Kevin's last walk

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Barry Adkins, second from left, leads the way Sunday during Kevin’s Last Stop, the final portion of Kevin’s Last Walk to bring his son’s ashes to Kalispell. Joining him are Jim Lynch, director of transportation, and Kalispell Mayor Pam Kennedy. Adkins began the walk Feb. 24, two days before what would have been Kevin’s 20th birthday and has walked about 1,400 miles. Kevin died of alcohol poisoning at age 18. Kristine Paulsen/Daily Inter Lake
By JOHN STANG The Daily Inter Lake

It was a 2 a.m. phone call intended for his sisters. Typically, that garbly message should have been an invitation for his two sisters to razz him later.

Less than two months out of high school, Adkins has just move out of his Gilbert, Ariz., home into a rented house with three friends.

It was a housewarming party - with lots of booze.

After midnight, Adkins downed six or seven shots of hard liquor.

After the phone call, he passed out. He never woke up, even when his friends shaved his head and legs - a gag that he would have appreciated.

Adkins died maybe an hour after that phone call from alcohol poisoning.

A .36 percent blood-alcohol level. More than four times what it takes to get arrested for drunken driving.

At 8:30 a.m., police told his parents, Barry and Beverly Adkins, about their son's death.

"It was just a party. You'd think it'd be no harm, no foul. But someone died that night. It was Kevin," his father said.

Barry Adkins played the recording of the voice mail and talked about his son and teen drinking - especially binge drinking - to about 125 people Sunday at the Majestic Valley Arena. The arena was the last stop on a roughly 1,400-mile walk from Gilbert to Kalispell to raise awareness of teen drinking.

"Each of you can make something good out of this. … I ask each of you to find that something and make it happen. That's what you can do for us and Kevin," he told the crowd.

About 90 people, including Kalispell Mayor Pam Kennedy and Montana Transportation Director Jim Lynch, accompanied Adkins on the last three miles of his journey Sunday morning - walking from Lowe's to Majestic Valley Arena along U.S. 93.

At least half wore white T-shirts, and a few wore yellow bandannas mentioning the walk and its sponsor's Web address:

Danielle McFarland pushed a stroller holding her 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Kendra. Her son, Chris Gauthier, and his friend Ben Therrien, both 17, walked with her.

"It's a good cause," McFarland said.

Kendra came along because her mom wanted to start ingraining an anti-drinking and pro-volunteering attitude in her daughter.

"This is something close to my heart … to educate people about binge drinking and underage drinking," said walker and former drug-and-alcohol counselor Beverly Wood.

With his wife handling the logistics, Adkins decided to carry his son's ashes from Arizona through Utah and Idaho to the Flathead Valley.

Adkins grew up in Kalispell and has plenty of family in the Flathead. Kevin Adkins - a hard-core outdoorsman who wanted to become a game warden and own a small ranch - once told his father that he felt happiest in Montana.

Kevin Adkins' favorite movie was the television Western "Lonesome Dove." in that film, a dying cowboy asked his partner to be taken back to Texas for burial because that was the land that he loved.

Barry and Beverly Adkins decided to do the same.

Adkins carried his son's ashes in his backpack. They will be scattered later this week in a private ceremony on a relative's land.

Starting in February, Adkins averaged about 100 miles a week on his trek. He estimated he spoke to about 15,000 people in numerous lectures and assemblies along the way. He went through five pairs of shoes.

Adkins, 48, thought frequently about his son while walking. He said he believes his son would be pleased with the hike.

The father arrived in Kalispell a while ago, but waited until Sunday to do the final three miles because that's when the arena was reserved.

The trek's finish "hasn't hit me yet. I'm on the inside looking out, not focusing on where I am," he said.

Adkins believes he will continue to speak publicly about the dangers of underage and binge drinking, but is not sure in what ways.

He already talks with classes of people convicted of drunken driving and being underage drinkers - as well as other groups of chemically dependent people.

"I tell them they are the lucky ones because they're here. Kevin was the unlucky one," Adkins said.

And Adkins noted that little Colin likely will have no memories of his uncle who loved him.

Although he wonders whether he could have done something different, Adkins noted that his son bears the ultimate responsibility for his binge-drinking death. The father has forgiven his son's friends and fellow partygoers.

"Kevin was like most teens," he said. "He thought he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof."

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