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Why We Walk: Erin's Story

Have you ever felt like you were meant to meet someone?

I was in Texas for Victim Impact Training for MADD. I was one of the first people to find a spot in the training room that day. There were several tables with plenty of seats available. A few people began to enter the room filling in the seats. Kathryn Dufour, who was a volunteer from the Boston office, sat next to me and introduced herself. Before you know it, I found out that she was from Aroostook County! What are the odds? We began to chat and the conversation steered towards realizing that we both had lost loved ones to this preventable crime.

In Kathryn’s words, here is Erin’s Story:

This is a photo of Erin Dufour, who died at the hands of a drunk driver March 18, 2009. At the time of her death, she was living in Tolland, Massachusetts. That day after work, she did some shopping for her new apartment, and she headed up Route 8 towards home.   

While Erin was shopping, her offender was drinking shots at a local bar a few miles away. When she left the bar, she had consumed six shots druing a two hour period. She was extremely inebriated, with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, but she felt she could drive for some reason. A few minutes later, she was speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road. She hit Erin's car head on. Erin suffered a broken neck and multiple fractures killing her. She had no time to react or avoid the crash. Her offender had only minor injuries.

I was in Phoenix at the time out taking a walk with my grandson. I didn’t know…I didn’t have a clue that my child was in trouble while I was enjoying my evening with Liam. Looking back, I can’t understand why I didn’t instinctively know that something horrible had happened to her. By the time I was told by the State Police that she was dead, three hours had passed. Three hours during which I felt the false security that my family was safe and well.  

My husband and I have come to understand we will not get over Erin’s death. We will wake every day and feel the wrenching sadness of her absence. We will miss her laughter, her full body hugs, her perfect manicures, the way she said our names, and her kindness. We will miss her future.

We will always wonder what if…what if she had not moved out to Tolland with her girlfriend…what if she had not decided to pick up some cleaning supplies for her new apartment…what if she had chatted with the cashier five more minutes…what if someone had noticed that Erin’s offender was drunk…and what if she had been offered a ride home…what if?

Erin loved scary movies and amusement rides. She also loved Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie. She loved country music and all things Ford. She fell asleep after the beginning credits of movies she insisted we all watch, and she was the best at choosing just the right gift for our birthdays. She loved Italian food and her favorite dessert was chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.  She loved NASCAR, especially Jimmie Johnson, and two years in a row she participated in the Demolition Derby at the Northampton County Fair, winning Best in Show for her car, the “Queen Bee”.   

Erin was a competitor. She loved sports and lettered as a freshman in both Softball and Soccer. In her sophomore year, she added throwing shot-put to fill the void between those two sports seasons and lettered in that as well. She loved to watch hockey and went to every home Albany River Rats games her senior year in high school.  

Erin was faithful to her friends, always asking me for advice on how to help one or another when they encountered issues she felt needed a “mother’s touch”. So sad that I had to share memories with her friends from kindergarten, old boyfriends, high school teammates, and her work buddies at her funeral instead of at her wedding or another happy occasion.

I know I was meant to meet Kathryn that day and know I am honored to share Erin’s Story with you. We hope you will join us and Team Erin at this year’s first official Walk Like MADD in Maine. Register or donate at www.walklikemadd.org/aroostookcounty


Remembering Fallen Officers

By Ron Replogle, MADD National Law Enforcement Initiatives Manager and Retired Missouri State Highway Patrol

In May, I attended the Southwest Missouri Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Springfield, Missouri.

The service is conducted yearly to honor and memorialize the police officers who pay the ultimate sacrifice and are killed in the line of duty during the previous year.  A roll call of the officer’s names and their agencies is conducted during the service.

Unfortunately, 128 names were read this year, one of which was Trooper James M. Bava of the Missouri State  Highway Patrol, the agency I retired from last year. Trooper Bava was only 25 years old, and he had served with the Patrol for just two short years when he died in a crash while trying to overtake a speeding motorcycle. 

Sitting in the service, I began to think of the other 30 Missouri State Troopers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice during the MSHP’s 85 year history. Four of those troopers were struck and killed by drunk drivers.

One was Corporal Michael E. Webster, an academy classmate and close friend of mine. Corporal Webster was struck and killed by a drunk driver standing roadside while conducting a traffic stop on US 40 highway in Blue Springs, Missouri on October 2, 1993.  He was struck by the drunk driver and carried on the hood of the vehicle for approximately 200 feet before the driver stopped.

Mike was transported to a hospital in Kansas City where he died the following evening. He was only 33 years old and left behind his wife, a 6 year old daughter and a 20 month old son. 

Mike was one of those guys that everyone liked and he had an infectious smile. He never met a stranger and had a great career ahead of him.  Unfortunately and sadly, that career was cut short and a mother was left alone to raise two young children because someone chose to drink and drive.

I will never forget my friend, Corporal Michael E. Webster, badge #473. Rest in peace brother!


