The New York Stock Exchange honored MADD and helped us “ring” out our 35th Anniversary year of saving lives and serving victims by inviting the organization to ring the opening bell for the world’s largest exchange December 30th, 2015.
MADD staff, volunteers, and board members from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York joined me on the platform overlooking the floor as I pushed the button that rang the bell on all floors. MADD joined a prominent list of business and community leaders, celebrities, and others who’ve participated in this honor. And, as requests to take part in this historic tradition are often scheduled a year out, I was especially proud the NYSE selected MADD on such an important anniversary for our organization.
Our host Garvis Toler made all of us feel at home from the moment we arrived. Before we rang the bell, he presented us with a medallion to commemorate the day. Our experience in New York City was the perfect way to ring out the old year and ring in the new. Our goal, however, remains the same…to end drunk driving so there are No More Victims™.
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.
If you’re a victim of drunk or drugged driving or underage drinking consequences, you don’t need a reminder to remember the loved one you lost. My husband and I remember our son Dustin on the day he was killed by a drunk and drugged driver, on his birthday, on holidays and at every family gathering. But we also remember him every other day of the year.
Thus the National Day of Remembrance, for victims, is not only about gathering to share our sense of loss and sadness; it’s also about telling stories from before the crash that make us smile, even laugh. As we gather, we serve as a reminder to everyone else around the country that people are still being killed by drunk drivers – more than 10,000 every year. And another 290,000 are injured. It’s an epidemic that is 100% preventable.
So, the National Day of Remembrance is about much more than the past. It’s about making a difference in the present, and working towards a future when there are NO MORE VICTIMS. Please join us in the fight. It’s one we can and WILL WIN!