Friends and relatives of a young Petaluma woman who died in the snow after attending an outdoor New Year's Eve concert in South Lake Tahoe are trying to use their grief to help others avert tragedy.
Using funds donated in memory of their daughter, Alyssa, 19, Kim and Kevin Byrne and others have launched a public service campaign promoting a buddy system to help keep teens and young people out of danger.
They're targeting middle- and high-school children, asking them to pledge to seek safety in numbers, and encouraging them to call a trusted adult at the first sign of trouble.
Assigning buddies is a tradition for outings involving young children, who customarily double up and hold hands so all can be accounted for in a group.
But even older children need to stick together, and beyond that know to get help and whom to call if a buddy is at risk, Kevin Byrne said.
A key piece of advice offered through the campaign, dubbed "Always Buddy," is that kids whose cellphones are packed with friends' phone numbers should make sure they also have contact numbers for their friends' parents or other family members.
"It's your responsibility to reach out, talk to your buddy, have a contact list of who to go to if you think something is going wrong," Kevin Byrne said.
Kevin Byrne said he knows that kids never want to tell on a friend or get their friend in trouble, but kids need to get over that and realize that to keep their friends safe, sometimes adults need to be brought into a situation.
"Always Buddy" is born of lessons learned from Alyssa Byrne's death and a desire for something positive to come out of it. But it's also steeped in the love the Byrnes have both received and cultivated in its wake.
"Kevin and I and Greg (their son) count ourselves so fortunate to live in this town that has been nothing but loving and supportive," Kim Miller-Byrne said. "We definitely want to pay it forward in any way we can."