15 Shots Killed Shelby Allen
What's perhaps more shocking is that the 17-year-old drank them at a friend's house, while the parents were home. Here, how her mom is fighting to make sure no other child dies this way
A Mother's Mission
The Allens say the suit is not about retribution. It's about finding meaning and doing some good in the wake of Shelby's death. The germ of an idea took root in Debbie's mind soon after her loss. What could others learn from this tragedy? How could she help other teens and parents as the legal process took off on its own track? The idea of sharing the sad lessons from that night took shape, and by the time of Shelby's funeral - held the weekend after her death - information about what Debbie called "Shelby's Rules" was available for mourners after the service. Debbie Allen gave her first presentation about alcohol poisoning on January 5, 2009, not quite three weeks after burying her child.
"Life gives you two choices when you suffer a tragedy: Give up or move on. I have a husband and another child to love and take care of. I must move on, for their sake if not mine," Debbie says. "But now I also have a mother's passion to educate teens about the dangers of alcohol poisoning amid this new culture of binge drinking - a danger many know nothing about, and a danger my family learned about in the hardest way imaginable. It's not a matter of staying strong; it's a matter of doing what needs to be done, no matter how you are feeling, no matter how sad you are. I believe - and believed almost right away - this is what Shelby would have wanted me to do."
And so Debbie set out to educate students about the dangers of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning through Shelby's Rules, a nonprofit education foundation. "Shelby used to tell me, 'Mom, just tell me how things work. That's how I'm wired,' " Debbie says. "What she meant was, she wasn't going to do or not do something just because I told her my stance on it. She required reasons. Facts. Explanations. I think most kids do.
"If I had told her how alcohol affects the body, how alcohol relaxes every muscle in the body, including the gag reflex, so that if your body is trying to get rid of the booze that's poisoning it, the muscles in the throat may be too slow to respond, and you can choke on your own vomit or not be able to vomit at all...if I had explained these specifics to Shelby, she might still be alive."