Rock Hill native Lissa Diamonstein wants to turn her son's death from underage drinking and driving into a positive.
Her son, Jon Alion Jr., was 19 when he was killed in a car crash in Sandy Ridge, N.C., a year ago today. Alion, who spent most of his life in Rock Hill and attended Fort Mill High School, had been drinking before he got behind the wheel, Diamonstein said.
This morning, Diamonstein is releasing balloons in memory of her son. He would have been 21 this November, so 21 light blue balloons with messages written by friends and family will be released near his grave at Forest Hills Cemetery in Rock Hill.
One white balloon, marking one year since his death, will be released with Alion's story attached.
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Diamonstein said she wants to tell her son's story to as many people as possible in hopes it convinces at least one person not to drink underage, or drink and drive.
Alion had been drinking in the driveway of a relative's house. He died after being ejected from a car he was driving. His blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, Diamonstein said. A friend who was a passenger in the car was injured.
"He was killed because he made a decision to drink and get behind wheel of a car," she said. "It sounds odd to say we are doing this to make a positive of it."
She wants to show teens and parents how easily a life can be lost, and that the lives of those around them can be drastically changed by the decision to drink and drive.
"The biggest impact on my life is I became fully aware of how little control I have of my children once they leave my front door," she said. "You teach and you teach and teach and you hope they make the right decision when they leave. You can't tell them enough not to underage drink."
Talking to teens
Parents should talk to their children about the dangers of drinking and driving under the influence, said Jane Alleva, director of All on Board Coalition.
"We always tell parents it's really hard for kids to get the message of 'Don't drink and drive,'" she said. "They're hearing you say: 'It's OK to drink.'
"Kids get a mixed message when you tell them 'Don't drink and drive.' We ask parents to focus on why not to drink period."
Often times, she said, the teens don't make a plan before drinking and think they have to drive drunk to get home.
"You have to make sure you're clear as parents on the house rules for alcohol," Alleva said.
She encourages parents to make sure their children know they can call if they need a ride home.
Alleva said parents should talk to children at age 12 or 13 because studies show children gain access to alcohol around that age.
Want to go?
What: Balloon release in memory of Jon Alion Jr., a teen from the area who died in a crash in North Carolina last fall. Alion was driving drunk and his mom wants to raise awareness of the dangers of underage drinking and driving
Where: Forest Hills Cemetery, S.C. 161 near Rock Hill
When: 11 a.m. today