The MADD Help Line, 1-877-MADD-HELP, is available 24/7 for victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes because of dedicated volunteers—volunteers like MADD’s new National President, Colleen Sheehey-Church.
Colleen started volunteering as a Help Line advocate nearly a year ago because she wanted to be more connected to those in need of support. When her son Dustin was killed in a crash 10 years ago, connecting with MADD was what helped her learn to cope with the grief. As a Help Line advocate, she helps victims and survivors understand that what they are feeling is normal – that they aren’t going crazy.
On the Help Line, Colleen has spent time serving not only victims, but also callers looking for advice about what to do when someone they know drives drunk. She has heard that fear in someone’s voice and has been able to provide the assistance needed over the phone.
Colleen says that there has never been a call she didn’t like, that the Help Line is not just a Help Line, but really a lifeline for the people who are calling. Despite her new role as National President, Colleen plans to continue volunteering for the Help Line.
By Maddi Romeo, a member of MADD’s National Teen Influencer Group
In the midst of the holidays, celebration can be daunting and unwelcome. The year my grandmother was killed, Thanksgiving and Christmas were quiet and stiff. We went through the motions—the presents, the Yule Log, the Christmas lunch. But we weren't kidding anyone, especially ourselves. Now, seven years later, we couldn't be more excited as we pull out my grandmother's decorations and the tales that go with them.
I've seen the impact of drunk driving during the holidays, not only in the Facebook postings of my MADD family, but in the eyes of my mother, father, and aunt. Seeing that pain makes me urge anyone who feels it to fight by celebrating the life of those they love. Christmas was happy once again when we were finally able to joke about my Nana and remember her as she would have wanted: happy. We pull out the wreaths she loved so dearly and watch the Christmas movies she enjoyed (behind closed eyelids) - through this we too are happy in the holidays.
So I suppose the moral of my little story is that it was really hard for us to understand that holidays after the crash weren't a memorial service to be filled with eulogies and teary eyes, but celebrations of life and, in our house, of the beautiful gift of the Son.
Time won't heal the wounds, which is why I want to take this tiny spotlight to ask once again for everyone to please be safe this holiday - don't drink and drive. There's no party worth the price of a crash. However, time does make you realize it is okay to be happy. So make those jokes about how somehow those socks always ended up in your stocking or how the turkey never comes out quite right because, in the end, I've learned that the greatest celebration of life is the continuation of living.
On May 31, 2006, Crystal McCoy’s life was forever changed when a drunk driver, driving on the wrong side of the road, crashed into her. She doesn’t remember the crash, only the headlights as they came her way.
She had severe injuries to her face, hips, pelvis, knees and ankle, and has had to undergo 13 surgeries so far. For the first five weeks she couldn’t speak and had to write everything down—she still has those journals. Her four-year-old was scared of her because of the way she looked after the crash ... she had lost her teeth.
She was in the hospital for months and couldn’t move to even look outside, and when she was finally released, she cried when she first saw a tree. She still wasn’t able to walk, but was determined to do so again for her two young children. In fact, she shocked nurses when she returned for a visit and was able to walk on her own.
While Crystal’s Memorial Day – the day the crash happened – will never be the same, her Christmas holiday is “even more special now,” she says. She knows how precious life is and doesn’t want to take anything for granted.
Christmas is Crystal’s favorite holiday. One tradition she has is to always decorate her Christmas tree on her father’s birthday. She also creates a special ornament each Christmas for her tree to celebrate yet another year of life she was fortunate enough to live.
Crystal has a different life now, a different vocation, and she can’t do all of things she used to love to do like ride a horse or go line dancing, but she wants people to know that they should “never give up, it will get better. It doesn’t seem like it will, but it will.”
Originally featured in the 2014 fall edition of MADDvocate.
Many victims of drunk or drugged driving crashes report that being able to connect with others who have experienced similar trauma is crucial to the healing process. While friends and family try to empathize, the depth of emotions felt by victims can be difficult to comprehend by those not directly impacted by such sorrow.
Peer support is the building and nurturing of relationships between peers, which assists individuals along their journeys of grief, injury recovery, and personal, emotional, physical and spiritual wellness. Essentially, a peer has “been there, done that” and can relate to others who are now in a similar situation.
Old Concept, New Training
Peer support is not a new concept to MADD Victim Services. For example, MADD’s Victim Survivor Tributes and Candlelight Vigils provide emotional, social and, at times, spiritual support for people who share similar experiences of grief and loss in the aftermath of drunk and drugged driving crashes. Now, a new training track has been developed to provide even more support and resources for these individuals.
Peer support is different from the services provided by a trained MADD Victim Advocate. While both provide support services, the two roles are distinctly different.
The key differences include:
- Peer supporters are victims; Victim Advocates may or may not be.
- Peer support isn’t about providing comfort and information as Victim Advocates do; it’s about connecting with someone who has been through the situation before.
- Peer supporters complete two online courses, while Victim Advocates complete a host of training courses online and in-person.
Peer support is also designed to be frequent, ongoing, accessible and flexible. It can take many forms—phone calls, text messaging, email, group meetings, going for walks together and even grocery shopping.
It complements and enhances other services by creating the emotional, social and practical assistance necessary for managing stressors and staying healthy.
On April 13, 2009, Robert King Jr. received a phone call that forever changed his life. St Joseph’s hospital in Tampa called to tell him that his mother, Betty Williams, had been in a crash.
Mr. King immediately called his wife Norma and they left for Tampa from their home in Wildwood, Florida, a little over an hour away. When they arrived at the hospital, Robert expected to sign papers for emergency surgery. It never dawned on him that his mother had passed away. But shortly after arriving at the hospital, he was told that his mother did not survive the crash.
She was stopped at a stoplight when she was rammed from behind by an impaired driver pushing her into the street and into a utility post. The impact caused massive internal injuries and multiple fractures. Betty had been able to communicate upon arriving at the hospital. So when she passed, it took hospital personnel by surprise.
After hitting Betty’s car, the offender dislodged his vehicle and continued driving. He then crashed into another vehicle, killing a 20-year-old female driver and pushing her into a tow truck, injuring its driver.
It has been five years since the King family loss Grandma Betty—a name everyone who knew her called her. The King family keeps Grandma Betty’s memory alive by continuing to gather as a family during the holidays and other times of the year, as she always loved to do.
“Grandma Betty just loved having everyone together. She would travel from Tampa to be with everyone,” Robert said.
She was described as always thoughtful and loved by all who met her. She was a free spirit who loved cooking, cleaning, crocheting, laughing and sewing.
“My husband has his mother’s smile, our daughter has her voice and our great granddaughter, has her complexion and hair. So Grandma Betty is always with us,” said Norma.
Their advice for others who are mourning the loss of a loved one for the first time during this holiday season would be to never let memories fade away. “It’s important to gather together and to cherish every moment spent together,” said Norma.
The King family continues to honor Grandma Betty throughout the year by keeping her memory alive and attending MADD’s yearly vigil.
In February 2011, the King family was present to see the impaired driver, who had at least three previous crashes before the one that took their mother’s life, sentenced to a 21.3 year prison term and a post-prison probationary period of 24. 3 years. He will never be able to receive a driver’s license.