Battling the lure of alcohol was nothing new for Shevonne Polastre’s younger sister, Kristine. No one thought, though, the problem would turn tragic, as it did on Jan. 26, 2010, when Kristine was found dead on an air base in Japan, the victim of alcohol poisoning.
But while still deeply hurt by the loss of her sister, Polastre, BA English ’04, is now using the painful experience to warn others about the potential fatal consequences of excessive drinking.
“I decided to turn something tragic in my life into something positive for other people,” she says.
Polastre is the founder of Stop Alcohol Deaths, or SAD, a nonprofit created in January that has the goal of spreading awareness about the dangerous effects of drinking beyond one’s limits. April is Alcohol Awareness Month.
She says she got the idea for SAD after scouring the Internet after her sister’s death and finding much more information about drunk driving than binge drinking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking is considered five or more drinks in a short period of time for a man and four or more for a woman. There are nearly 80,000 deaths in the United States each year attributed to excessive alcohol consumption.
“This is something that could happen to anyone,” Polastre points out.
One of the first projects SAD undertook was to create a public service announcement. The video, which is posted on the SAD website, shows a young woman drinking heavily after arguing with her boyfriend. She eventually passes out and never wakes up. This PSA ends with the question, “Is this the right choice?”
Polastre said her sister had a “problem with alcohol” for some time. She attended Mason in the mid-2000s, but did not graduate. She then enlisted in the Air Force, and eventually spent six months in Afghanistan.
Polastre, who lives in Fairfax County, Va., says Kristine was caring, dedicated, and blessed with a personality that could lift the spirits of all those around her. At the time of her death, she was still in the Air Force and was stationed in Okinawa.
“Her death devastated our family, as it would any family,” Polastre says.
Besides creating the video, Polastre is also writing, with the help of her mother and older sister, area middle and high schools and asking to speak to students about the dangers of drinking. She is also planning a 5K charity race in honor of her sister, who was an avid runner.
Polastre says Kristine would be proud of what her family is doing to help others.
“I think she really would be grateful that we are doing this in her honor,” she says.