MADD's (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) 35th Anniversary conference in Arlington, Virginia was touching and at the same time disturbing as pictures of those young and old who were the victims of drunk driving lined the halls. At the Friday luncheon Delanie Walker, tight end for the Tennessee Titans, spoke of how his uncle and aunt were killed by a drunk driver after watching Delanie play for the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. He spoke of his love for Aunt Alice (lovingly known by the nickname Peaches) and her husband, Bryan, and how he was committed to helping MADD get drunk and impaired drivers off the road. Joining Delanie on the stage was Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League; he also pledged that the NFL was committed to stopping drunk and impaired driving after games. There was a moment of levity when Debbie Weir, Chief Executive Officer of MADD, interviewed Commissioner Goodell and Delanie. Her first question was, "Delanie what is the impact of catching a partially deflated football?" That got a good laugh from the audience. Debbie then went on to discuss with Delanie and the commissioner the designated driver program and other programs on which MADD and the NFL have partnered. Below is a picture of me, Delanie and Alan Pedersen, Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends.
While heading home from conference the message of "No More Victims" was still reverberating in my brain. I had just spent three highly informative days with hundreds of volunteers and the staff of Mothers Against Drunk Driving who are prepared to help if your life has been changed forever by a drunk or drugged driver. They don't just stand back, but are ready to take action to advocate and educate in order to reach the goal of "No More Victims."
It seems like only yesterday that that my 17-year-old son Scott was killed in a car crash only miles from the conference site. He was a passenger in a car driven by his cousin when the driver lost control of the car, slamming it into a bridge abutment. Both boys burned to death in the wreckage. I can only imagine how I would have felt if they had been hit by a drunk driver.
Sitting on the plane heading home I reflected not only on my loss, but on the past three days. Six months ago when Carl McDonald, National Law Enforcement Initiatives Manager for MADD, asked my daughter Heidi and me if we would present on Death Notification When a Child Dies at the upcoming conference I knew very little about MADD. We had interviewed Candice Lightner, founder of MADD, on our Open to Hope radio show but I had never attended an event. I said, "yes" as I thought being part of a special training on Death Notification would give us an opportunity to connect with an organization I had long admired; and I wasn't disappointed. Carl told me there would be over 100 first-responders including law enforcement officers, chaplains, victim advocates and Trauma unit managers in our session.
Planning our presentation was an education on the topic of death notification. I really haven't thought about such notification, not since 1983, when two police officers knocked on the door and notified me that my son had been killed. At the time I was working at the University of Rochester Medical Center as a liaison nurse for the surgical service. Death notification for the medical center focused mainly on convincing doctors that delivering the news themselves and spending a few minutes with the family could protect them from future law suits. When I arrived at MADD I was pleased to find a totally different attitude. The trainers and attendees were actually concerned about delivering "the worst news you can get" with compassion and care. The overview delivered during the three days by Lauren Rowe, National Director of Victim Services, and Carl McDonald was impressive. They not only looked at considerations for helping the family but also taking care of those delivering the news. It was done with humility and reverence.
I would have liked to attend more of the conference events. Workshops such as: Victim Rights Across the USA; Drugged Driving Facts; Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving; to name just to name a few. The Friday morning breakfast plenary was excellent with the theme, "The Power to Prevent Underage Drinking," a session I wished everyone could have attended.
When I arrived at MADD I really didn't think it was a place where I "belonged" but to my surprise I found that a number of the staff and volunteers themselves were not victims of drunk or drugged drivers. Some joined to support friends and others were just drawn to a great cause.
I could go on talking about the sponsorships, the commitments, the programs and the truly inspiring stories of all the people I met at MADD, but what I really want to say is: "thank you". To you who are reading this article and looking to volunteer MADD is a great place to make a difference and Delanie Walker shows you don't have to be a mother to join. By your service you may not only save a life, but you may stop someone from taking a life. MADD can be contacted at www.madd.org.
- Train to be a victim advocate.
- Walk or help with the regional walks.
- Volunteer to go to NFL games and help people sign up to be designated drivers.
- Don't get behind the wheel or let others drive when drunk or impaired.
Again I want to thank all of those who volunteer and work with MADD -- all who work with heart and head to make this a better and safer world.
If you're are experiencing a loss in you life, lean on us at Open to Hope.