Thirty-five years after a grieving mother started one of the most influential and effective grassroots movements in history, we’re pleased to announce our new National President, Colleen Sheehey-Church, the first victim of drugged driving to serve as MADD’s National President.
Colleen’s 18-year-old son, Dustin, drowned after the car he was riding in, driven by a teen with alcohol and drugs in her system, crashed into a river, trapping Dustin in the vehicle. She joined MADD a year later in 2005. Read Dustin’s story here.
“No one ever dreams about becoming MADD’s National President, because it means that you have suffered the most unimaginable pain of a death or injury due to the preventable crime of drunk or drugged driving,” says Sheehey-Church. “I was drowning in grief after I lost my son, until I called MADD. I only wished I had called sooner. I’m honored and humbled to represent the victims we couldn’t save, stand alongside those we have and advocate to keep innocent lives safe on our nation’s roadways.”
Ten years ago I became the mother of a child who was killed by a drunk driver. Ten years later, I am still that mother of a child killed by a drunk driver. I have learned to turn my grief into action, which is why I am so honored and humbled to take action as the National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
My son Dustin was only 18 years old when he was killed. Loving, caring and full of life, Dustin always made a room light up when he entered. I miss that. I miss his smile, his red hair, his freckles and his creative banter that filled us all with energy and reflection. Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. Losing Dustin is certainly the worst thing that ever happened to me.
My hope in this coming year is that in some way I can a help prevent someone else from experiencing this heartbreak. The tragedy of drunk and drugged driving is the theft of thousands of lives each year; the hundreds of thousands of people left with life changing injuries; and the financial damage that costs us nearly $200 billion every year. Sadly, all of this destruction is preventable.
So, this year, as I travel the country and speak with you and thousands of others, I’ll ask us all to join together in the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. We can do that by supporting our law enforcement officers who are on the front lines of the battle every day. We can make sure people are sober to start by supporting legislation that requires ignition interlocks for all offenders. And we can help secure the future by supporting the development of technology that will automatically determine whether or not a driver is sober.
MADD has quickly become my “family” and has given me hope and courage. While I couldn’t save Dustin’s live, MADD has saved my life and our family’s.
Like you, I can’t wait until the day we eliminate drunk driving once and for all.
|Church Family: Casey, Dustin, Colleen and Skip|
On July 10, 2004, 18-year-old Dustin Church was hanging out with friends when they decided to go on a late-night pizza run. But on the way home, in the short two-mile stretch between the restaurant and the driver’s house, the speeding car ran off the road, hit an embankment and landed upside-down in a Connecticut river.
The driver was an impaired teenager, who had been illegally drinking underage and using drugs. Dustin was in the backseat of the two-door car as it sank into the river.
The two in the front seat survived. But not Dustin. He died trying to get out of the backseat. He died trying to breathe as the car sank deeper. In short, he died trying to live. But he didn’t live, he drowned.
Dustin, known for his fiery red hair and his laughter, had recently graduated high school and was trying to decide what he wanted to do for college. He was considering an acting career. Dustin was well liked by his peers and was always able to find the best in everyone.
Dustin’s step-mom, Colleen Sheehey-Church said that “for about a year, my husband, our other son and I were heartbroken and lost. Then I called MADD. They saved me.”
As time went on, Colleen and her husband Skip decided they didn’t want to just be victims. They wanted to be a part of the solution and started volunteering with MADD.
Colleen Sheehey-Church is now the newest MADD National President. She will travel the country sharing Dustin’s story and working to put an end to drunk driving.
|Colleen, Dustin and Skip|
The holidays are here and the end of 2014 is right around the corner! Which also means, my term as MADD’s National President is just about over.
I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made together this year and over the past three and a half years that I’ve spent as your National President. Thanks to you, each year we save more lives, serve more victims, and bring awareness to the dangers of drunk driving and underage drinking.
To show my thanks, I want to share with you a special holiday video message:
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you have done this year to help save lives and serve victims. It has truly been an honor to serve as your National President.
MADD National President
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After my daughter Alisa was killed, I felt as if I were floating around in an endless black sea of emptiness. I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. When a dear friend suggested I call MADD, I replied that I could not even stand, let alone take a stand for something. Her gentle response was, “No, but maybe they can help you.” I didn’t call that day, but some time later when the grief was so intense I felt I may be going crazy, I called.
At that moment, I not only received help, I was also given hope. Annie Powell, who was our MADD Central Maryland ED and victim advocate, gently reached through that phone line and touched my heart. Her kindness provided a rainbow in my dark cloud.
This beautiful help and hope each of you, my MADD family, gives me has continued for the past 22 years. I recently saw a quote by William Bradfield that rings true for us in MADD. “There are those whose lives affect all others around them. Quietly touching one heart, who in turn, touches another. Reaching out to ends further than they would ever know.” The support we give one another other travels far beyond what we can even imagine.
Support is incredibly important, but what also heartens me through those dark days is the knowledge that my work with MADD is helping create a world where drunk driving will no longer be possible. Thanks to MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, we are inches away from making that a reality.
Each of you is my hero, my hope. So many of you honor your loved ones by working to make a difference through MADD’s mission. Others of you are with MADD not because you have personally been affected by drunk driving, but because you care so much about protecting our families. Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, said, “Everything precious can be taken from us, but the one thing that cannot be taken away is our power to choose what we will do with what happens to us.” You are my heroes because you have made that choice, and the road is not always easy.
The truth is that I came to MADD not out of choice, but out of necessity. Now I am here by choice. I am here both because and for Alisa. I am here because a drunk driver killed my beautiful daughter. But I am also here for her … to represent her spirit. She always helped a friend in need and never backed down from a challenge. It is for Alisa that I am with MADD today.
The end of this month I conclude my term as MADD National President. Know that I will always carry your loved ones’ names in my heart. Thank you for sharing them with me. Please know that I will also carry each of you in my heart. Thank you for being part of my family. You hearten my spirit and give me hope. You are that shining North Star that carried me out of the dark tunnel into the light. What a gift you are to me and one another. I am reaching out to touch each of your hearts with my gratitude and love as you have touched mine.