STERLING – Doug Petit says he didn’t chose a life of public speaking; it chose him.
It chose him, however, in a most horrific manner.
Eight years ago, Petit’s 16-year-old son Jonathan left their home to attend an event with a friend and wound up at a party where a parent had provided alcohol. He went missing after leaving the party, and after a 4-day search, his body was found in a pond.
“Things are now separated into life before and after Jonathan,” Petit said.
Life after his son quickly became a mission to save others from the pain of losing a child to underage drinking.
Petit, of Carol Stream, will be in Sterling and Rock Falls next week to deliver his very personal message about teenagers and substance abuse. He will be at Challand Middle School from 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 16, and at Rock Falls Middle School from 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 17. Both presentations will be in the school cafeterias.
The schools are hoping for a good turnout, said Kathy Howard, Challand Middle School principal.
“Middle school is a tricky stage of life to navigate for parents and kids,” Howard said. “I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that it’s a tough job raising teens today, and it’s nice to know there’s help available.”
Petit and his ex-wife, Yvonne, started Parents and Teens Together, an organization that promotes awareness of the problem, sponsors safe social events for teens, awards scholarships and supports athletic events.
The first thing they did to honor their son was start the annual JP Fun Run, an event that helps fund the efforts of PATT.
“Athletics is an important part of our work,” Petit said. “Keeping kids active and off the couch can help keep them on the right path.”
Petit speaks to parent and student groups. and also teams up with other like-minded organizations including the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists and the DuPage County Prevention Leadership Team.
He admits that constantly telling his family’s story during his speaking engagements isn’t easy.
“Sometimes, you tell the story three times in 3 hours,” Petit said. “It’s pretty intense to relive those 4 days over and over. But it’s not supposed to be easy. You just have to focus on what you want to accomplish.”
The event is funded through the Community That Cares project, an alliance of more than 54 organizations in Lee, Whiteside, Ogle and Carroll counties focused on childrens’ mental health.
Doug Petit, a founder of Parents and Teens Together, an organization that fights teen substance abuse.
• 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 16, at Challand Middle School, 1700 Sixth Ave., Sterling
• 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 17, at Rock Falls Middle School, 1701 12th Ave., Rock Falls
Both presentations will be in the school cafeterias. There will be door prizes, refreshments, and child care services.