One day in 2013, Mary Ciammetti’s son, Christian, brought her to Morgan Hall on Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Broad Street while it was being built to show her the landscape and architecture of the building.
Ciammetti said her son, then a sophomore landscape architecture major, beamed with pride and she asked him, “Is this what you are going to do?”
“Nope,” Christian said. “Even better.”
Ciammetti lost Christian, her youngest son, just a year and a half later to alcohol poisoning when he was 20 years old, a junior. After his death, Ciammetti started Don’t Stall, Just Call, a program dedicated to preventing alcohol-related deaths on college campuses.
As Ciammetti stood in a hospital room surrounded by mourning family members and friends, she said she struggled to understand the purpose of her son’s death. She asked herself, “How can we make a real change?”
Through lectures, Don’t Stall, Just Call has educated students about the dangers of binge drinking at schools like Temple, University of Delaware, Drexel University and St. Joseph’s University. Ciammetti has also spoken at high schools and churches.
Don’t Stall, Just Call’s team has spoken in front of crowds as small as 10 people and as large as 2,000.
“Christian was such a bright kid,” Ciammetti said. “He saw the beauty and potential in everything.”
In 2016, Ciammetti began working with Chris Carey, the director of Student Activities, to put up posters and magnets of the organization’s logo in buildings around Main Campus. She said students need to be constantly reminded of the signs of alcohol poisoning and should be familiar with medical amnesty.
Students are also required to take an online assessment called “Think About It,” a university initiative that educates students about sexual assault and alcohol poisoning.
“It is not enough though,” Ciammetti said. “Mumbling, stumbling, passed out, cold to the touch, these are the signs that Christian’s friends didn’t know. We didn’t even know them.”
Carey said Ciammetti’s organization is supplemental to Temple’s online assessment program.
“It humanizes the medical amnesty program by making it real,” Carey said. “It’s a great initiative by Mary, and I am in awe of the work she has done. I know it’s not easy.”
Ciammetti said she has worked to discover why students binge drink in the first place so that the problem can be solved.
She added that the organization has future plans to help students relieve anxiety by offering stress-reducing activities, like yoga classes.
“Student face stress, therefore, the culture becomes: drink to get drunk,” Ciammetti said. “And we want to change that culture.”
Julia Miller, a 2016 neuroscience alumna and a member of Don’t Stall, Just Call’s team, is Christian’s former girlfriend. She said she believes the organization’s message is successfully reaching students.
In 2015, 90 students called for medical assistance and took advantage of Temple’s medical amnesty policy. That number increased from 47 students in 2014 and 58 students called last semester alone, said university spokesman Brandon Lausch.
Miller said students have told her that because of outreach from Don’t Stall, Just Call they knew how to help a friend in need.
“It makes me feel so much better knowing that I am able to help,” Miller said. “It makes it real and relatable when students and peers can tell a story like this.”
Ciammetti said she is pushing for legislation to make it mandatory for universities to integrate alcohol education into their curricula.
“This is a serious issue,” Ciammetti said. “One that needs to be stopped.”
On Jan. 24, each year — the anniversary of Christian’s death — Ciammetti said she can hardly function.
Last month, she stood in a classroom on Main Campus where her son once sat. She struggled not to cry. It reminded her that no mother should have to lose a child the way she did, she said.
“No one should have to die of this again,” Ciammetti said. “Everyone needs to understand the signs of alcohol poisoning.”
Patrick Bilow can be reached at email@example.com.