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Why We’re Here: Alexis Jade Schooley
By MADD | April 1, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Stories , Underage Drinking , Power of Parents

Alexis Schooley and several friends were celebrating her 17th birthday at the home of a teenager whose father was out of town.  But early in the morning on Sunday, March 6, 2011, a fire broke out while Alexis and several others were sleeping. 

Alexis and five others were unable to escape and were killed in the fire. Hood County officials confirmed that the use of alcohol "may have contributed to the inability of the victims to escape."

Alexis was an extremely fun, funny, smart, creative and loving person. She loved people, loved to have a good time, to dance, sing, act, draw, design clothes, photography, and loved animals. The consequences of this tragedy were the losses of her life, dreams, and future. There would be no high school or college graduations, no first car or house. No first love, no wedding, and no children for her.

Alexis’s mother, Tiffany Ryan, thought her daughter was at a sleep over.  She talks about what she wishes she would have done differently that night, “I wish I would have followed up on the dad's phone number that I requested before she left for the sleepover. I could have argued with her longer when she called that she come home Saturday night, like I had instructed Friday when she left.”

There were no criminal charges filed, because the fire was considered an accident. But after it was over, Tiffany knew she had to do something — something to give herself some sense of purpose and a little bit of peace. Having been a member of SADD, (then called Students Against Drunk Driving) in high school, one of the places she thought to reach out to for help was MADD.

So Tiffany called MADD’s National Victim Services Help Line (877-MADD-HELP) and was referred to a local North Texas victim advocate who was there to support her. The advocate wrote a letter to the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) on Tiffany’s behalf. Although it was difficult waiting for something to happen, the advocate stayed in touch with Tiffany, assuring her that being patient would pay off. The advocate continued to follow up with the TABC. About a year later, the store’s license was revoked and their doors closed.

Tiffany says, “I hope my story makes one or two kids think twice about their actions and understand that no one is fireproof or bulletproof — that one bad choice can affect you and those who love you forever.”

Alexis’s story is just another tragic example of how drunk driving isn’t the only danger of underage drinking. In fact, over two-thirds of all deaths associated with underage drinking are not on the roadways—they're things like homicides, suicides, alcohol poisonings, falls, drownings, burns and other causes of deaths. Parents who talk with their kids about drunk driving, but not about waiting until 21 to drink at all, are missing an important step in keeping their kids safe. 

Parental influence is the most important factor in helping keep teens safe—that’s why MADD launched the Power of Parents program, sponsored by Nationwide Insurance. The goal of Power of Parents is to educate parents and caregivers about the dangers of underage drinking, and give them the tools they need to talk with their kids about alcohol.  In addition, we’ve designated April 21st as PowerTalk 21 day—the national day for parents to talk with their kids about alcohol.  In preparation for PowerTalk21, download the parent handbook for tips and tools to help you start this lifesaving conversation.  You can find additional resources at madd.org/powertalk21.


Why We’re Here: Malina Price-Bos
By MADD | March 4, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Stories

Malina Price-Bos grew up in Auburndale, FL.   At the age of 19, she won Miss Auburndale and was later awarded the Miss America Organization’s Community Service award.

She dedicated her life to community service and making a difference for others. After graduating from college, Malina and her husband Keith moved to Israel to become missionary teachers.  But tragically, their marriage was short lived.  After her husband’s death, Malina returned home to Auburndale.

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1996, just two months after Keith died, Malina and her parents were driving home from church. They were in separate vehicles, when a vehicle crossed the center line and sideswiped the vehicle her parents were in, and then struck the vehicle Malina was driving head-on.

Malina was killed instantly. She was 23.

The driver had a blood-alcohol level of 0.24 and told officials at the scene that he had been drinking at a few bars. He was convicted of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to 17 years in prison. He served 9 before being let out on an appeal.

Malina’s family – her brother Bubba, father Larry, and mother Flora – was devastated by her death.  They connected with Mary Dean, a MADD victim advocate in MADD Polk County who helped them throughout the court proceedings.  Malina’s mother, Flora, continued her involvement with MADD because she knew Malina would have wanted her do something to help prevent drunk driving.  Flora served as the leader of the MADD Polk County Chapter, and continues to share her story often, participating in panel discussions at schools and at court-appointed activities.

“The pain of loss is still real but I am grateful to MADD for the opportunity to volunteer, making Malina’s death not be in vain,” said Flora.

 
Malina and her brother Bubba

Why We’re Here: Laura Gorman
By MADD | February 4, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Stories

On February 25, 2006, 18-year-old Laura Ann Gorman, a college freshman, was riding home with a friend.  The driver, who had been drinking, drove off the interstate and crashed into a tree.  Laura died at the scene— just a few miles from her dorm room.  The driver, whose BAC was .12 three hours after the crash, was convicted of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison.

