking the Cocaine Awareness Program.
The crowd then proceeded to the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house with their lighted candles.
The walk commemorated those who lost their lives due to alcohol.
In the past year alone, 5600 children have died in traffic accidents and 5000 more are expected to die this year, organizers said.
“No one should have to go through such a loss,” Montgomery said.
There was a meal reception at the Alpha Epsilon Pi house, where more information was passed out.
“If tonight we reached out to even one person and made him think before getting behind the wheel drunk, then we were successful,” LeFevre said .