A grieving father's plea: Drive responsibly this Labor Day weekend
A grieving father who lost his 16-year-old son in a drunk driving crash is urging drivers to exercise responsibility during the upcoming Labor Day Weekend.
"It's been grueling, and grief isn't your friend, I'll say that," says Stephen Panus, who lost his son Jake.
Three years have passed since the death of Jake Panus.
The 16-year-old from Southport had been away on Block Island with his girlfriend and some of their friends.
"Unfortunately, his girlfriend drank, they all drank. But his girlfriend was the driver, and she was charged with reckless driving and driving under the influence. And my son died," says Stephen Panus.
As Labor Day Weekend approaches, Stephen Panus is hopeful that his personal tragedy will serve as a reminder for others to reconsider before taking the wheel while impaired.
"This grief parent club doesn't need any new members... I would hope that people are responsible...take Uber, Lyft," he emphasized.
In memory of Jake, the Panus family initiated two scholarship funds. One aids teenagers from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to pursue college education, inspired by Jake's mission trip there through Southport Congregational Church.
The second scholarship grants a full ride to walk-on football players at the University of South Carolina. Jake aspired to follow in his father's footsteps and attend the university after graduating from Fairfield Ludlowe High School.