Father Walks With Son's Ashes Hoping To Save Lives

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Barry Adkins and his family left their Gilbert home March 1 on a four-month trip.

Along the way, they will visit Barry's mother and father in Payson.

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Barry Adkins with his late son, Kevin. The father is walking 15 to 20 miles a day, a total distance of 1,450 miles, carrying Kevin's ashes and speaking to students about the dangers of alcohol poisoning.

But this trip is not a vacation, it is a journey fueled by the Adkins family's determination that no one else's child die of alcohol poisoning.

Kevin Adkins was just 18 when he died in 2005.

His father will walk 15 to 20 miles a day, a total distance of 1,450 miles, carrying Kevin's ashes to the Majestic Valley area of Montana, the state where his son dreamed of one day owning a ranch.

Along the way, he will speak to students at more than two-dozen middle and high schools.

Adkins will speak at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 5, at the Payson High School auditorium.

Parents and their teenagers are encouraged to attend the free program, sponsored by Not My Kid and Southwest Behavioral Health.

"His walk is to bring awareness of drinking innocently and what can happen," said Barry Adkins Sr.

"His main purpose is to help other kids. They are happy and young and just don't realize what alcohol can do. He hopes to save someone's life."

"Kevin was a very innocent, well-behaved kid," Kevin's grandmother, Helen Adkins, said. "He loved horses. He was a typical cowboy."

There was no history of Kevin drinking, let alone binge drinking, according to his family.

The nightmare began when his friends threw him a party for his 18th birthday in 2005.

Kevin had just graduated, started a new job, moved into his own apartment and bought a truck.

He downed six double shots of Jack Daniels.

Later, when he passed out, his friends shaved his head and legs as a practical joke.

When they checked on him at around 4 a.m., he was not breathing.

Although they called 911, it was too late.

"My quest is to never have another family have to experience that horrible knock on their front door -- the one where they tell you your child is gone and you will never see them again," Barry said.

Teenage drinking is a local problem, according to Abigail Pederson, a prevention specialist with Southwest Behavioral Health.

Pederson is the facilitator of Insight, a group of 20 teens who pledge sobriety for the eight weeks they meet. During those eight weeks, they hope to gain insight into themselves and their choices.

"What they say in the group is confidential and I do not share what is said, but if a parent calls I will address that week's topic with the parent," Pederson said.

"I think a lot of students will be able to relate to the cowboy mentality of Kevin," she said.

After "Ask Shawna," a play some local students attended as part of Alcohol Awareness Day, Pederson said, she saw different reactions from students.

For some teens, the message sank in and they changed their behavior. Others had a more callous, defensive reaction.

"They laughed and giggled and joked, because it hit them in a place they were not comfortable with," she said. "We hope more education means teens will be better equipped to make good choices."

For more information about sponsorships, the dangers of binge drinking and Barry's blog on Kevin's Last Walk, visit www.kevinslastwalk.org.

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