Sep 012005
Authors: James Baetke

Sam Bam Jam

An alcohol-free concert in memory of Samantha Spady

Featuring: Steve Crenshaw and the Blues Shop and Something Underground

Sunday, Sept. 11

Old Town Plaza, Fort Collins

3 to 9 p.m.

Admission is free

Patty Spady does not cry as much as she used to. Since her daughter's death last year, her life has been creeping back toward normality.

The pain and guilt are sometimes overwhelming; when the mother speaks about it, her throat tightens. But nearly a year after Samantha Spady's accidental death near the CSU campus, Patty Spady can find a solemn solace in her daughter's old room.

"If I want to be close with Sam I just go to her room," Patty Spady said from her home in Beatrice, Neb. "I can smell her, it brings me solace."

Sam's death made newspaper headlines across the nation and her parents, Rick and Patty Spady, went on national television to tell viewers that their 19-year-old daughter drank herself to death.

"I am the first to admit, I was a little naive," Patty Spady said. "I regret it daily we didn't talk about alcohol poisoning."

Patty Spady said she taught her daughter the dangers of drinking and driving but the over consumption of alcohol never occurred to her. Now she wants the generational message to change to say that binge drinking is also a threat with young people, especially those in college.

Turning a tragedy into education is Patty Spady's coping strategy and new determination in life. She has plans to produce a DVD teaching the dangers of alcohol consumption that would ultimately be viewed in classrooms across the country.

She has already spoken at various places in Nebraska and two high schools in Colorado. In September, Patty Spady will speak at the University of North Carolina.

Her message in her speeches: "I do not condone underage drinking, but I want them to know you can die from overdrinking. Binge drinking is so far removed from what Sam was doing."

She continues to support the Sam Spady Foundation and the organization Ace of Spades, a program kicked off months after the tragedy by members of the Sigma Pi Fraternity, where Sam was found dead.

Patty Spady holds no anger toward the men of Sigma Pi, instead she admires their courage.

Darren Pettapiece, the former president of Sigma Pi, said he thinks about Sam daily and spends a lot of his time turning her death into something positive.

"It dramatically changed my life. I lost a friend, I lost a house, I lost a leadership position," Pettapiece said.

Standing up against critics, many members of Sigma Pi followed the idea of their president to create an alcohol over consumption campaign that Pettapiece dubbed "the Ace of Spades."

The organization has dispersed nearly 40,000 wallet cards that list the signs of alcohol poisoning. Ace of Spades is also co-hosting an event called the Sam Bam Jam, a live, non-alcoholic concert, celebrating students coming back to school and remembering Sam.

Kyle Bellew (CQ)es was a member of Sigma Pi and is now concentrated on assisting with Ace of Spades and being involved with the Sam Spady Foundation. He met Sam at her graduation party before she left Beatrice for CSU. The two went to the university together and shared a bond like no other, Bellew said.

Bellew has tried to move on, but his lost friend is always on his mind. When Sept. 5 comes, "it will be tough," he said.

"It is still fresh, it is always going to be there," Bellew said.

Sara Gibson, Sam Spady's roommate at the time of her death, wrote in a prepared statement: "A day does not go by that I do not think of Sam. I hope that the story of Samantha Spady remains strong in everyone's hearts and minds, and each one of us fulfill our responsibility to educate and care for one another in all social situations."

Patty Spady praises Fort Collins and CSU, especially students and President Larry Penley, for the way Sam's death was handled. She said CSU contributed $100,000 for furthering her efforts of education and heard from people all over the community.

But she feels a lingering loss of something priceless – to be able to watch her daughter grow: "The world was like an orange," she said, "and Sam just loved to peel it away."

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