Red Watch program set up in Sunshine’s honor spreads across nation

Ben Geier

The Red Watch Band, which was started at Stony Brook University with the help of the mother of former Northwestern student Matthew Sunshine to promote alcohol safety and awareness, has spread across the country.

The program, launched at Stony Brook on March 15, is now at 74 colleges and 30 high schools, wrote Dr. Jenny Hwang, director of the Center for Prevention and Outreach at Stony Brook, in an e-mail sent Wednesday. The locations are in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

Sunshine’s mother, Dr. Suzanne Fields, is a geriatric physician at Stony Brook. She said she was happy that so much interest had been generated in the program she helped start.

“They hope that this will be something that will grow and be a sustained effort and be able to study its impact not just at Stony Brook but elsewhere,” she said. “We’re hoping it will save lives.”

Fields said the program has “taken off,” partially as a result of a full-page ad in The New York Times Magazine.

She added that interest at Stony Brook has been high.

“A lot of students on Stony Brook campus have expressed interest,” she said. “Freshman orientation, athletic groups. I think kids want to help their friends and want to be available in situations (where) they don’t know what to do.”

Fields said she hopes the spread of the program could help prevent more incidents like that which happened to her son.

“I felt that way when Matthew died – if someone had known to call for help, he would be alive,” she said. “The goal is so that other families don’t face what we have faced the past year.”

Andrew Scoggin contributed reporting

Related:Matthew Sunshine’s death inspires new alcohol safety program at New York-based Stony Brook 5/22/09