Those who knew Laura describe her as a bright, beautiful and caring individual. A hard working and conscientious student, she graduated from high school with a string of awards and accomplishments. She loved cheerleading and spent many hours as a teen volunteer for hospice. She earned an Honors Scholarship from her college and a Florida Bright Futures Scholarship. Her life held enormous potential; she was someone who had the promise and compassion to make a difference. Her death is not only a monumental loss for her family, who are left wondering what might have been, but for the community as well.

After Laura was killed, her family joined MADD. “Joining MADD was a way to keep Laura’s memory alive and to know that her life made a difference,” says her mother, Helen Gorman.  Helen is the Chair of the Pinellas Walk Like MADD® Committee for the third year and also serves on the MADD Pinellas Advisory Board.   Laura’s younger sister, Diana, is also involved with MADD, as well as other drunk driving prevention efforts.

Laura’s family shares her story in hope that it will send a strong message regarding the 100% preventable crime of drunk driving and ultimately spare another family from the irreversible devastation they have endured.   

Click here to read more about Laura on her tribute page or make a donation in her honor.

Team Laura at Walk Like MADD

Why We’re Here: Krystal Limones
By MADD | January 8, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Stories

In the early hours of January 1st, after ringing in 2009 with friends, 22-year-old Krystal Limones got in the car with her friend to head home… but her friend who was driving had also been drinking, and Krystal wasn’t wearing her seatbelt.

The drunk driver rammed head-on into a concrete column after running a stop sign. Krystal was thrown from the backseat and crashed into the windshield.  After emergency surgery and two days in the ICU, Krystal was declared brain dead. On January 2nd she was taken off life support and her organs were donated. The driver was charged with intoxicated manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison.

Krystal was known as the “fun friend”—she was always up for anything and was usually happy and giggling. The thing she wanted more than anything was to get married and have a family, but this dream would never come true.

Krystal’s friend Cathy Drew worked with Krystal, and remembers how difficult it was returning to work to see all of the emails about the crash and watch them clean out her friend’s desk.  She began attending MADD’s support group and other events, and found a way to grieve her friend by sharing her story at victim impact panels.

Cathy is now a volunteer victim advocate for MADD in Krystal’s honor. “I promised Krystal the last time I saw her in that ICU room that I would be her voice, and so, when able, I share her story with others,” Cathy said.  “I feel like that is one way of honoring her life.” 

Krystal at a charity event

Why We’re Here: The Bassi Family
By MADD | December 4, 2013 | Filed in: Victim Stories , Drunk Driving

Denise and Gerard Bassi

On Christmas morning in 2007, Denise and Gerard Bassi called their daughter, Melanie, to wish her a Merry Christmas.  For the first time, the Bassis and their three daughters, Melanie, Jennifer and Michelle, weren’t spending Christmas day together because Denise and Gerard were spending the holiday with Denise’s parents in Florida, and their daughters were unable to make the trip.

The Bassis celebrated Christmas with their daughters a week early, before they headed out of town a few days before Christmas. While in Florida, they spoke often with their daughters and each day of their trip had fun stories to tell—they were having a great time.

Christmas day, on the way to a family member’s house for dinner, they were stopped at a traffic light when a 34-year old man driving at a very high rate of speed smashed into the rear of their truck – “like a missile into a building” as one witness described it. 

Gerard Bassi died at the scene, Denise died a few hours later in surgery, and Denise’s mother, Linda McWilliams, died a week later from her injuries.  Denise’s father, Ray McWilliams, survived, but the crash caused permanent injuries that greatly affected his life. 

Linda and Ray McWilliams

The man who hit them not only survived, but had no major injuries. He was driving under the influence of alcohol, Xanax, and cocaine, and this was not the first time he was arrested for DUI.   

Though the offender was arrested shortly after the crash, pretrial went on for years and the criminal trial was postponed twice.  Finally, the trial was set to begin on August 23, 2011.  The offender was facing approximately 35 years to life in prison.  Exactly one week prior to the start of the trial, he pled guilty to the DUI charges and was sentenced to 12 years in jail followed by 10 years of probation.

“Not only is there the immediate loss, the sting of losing so many loved ones, but the long fight for justice was frustrating and grueling,” said Melanie Bassi.

The family was connected with a MADD victim advocate in Florida, who provided victim services during the trial. Melanie says, “Working with MADD was extremely helpful and I greatly appreciate their support. “

Melanie now shares the story of how her life changed in an instant as a speaker for MADD.  Among other activities with MADD, she speaks at Victim Impact Panels and school programs and says it is her way of giving back.

This holiday season, please keep victims like the Bassi family in mind as you celebrate with friends and loved ones. Always plan ahead with a non-drinking designated driver and remind others to do the same. 

The Bassi Family

 


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