During the past year and a half, I’ve found that things don’t always go as planned… especially if the weather’s involved. That was the case in Sugarland, Texas outside of Houston for their Walk Like MADD event. Heavy rain flooded the park where the Walk was to have taken place. MADD quickly shifted into high gear with a flurry of phone calls, texts, and contingency plans. The nervous energy infected everyone on the team and set butterflies off in my stomach.
But the enthusiasm from the MADD Southwest, Texas team turned out to run deeper than the water. We were here to honor victims. We were here to remember lost loved ones. And we were here to end drunk driving – and no amount of rain clouds could quench our shared desire to make this a momentous morning.
They decided to hold a Rally and more than 300 super-charged volunteers and victims turned out for the event. Velocity's Chris Jacobs joined me at the event. We spoke to the crowd and met with the victims. Many fans couldn’t pass up a chance to snap a quick selfie with the former Overhaulin’ star. Chris, who previously appeared in a MADD PSA, was all smiles as he walked with his group, Team #OverhaulinMADD. Jacob’s also serves as a national spokesperson for Velocity’s Drive Smart, an advocacy campaign created by Velocity with the help of MADD to encourage and raise awareness for safe driving practices on America’s roadways. Velocity donated $5,000 to the walk.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County District Attorney’s office and other law enforcement departments made a strong showing, which makes sense. These heroes are on the front lines of one of the most dangerous counties in the country for drunk driving.
Before the walk, we filled the park with the chime of bells and a shared shout of, “Drunk Driving Ends Here!” A pinwheel memorial was set up with one pinwheel representing each of the people lost to drunk driving in the Houston area.
Southeast Texas has one of the largest MADD Advisory Boards – and I was honored to meet a few of the top-notch members. Awards were passed out to the top teams as they gathered to remember their friends and loved ones who were killed or injured by drunk drivers. In the end, the rain didn’t stand a chance, not when we had energized walkers and hard-working volunteers dedicated to making sure this event honored our lost loved ones and raised donations to create a future of No More Victims®.
I know they’ll be back at Sugarland Creek Park on June 18th, the rain date for the run, and I hope they get a bright, sunny day… and I hope the “creek don’t rise."
For more information and to register visit www.walklikemadd.org/houston.
For me, the first half of each year includes visits to state legislatures around the country. There are meetings with lawmakers, testimony before various committees and interviews and news conferences with the media. It’s all to support the great efforts of MADD’s Government Affairs Office as they work to strengthen drunk driving laws in every state - a vital component of our mission to end drunk driving.
The march forward continued this spring with the unanimous passing of an all-offender ignition interlock law in Maryland (Read more about Noah's law), an optional first-offender Ignition Interlock law in Georgia, a DUI Child Endangerment law in Connecticut, improvements to Ignition Interlock laws in Tennessee and Mississippi and a law extending the look back period in Kentucky to ten years. Ohio, just this week, moved a step closer to strengthening its ignition interlock laws when the state House approved Annie's Law. This critical steps forward mean fewer families will suffer from the 100% preventable crime of drunk driving.
There also is legislation to improve drunk driving laws pending in California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Michigan. Forward progress was made in Florida and other states… and we’ll be back to continue the work next year - and every year after until we create a future of No More Victims®.
It’s rewarding to see the effort of so many people at MADD pay off with laws that will save lives. You can help in your state. Your voice matters and so does your vote. That’s why your representatives will listen to you when you call. So please join us in the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving.
You CAN make a difference!
After visiting West Virginia recently, I could certainly understand why John Denver wrote his popular song “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Everyone made me feel like I was at home. I was in Wheeling to recognize twenty law enforcement officers for their extraordinary efforts concerning drunk driving.
Sponsored by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and Straub Automotive, the event was attended by more than 100 people. I had the honor of talking with two of the MADD Wheeling Chapter volunteers, President Melissa Goldbaugh and Jody Miller who have an incredible tie that binds them together.
Jody’s daughter, Heather, was killed by a drunk driver and Melissa's husband Bill, a law enforcement officer, was there at that tragic scene. Later, Bill was killed by a drunk driver. The loss that each has suffered has brought them together to do tremendous things in West Virginia. They couldn’t be more supportive of law enforcement, generously showing their appreciation. The efforts by the Wheeling Chapter earned it the Chapter of the Year Award in 2015, and I was honored to present them with that award at the National Conference in Washington, DC last year.
I am pleased to share more pictures from this wonderful event below.
It was an honor to attend this year’s Lifesavers National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities in Long Beach, California. I meet so many men and women, who are on the front lines every day keeping us safe. The gathering of state and local highway safety officials, police officers and other first responders, private and non-profit program providers, students, academicians, and others made the three-day event the largest gathering of highway safety professionals in the United States.
At the opening session, I had the opportunity to speak to more than 2,000 attendees about Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the personal tragedy of having our son Dustin killed by a drunk driver. I also moderated a victim impact panel. There were dozens of workshops covering a variety of topics. Each one I attended was engaging and enlightening.
Speakers at the event included Administrator Mark R. Rosekind from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joseph A. Farrow, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President Adrian Lund, and Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency Brian Kelly. Our own, although now retired, National Law Enforcement Initiative Manager Carl McDonald was honored at the Public Service Awards Luncheon.
I was impressed to see the dedication and caring of the attendees, knowing how hard they work to make the county a safer place to live. As someone remarked at the opening session – they are the “guardians of good.” It also encouraged me to know that they are working with us each day toward our goal of NO MORE VICTIMS®.
#Lifesavers2016 took off on Twitter, and I was excited to see my story made a difference. Here are a just a few of the comments:
Hopefully, warm weather will be moving into the northern part of the country soon, and people will switch from boots to sneakers to begin to Walk Like MADD. Recently, I attended a Walk Like MADD Kickoff Party kickoff at a Dave & Buster’s Restaurant in Westbury, New York.
MADD’s New York Executive DirectorRich Mallow is gearing up for several Walk Like MADD events in his state this year, including the Long Island Walk Like MADD May 14th.
|Spelling out the ultimate goal - A future with No More Victims®||President Colleen Sheehey-Church with some of the law enforcement officers she met.|
At the kickoff, we heard from Long Island resident and MADD New York volunteer Dawn Nappi. She told the story of her beautiful daughter Angelica, who was only 14 years of age when she was killed by an impaired driver. It was an emotional reminder of why we were there that night, why we walk, and why we need donations to continue the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® so that one day there will be NO MORE VICTIMS®.
Geico, Live Nation, Uber, Estee, Ridgewood Savings, New York Auto Giant, Offices of John Fazzini and Nationwide Insurance sponsor Walk Like MADD Long Island. All across the country, sponsors make it possible to have Walk Like MADD events to honor our loved ones – and we are forever grateful.
This year, I’m looking forward to attending several more Walks across the country. It will give me an opportunity to meet many victims and volunteers and to walk in remembrance of my son Dustin, who was killed by a drunk driver. I walk to remember Dustin, I walk to inspire and empower others, and to let them know that there is hope, and I walk to show my commitment to ending drunk driving.If you’ve attended a powerful Walk Like MADD event, please tell me about it in the comments below.