Bright Days of the Future

July marks the 11th anniversary of our son Dustin’s death at the hands of a drunk and drugged driver.

It doesn’t seem like yesterday.  It’s been 11 long, and painful years of missing someone you love. Of family gatherings that don’t have every member of the family attending. Of court proceedings. Of no remorse from the offender.  

No, it doesn’t seem like yesterday. But still, the memories of the worst day of our lives are still vivid—the knock on the door… the news that shatters your very being. These feelings are shared by many of us who have lost someone we love by this senseless crime. That’s why what MADD does every day is so important. We’re on a Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving so others won’t have to suffer as we have. 

By supporting law enforcement, talking to legislators about passing stricter laws, developing new technology and helping victims through their tragedy, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is making a difference.  

No, it doesn't seem like yesterday. I miss Dustin today, and always. But I’m proud to honor his life, as I will on July 10th and every other day through my work with MADD.

So, together, let's turn the dark yesterdays into the bright days of the future.

National Conference: Celebrate and Inspire

I’m really looking forward to the MADD National Conference in Washington, D.C. on June 4th-6th, which marks MADD’s 35th anniversary. It will be a celebration of what has been accomplished, as well as an inspiration to continue working toward the elimination of drunk driving.

The conference is a great time to talk with volunteers and staff from around the country; to share what’s working and what needs more work. It’s a time to thank our partners for helping to make MADD’s work possible, and honor Law Enforcement Officers for the great job they do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s also a chance to learn.

Presentations and workshops will be offered on every topic imaginable—advocacy, fundraising, victim’s rights, drugged driving, Power of You(th), Power of Parents, victim services, court monitoring, victim impact panels, engaging the community, ignition interlock devices, new technology and a host of other topics.

We’ll hear from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, as well as Tennessee Titans Tight End Delanie Walker, who will share his story of how his family has suffered from a crash caused by a drunk driver.

We’ll celebrate volunteers at a special luncheon. And at the culmination of the conference on Saturday night, we’ll present President’s Awards to volunteers, staff and community partners for the tremendous work they do. I’ll have the opportunity to talk about Dustin, our son who was killed by a drunk and drugged driver. I’ll talk about the heartache and hope, why MADD is helping to fight drugged driving, and how every action creates a future of No More Victims™.

Most of all, I’m looking forward to meeting all the wonderful people from around the country who work so hard for this cause, and that includes the Presidents who have come before me. I’m looking forward to hearing their stories and their ideas. All of YOU inspire ME, and together we will eliminate drunk driving.

Remembering Dustin this Mother’s Day

This is by far the hardest blog I’ve written so far as MADD’s National President – both my husband and I had such a hard time getting thru this as we had memories flood our conversations many nights this week...

For those of us who have lost a child, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are painful. My son Dustin was killed by a drunk and drugged driver when he was only 18 years old. So I know the pain.

The difficulty for the victims who survive is whether to allow the memories to flow or to suppress them. The joy of the past often becomes the sorrow of the present because the child we love is no longer here to share in the smiles and laughter.

I remember Dustin’s smile and his laughter. I remember his ability to find the best in everyone. And I remember his ability to brighten a room just by entering it.

I remember when he was only four years old and we were on vacation at Disney World. He didn’t feel well because of too much sun. I also remember how he cried as I held him all the way back to the hotel room. He had been dancing with Minnie Mouse, and he thought he might never see her again.

I remember the day he swung high from a trapeze at a performing arts camp in the Adirondacks. I held my breath as he performed flawlessly. I remember how he thought so hard about what to get for me for Mother’s Day when he only had a few pennies.

I remember the day I put sunscreen on him and I went a little overboard (he was a fair skinned red head). We laughed so hard. Each day as my love for him grew, I never realized our time together would be so short.