MADD welcomes 2016 Checkpoint Strike Force

On July 7th, I had the privilege of witnessing roughly 100 Delaware Law Enforcement Officers swear in to the 2016 Checkpoint Strike Force, a six-month campaign aimed at preventing drunk drivers from endangering others or themselves.

An impressive group of attendees gathered together in a solemn but hopeful event. Attendees included Department of Safety & Homeland Security Secretary James N. Mosley, the Attorney General Matt Denn, and Selbyville Police Department Chief Scott Collins, who also serves as 2nd Vice Chairman of the Delaware Police Chiefs' Council, and indicated the strong support statewide for this operation.
 
Seeing the officers take the oath read by the Attorney General gave me hope in a week that is always the most difficult of the year for me.

It is the week of the crash that 12 years ago took the life of my son Dustin.

But knowing these brave men and women were making a commitment to be out in force protecting our public roadways and taking drunk and drugged drivers off the roads, I promised the officers I would be there to honor them. 

If there had been a sobriety checkpoint on the night Dustin was killed, he would be with our family today. So, this event, and the Strike Force in which they will serve, was tremendously important, both to me personally and MADD. One of MADD's top priorities is the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®, now in its 10th year.
 
One thing MADD has learned in 36 years is this: if we truly are to eliminate drunk driving, we need our partners in law enforcement, traffic safety, and government to all work together. We can't do it without them!
 
Law Enforcement Officers are keeping our communities safe from those who choose to drink and drive. This DUI enforcement campaign in Delaware, which continues through the end of the year, is a critical part of traffic safety.

I believe that together, we will create a nation of NO MORE VICTIMS®.


"I will never forget that kiss." MADD National President

Drunk and drugged driving destroys families.

It destroyed ours 12 years ago this month when our youngest son Dustin was killed. My husband Skip, our son Casey, and I have survived. But nothing is the same. 

When the four of us were together, we had a lot of fun… memorable trips to Disney World, summer vacations to Lake George and Cape Cod. We followed the boys on their athletic pursuits.

But the everyday moments are what I miss the most...Dustin sitting on the floor of the bedroom talking to me about his day…….the simple “I love you” before bed.

Even though you, as a parent, understand that some of those special moments will pass as your child grows, you could always look forward to what the next special moment. And the one after that. And the one after that. Drunk drivers take that away. An offender's selfish decision to drink and drive not only kills people but destroys all the memories that might have been. They are a plague in our society and kill more than 10,000 people every year, injure nearly 200,000 and cost us, as a nation, nearly $200 billion to clean up the mess.
 
Those are statistics. They’re shocking. But no number compares to the devastation of losing someone you love.

That’s why I’m here as National President of MADD… to try to make a difference, to try to make people understand that we have to fight this scourge. We MUST pass laws that stop this. We MUST adjudicate those laws properly, not suspend sentences in egregious cases that take lives. And personally, I believe we MUST make the decision to never to drink and drive.
 
My heart is breaking today….my heart cries every time I hear the news of yet another person killed by a drunk/drugged driver….my heart, like all the victims and survivors, needs to heal.

We can win the fight.  It won’t be easy.  And everyone needs to be a part of it. Our son Dustin can’t be here, but he is still making a difference. Please help us create a future with No More Victims® by donating $18 today in memory of the precious 18 years I had with my boy. Forever 18, forever in my heart. 
 
I will never forget the kiss Dustin gave me in front of Niagara Falls as I held him close. Don't miss the kiss of your loved one. Donate today.

God Bless you and God Bless America.


Sheriffs' Association showcases heart, dedication

Every time I have the opportunity to attend an event, it’s exciting and rewarding. That was the case when I went to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the 2016 Annual Conference of the National Sheriffs Association. It was exciting to see more than 3,000 sheriffs gathering to share and learn. We heard from FBI Director James Comey and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, a founding member of Steeley Dan and the Doobie Brothers, and now a National Security Expert.
 
It was rewarding to meet and talk with Sheriff John Whetsel with the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office. Twenty six years ago, John's wife Darlene and 2-year-old daughter Rebecca, both innocent bystanders, were killed as the result of a DUI chase. His four-year-old daughter, Stacy, was critically injured.


 
 Sheriff Whetsel's family before the crash.
 
 His surviving daughter after the crash.
Sheriff Whetsel with MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church


As John spoke to the group, I could relate to his message. 

Drunk driving crashes are just that - “crashes,” not accidents. His words to live by also struck home. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain."
 
Living by those words, Sheriff Whetsel has spent much of his life making two important points… treat victims of traffic crashes caused by criminal behavior as victims of crimes. And provide them with needed help and support. He says, “That’s how we can help them learn how to dance in the rain.”

What the Sheriff says is exactly what we do at MADD… and we’ll keep doing it until there are NO MORE VICTIMS®.

Please consider joining our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. Ask your friends and family to stop using the "A" word, and let's support innocent victims of this 100% preventable crime.


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