From all accounts, Shelby was a good girl with a solid head on her shoulders - something like this was so far from what her personality demonstrated!
It all started when Shelby asked her parents to stay at her friend Alyssa's house that night. This was no big deal, since her mother, Debbie, knew both Alyssa and her parents well.
After a long career in law enforcement, Debbie was known around the neighborhood for her strict parenting style. But Debbie trusted both Alyssa and her daughter, even though they had been caught trying to drink a time or two before. As most parents do, Debbie assumed their rebellion was nothing more than teenage curiosity.
So, Shelby was given permission to stay at her friends and the dominos continued to fall....
After a late-night stop for tacos, Shelby and Alyssa received a text from another friend, who we'll call "Jane" in this story. Jane messaged her friends and said she was at home with her parents and older sisters and everyone was drinking - and she wanted Alyssa and Shelby to join them!
Soon after the text, Alyssa and Jane entered party, which was well-documented with cell phone pictures. Jane's parents went to bed around 1:00am, warning the girls not to drink any more alcohol, and get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Instead of going to bed, the girls grabbed a bottle of vodka and start to drink heavily. With an invincible outlook on life, Shelby announced that she wanted to drink 15 shots from the bottle. The 5'7", 107-pound girl, did not have the build or tolerance to drink that much and make it out alive.....
In an interview with Good Housekeeping, Alyssa shared why her friend was so determined to down 15 shots.
"I honestly don't know why she got that number in her head. Maybe she saw someone do it at a party. Shelby was an athlete [she played volleyball and was on the cross-country track team]; she had a competitive spirit. We all told her it was a bad idea, but she was determined to make that her goal."
In less than an hour Shelby reached her goal. Her outgoing texts showed that she was becoming sloppier and sloppier. Then she started to feel sick and ran off to the bathroom.
While leaning against the toilet seat, Shelby passed out - but her friend Jane made sure to prop her up and check on her periodically.
"She wont sober up at all. im freaking out have no ide wat to do."
"shelb is out [boy's name omitted] I f______ neeed hellp..."
"shelb is just half snoring shaking. I neeed you so dab right now."
The unnamed boy offered to come over, but said he would need to tell his dad where he was going. Subsequently, Jane dropped the idea, and the boy sent one last text "Feel better Shelby:)".
Shockingly, Jane waited until 8:00 the next morning to let her dad know that Shelby wasn't feeling well. Jane's lackadaisical attitude sounded no alarm with her father and the morning wore on.
Roughly an hour later, Alyssa woke up and took notice of her friend's condition. She was still slumped over the toilet and was completely motionless.
Finally 9-1-1 was called, the EMTs arrived on scene to a weak pulse and a motionless child. Shelby Allen was pronounced without life at 9:40 on the morning of December 20. Her blood alcohol was at .33, four times the legal limit for adults in the state of California.
After already losing a child to SIDS in 1987, Debbie knew the pain, and wouldn't wish it on her worst enemy.
While speaking with Good Housekeeping, Debbie recalled a memory of her and her daughter from not long before she passed away.
"Shortly before I lost Shelby, we watched Steel Magnolias together; Shelby, the daughter, dies in the movie, and I remember thinking as I watched my dear girl next to me, How could I be without her?
I told my Shelby, 'Don't ever leave this world before I do; I couldn't take it again.'
We sat there sobbing together, and she said, 'Mom, don't worry; I won't!'"
What her family was left with was piecing together sloppy text messages and pictures from their daughter's cell phone, and blurry stories from the people with her that night.
When nothing seemed to make sense anymore, they went to the police. Unfortunately, because of California law, those who choose to imbibe are responsible for the consequences, not those who provide the alcohol.
Jane's parents couldn't have criminal charges brought against them since Shelby was the one who drank voluntarily. Even though they believe Jane's decision to not call 9-1-1 when Shelby began to convulse should be considered involuntary manslaughter, the judge did not agree.
Since Shelby's tragic death, Debbie has dedicated her life to educating teens and parents on the dangers of drinking. "Shelby's Rules" are something she provides, stating that "Alcohol + Passed out (unresponsive) = 9-1-1".
Heartbroken, Debbie told Good Housekeeping that her daughter's passing has given her a new purpose in life.
"My daughter made poor choices that night, but teenagers make poor choices. It's our responsibility as adults to help them survive those poor choices....
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.
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."
Hopefully Shelby's story has saved the lives of many teens who contemplate heavy drinking.
Take a peek at Shelby's memorial video here.
Losing a child is the most unimaginable pain a parent can face. But, through the pain, Debbie continues to be her daughter's voice.
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