When parents die their children are called orphans. When your spouse dies, the remaining partner is a called widow or widower. But when your child dies, there is no word for the parents who are left behind. Children are supposed to bury their parents, not the reverse. It strikes at our very identity as parents. Our job is to give life, to nurture that life and protect it. When our child is killed, it somehow seems that we have failed. Our hopes, dreams and plans are gone.

Grief is unique for each of us. Mine has been lessened by the people at MADD and by my faith. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has taught me how to move from being a victim to being an advocate. My purpose was revealed to me, and I am honored to be the National President of MADD. It gives me strength to turn my grief into action.

I am thankful for the memories. I am grateful that I had Dustin for 18 years, However, I’m still sad. Dustin’s death at the hands of a drunk and drugged driver was 100% preventable, as are more than 10,000 deaths each year. We need to stop this senseless crime and say out loud NO MORE VICTIMS! We need to be heard on Mother’s Day and every other day.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

From kicking off Power Talk 21® in Houston, sharing the stage with the National Football League at two universities in Ohio... to recognizing Law Enforcement at an event in Atlanta, Georgia... to attending in a similar gathering in Long Island, New York... to meeting with government officials in a variety of states... I’ve had a busy and very rewarding few weeks! 

Delanie Walker at Hiram College

It was an honor to get to know Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker as he shared the story of his Aunt Peaches and Uncle Bryan who were killed by a drunk driver shortly after they left the Super Bowl to watch Delanie played. The Hiram College students were definitely impacted. Delanie is truly an authentic MADD family member.

With Juan De La Garza

The National Kick-off event for Power Talk 21, held in Houston, Texas, featured Houston Mayor Annise Parker and MADD volunteer Juan De La Garza, whose sister Alejandra was killed by a drunk driver.  Power Talk 21 is directed at the parents of teenagers to help with the discussion of the dangers of underage drinking.  I met Alejandra’s son (now without a mom) and could only think about what might have been.

Atlanta Law Enforcement Recognition Awards

In Atlanta, Georgia, and then in Long Island, New York, hundreds of law enforcement officers were recognized for their efforts in keeping drunk drivers off the roads.  It is their dedication and their constant hard work that gives me great hope that someday drunk driving will be eliminated.

With Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus

I also had the opportunity to meet with legislators in several states, including Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, as MADD continues to work toward laws that will require ignition interlock devices for ALL offenders. As we moved toward passing all-offender IID laws in each state, we will be using the best technology we have in the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®.

As I said, it’s been an incredibly busy few weeks, but it has been my honor to meet MADD volunteers and supporters across the country and hear their stories and see their impact. I look forward to meeting many more of you as we continue our work to save lives and serve victims.

The Most Important Conversation

Each April, MADD focuses on communications between parents and their kids through PowerTalk 21 – the national day to talk about the dangers of underage drinking. Even now as I think about it, I only wish I had a chance to talk to my son Dustin again about anything—school, sports or even the dangers of underage drinking. But he was killed by an underage drunk and drugged driver when he was only 18.

If you have a son or daughter in middle school or high school, please join us this April and start ( or continue!) the conversation about alcohol... Your kids are listening! Parents are the number one influence on their child’s decisions about alcohol. What you say does make a difference. 

To help you prepare for PowerTalk 21 day,  MADD will host “21 Days in Support of 21” from April 1st through the 21st, offering tips, tools and activities online to help parents and caregivers start potentially lifesaving conversations about alcohol with their kids. (Make sure to follow along by liking us on Facebook and subscribing to our blog feed!)

In addition, on April 21st, MADD will offer a free 15-minute virtual workshop on the best ways to talk with kids about the dangers of underage drinking so that they really listen, using research-based tips and tools. Register now for this free webinar.

It is so important that we – parents, grandparents, caretakers, guardians, aunts and uncles –reach out to our kids early and often. Please join us for PowerTalk 21. Having this conversation with your child may be the most important one you ever have.

As I travel across the country this April, and look into the eyes of the students I will meet, I will see your children, and my Dustin, and hope that together, we can change the minds of many and save lives along the way.

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