By MADD National Board Member Heather Geronemus
I'm honored to serve on the National Board of Mothers Against Drunk Diving. I came to MADD out of necessity and not by choice. It's out of gratitude for the services, the love and support provided to me, and with conviction to create change that I serve this organization on the local, state, and now National level.
Many of the people that serve with me are also victims. Many of them are industry leaders who are compelled to serve and help us move our mission forward. It's an honor to sit at the table with each and every one of these individuals who choose to spend their time and talent to create a future of no more victims.
As a board and an organization we will stay laser focused on the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, seeking to get ignition interlocks for first-time offenders passed in all 50 states. Meanwhile, I want every person out there to know that they have the power to end drunk driving too.
When your plans include drinking always include plans for a non-drinking designated driver. This is how you can create change, choosing person by person to make a difference and save a life, possibly your own.
By Dr. Gloria Horsley, an internationally known grief expert and author. Gloria is the founder of the Open to Hope foundation.
This New Year may be a good time to declutter your grief: clean out that junk drawer of behavior and rid yourself of obstacles that might be keeping you from moving forward. It may be a time to ask yourself, “am I doing the things that make me happy or am I supporting others in dealing with their grief?” How we grieve is a personal as well as a community activity. We grieve the way we live. If prior to our loss we were a saver or a hoarder that may be the way we deal with our loss. Some people like to keep things tidy and have the philosophy that if you are not using it give it away. Others cherish lots of reminders like mom’s knickknacks and dad’s coin collection. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is not closure to grief; it is just that sometimes we make concessions that go contrary to our desires to move forward along our healing journey. If you are doing things that once worked, but no longer do, it may be a time to consider de-cluttering your grief.
Below is an assessment of your readiness and/or willingness to declutter:
1. Am I being true to my feelings?
2. Am I letting others know what my needs are?
3. Am I able to tell love ones that old behaviors are no longer working for me”?
4. Am I willing to allow myself to break outdated promises?
5. Am I willing to accept that loved ones may be angry with me?
6. Am I willing to compromise?
If you are able to answer the majority of these questions with a strong “yes” then you are on your way to a more peaceful and joyful existence, one with less stress and clutter. You were born to be joyful and happy. Use the New Year as an opportunity to again find meaning and purpose in your life. Please visit us often at www.Opentohope.com for more help and advice on finding hope after loss.
Recently, I was in Chicago to honor Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Because of his efforts to implement and improve Illinois’ Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) program, Secretary White was presented with the MADD 2015 Legislative Champion Award.
White noted over the last two full years his office’s BAIID program has prevented nearly 40,000 vehicles from starting because alcohol was detected from the driver during breath tests. Since 2009, when White expanded BAIID to include first-time DUI offenders, drunk driving deaths in Illinois have dropped by 24 percent.
It was a pleasure to meet Secretary White and learn how much he cares about MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. He, and all of us at MADD, are hoping for a day when there are NO MORE VICTIMS.
For a full list of MADD Legislative Champions click here.
Tie One On For Safety is MADD’s longest-running public awareness campaign which asks adults to tie a red ribbon on their vehicles to remind others to plan ahead and designate a non-drinking driver. For the fourth year, MADD is lucky to have Nationwide as Tie One On For Safety’s National Presenting Sponsor.
Tie One On For Safety events are taking place coast to coast this holiday season, and I’ve had the opportunity to attend three recently, one in Greenville, South Carolina, another in Long Beach, California and a third in Tucson, Arizona.
The holiday season can be a dangerous time of year, so tying a red ribbon on your vehicle is a reminder to you and others to plan ahead before attending holiday celebrations that may involve alcohol. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in 2014, 945 lives were lost in drunk driving crashes. MADD has been using the red ribbon as a visual reminder for 29 years now, and it’s a life-saving reminder!
In South Carolina, the Tie One On For Safety event also featured a chili cook-off, and recognized law enforcement officers for their tireless effort to catch drunk drivers. Steven Burritt, MADD’s Program Director in South Carolina is truly invested in the community. Steven and his welcoming staff made me feel right at home!
In California, Pat Rillera, MADD’s Regional Executive Director and the MADD CA team planned an elegant luncheon that set the tone for the presentation of awards to leading community members, and a fundraiser that garnered more than $50,000 for MADD’s mission.
At the Long Beach, CA gathering, I had the honor of hearing Jon Wilhite, a victim of drunk driving, speak about the crash that took the lives of three of his friends. This was the first time Jon had spoken in front of an audience about the crash, and it brought me to tears. On April 9, 2009, Jon and three of his friends were leaving an Angel’s baseball game and were hit by a drunk driver who ran a red light. All three friends died. Jon survived but suffered extreme injuries, his skull ripped from his spine and hanging in place by only his neck muscles and skin. The most amazing thing about his recovery is that 95% of people with this kind of dislocation die immediately. Jon survived --- and now tells his story.
In Arizona, Jason Frazier, MADD AZ Program Director and his AZ team joined the Southern Arizona DUI Task Force for their kickoff event announcing intensified holiday DUI enforcement. MADD was grateful to attend the event, and share about the Tie One On For Safety campaign with the audience. Hundreds of law enforcement officers gathered to show their support. The sea of blue and gray in the audience left me proud to be a part of that community and MADD.
Jon Wilhite’s story and hundreds of others that I hear from victims as I travel across the country inspire me to continue working on MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and the goal of NO MORE VICTIMS.
Please place your Tie One On For Safety red ribbon on your vehicle, and have red ribbons available to help remind others to plan ahead and not drink and drive.