Why We’re Here: Helen Marie Witty

On June 1, 2000 in Miami, Florida, 16-year-old Helen Marie Witty – known as H.M. to her friends and family – decided to take advantage of the sunny afternoon and go rollerblading.  She was on a designated bike path when she was hit and killed by a 17-year-old drunk driver.  Helen Marie died instantly.

The driver spent the afternoon binge drinking and smoking marijuana at a friend's house, before she left in a hurry, heading home in time to get money from her parents before they left town on a trip.  She was traveling 60 mph in a 30 mph speed zone and lost control of the car. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.09 at the scene of the crash.

She was sentenced to 6 years with 10 years’ probation, and was ordered to speak to students while incarcerated.  After her release from prison, she was deported.

Helen Marie was a straight-A student, vice president of her class and belonged to three honor societies.  She was passionate about theater and dreamed of Broadway.  She was planning to direct the opening night of a school play the following night.  Her tragic death devastated the community.

Helen Marie’s mother, also named Helen, says that after the crash, life became instantly incomprehensible.  The emotions were physical and too painful to describe.  But she found a way to manage her grief with the help of faithful friends, through therapy and volunteering with MADD.  After 10 years as a volunteer, she is now a full-time program specialist for MADD Miami Dade County.

Nearly fourteen years later, Helen Marie’s loved ones still gather each year for the Miami Walk Like MADD to celebrate her life and honor her memory.  This past February, Helen Marie’s Hikers was one of the top fundraising teams.

Helen Marie and her mom Helen

Click here to read Helen Witty’s guest blog about surviving Mother’s Day after losing a child.