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updated: 3/3/2011 5:38 PM

Carol Stream parents continue son's legacy with 5K run

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  • Doug Petit's son Jonathan was drinking at an underage party and drowned in a retention pond behind the home in June 2005. The Petits have since started a 5K run to raise awareness of underage drinking.

      Doug Petit's son Jonathan was drinking at an underage party and drowned in a retention pond behind the home in June 2005. The Petits have since started a 5K run to raise awareness of underage drinking.
    Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

 
 

Doug Petit does not want people to remember his son only for the choices he made at the end of his life. Yet he reminds people of those choices as often as he can, hoping others do not make the same mistake.

It has been more than five years since 16-year-old Jonathan Petit's body floated to the surface of a retention pond at Mitchell Lakes Park in Carol Stream, ending a frantic three-day search for the Glenbard North High School wrestler.

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Doug Petit and his wife, Yvonne, created the group Parents and Teens Together when they learned that Jonathan had been drinking heavily at a graduation party on the night of his death. The organization works to help curb underage drinking and hosts its sixth annual JP 5K Fun Run at 10 a.m. Sunday at the north pavilion of Armstrong Park, 391 Illini Drive, Carol Stream. Registration begins at 9:15. The event also will include a pig roast, bags tournament and picnic, along with the run.

It's an effort, the Petits say, to give back to youth organizations as well as community members who searched endlessly for their son when he came up missing in the early morning of June 18, 2005. Proceeds will be donated to help raise awareness of underage drinking and provide one scholarship.

Doug Petit said he often thinks about the decisions his son made on that night and the time has not healed him.

"I think about it every day," he said. "I think about what a stupid loss it was."

When police recovered Jonathan's body, his blood-alcohol level was near .21, more than two times the legal limit for a 21-year-old driver. Police at the time said an acquaintance had seen Jonathan swimming in the pond about 1:30 a.m. the night of the party, which Jonathan and his friends heard about at an event at the village's Town Center.

It was not the first time Jonathan had been around alcohol. Doug Petit said that not long before his death, he had given Jonathan a verbal warning after he discovered some beer missing from his fridge. He says he made the mistake that many parents still make and considered it a kind of "rite of passage."

If he could do it over, he said he would have put a little bit more thought into that talk.

"Our wish is that friends of Jonathan, when they become parents, they are better prepared and have the conversations with their kids that maybe I should have taken more seriously," he said. "I would give anything to go back and be that dad."

From tragedy, however, has come a promising organization that continues to grow. Yvonne Petit helps put events together while her husband travels the area speaking to high school students about drugs and alcohol.

"You have eye-opening events in your life and this was one of them," Yvonne Petit said. "We would not have gotten through this traumatic situation without the support of the community and Jonathan's friends. We have to give back."

Meanwhile, the Petits' twin sons, Jeremy and Jake, now 20, try to talk to their friends about drinking and help keep them safe when they are drinking.

"They have had a really hard time with this," Yvonne Petit said. "They looked up to their brother. They really put him on a pedestal."

She said the situation helps others because it illustrates to those who listen that bad decisions could affect family and friends.

After the Petits reported Jonathan missing, police and fire crews searched the area, including the lake, but could not find him.

Several days later, his body surfaced and the Petits learned the terrible news.

"What we forget is, you can make one bad choice and that one bad choice could be fatal," Yvonne Petit said. "We are all going to make mistakes, but just think before you take that drink because it could be fatal."

In the aftermath of Jonathan's death, Carol Stream police took a tougher stance on teen drinking. On the day of Jonathan's funeral, 12 teenagers were arrested for underage drinking.

Two months later, the mother and son who hosted the party where Jonathan had been drinking were charged with four misdemeanors, including unlawful delivery of alcohol to a minor and endangering the life of a child. Each was sentenced to four weekends in DuPage County jail in December 2007.

Doug Petit said Jonathan and his friends had planned a trip to Great America the next day. Instead, they were searching for their friend and Doug has since been searching for answers.

"It was just some evil that popped up in the middle of the night when you least expected it," he said. "Jonathan had a lot of character and he had good qualities. It's such a shame that those were not allowed to grow. He was a lot better than me in many ways. Jonathan knew what he was doing, but it doesn't speak to his central life that he was making a few bad choices in the end."

If you go

What: Sixth annual JP 5K Fun Run

Why: To raise money for programs that discourage underage drinking

When: 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 5; registration starts at 9:15 a.m.

Where: North pavilion of Armstrong Park, 391 Illini Drive, Carol Stream

Cost: $5 for run; $7 for pig roast and picnic

Info: jpatt.org

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