Early in the morning on Friday, April 13, 2012, Kirk Camacho was driving his two teenage daughters, Bree Ann and Kaely, to school. As the girls slept, Bree Ann, 16, in the front seat and her younger sister Kaely, 13, in the back, a drunk driver with a blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit was speeding down a road designated only for busses. He ran a red light and plowed into the Camachos’ minivan at about 100 miles per hour.
The collision tore the minivan in half. Bree Ann and her father survived with injuries, but Kaely, a bright and popular middle school cheerleader, was killed.
After Kaely’s death, there was a huge outpouring of support for the family from the community. In fact, a year later, the street in front of the middle school she attended was re-named in Kaely’s honor.
Soon after the crash, the Miami-Dade police department contacted MADD Miami and asked them to reach out to the Camacho family. They were connected with local MADD Victim Advocates Sally Matson and Helen Witty, who provided emotional support and assistance through the trying legal process.
|Kaely and Bree Ann|
Now, the Camacho family works with MADD to share Kaely’s story in hopes that no other family has to experience this heartbreak. They speak at several events, including school outreach and law enforcement recognition events. In fact, Kaely’s sister, Bree Ann, changed her major to communications because she is so passionate about sharing her sister’s story and doing everything she can to put an end to drunk driving.
“We were just beginning to realize how similar we were to one another,” Kaely’s sister Bree Ann says. “I will never see Kaely in this world again... because a drunk driver took her from me.”
Both Kaely’s mother, Angie, and step-mother, Vicky, have been very successful fundraisers for the Miami Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. And this year, “Kaely’s Wingmen” was the top fundraising team at the event, raising nearly $9,000 in Kaely’s honor.
21 Days in Support of 21: Day 14
By MADD volunteer, Juan De La Garza
My journey begins in the early hours of January 12, 2014. What should've been a calm night turned in to the most horrific ordeal for many. At approximately 12:30 a.m. a part of me was taken. My family lost the most important and influential person we knew—my 17 year old sister Alejandra.
Alejandra was a beautiful person inside and out, compassionate, hardworking and so determined. My sister played many roles and wore many hats. She was an honor roll student and an active member of our church. But her most important role was mother. Her pride and joy came in the form of little Filiberto. He could do no wrong in her eyes. Alejandra made sure any negativity or stigma that came from being a teen mother would be overshadowed by her accomplishments both in and out of the classroom.
Not a day goes by that I don't miss Alejandra. Every day is constant reminder that my family is broken, and a part of me is missing. On that cold morning in January, many people lost a friend, a loved one, when a beautiful life cut extremely short. Many dreams shattered and plans broken all because a selfish 19-year-old made the poor decision to drink underage, and then drive.
My sister missed out on many milestone moments. Alejandra will never get to experience the excitement of getting ready for prom. She never had the opportunity to go off to college, let alone apply for one. Most importantly, Alejandra will never get to see her son grow up. It’s heartbreaking knowing my sister will miss out on so much. And what haunts me the most is knowing this could've been avoided. Had it not been for that underage drunk driver, my sister would still be here. My nephew would still have his mother and my family would still be complete.
When I least expect it, I am puzzled by the same question over and over again. "Was my sister's life worth that drink?" There are a million questions that run through my mind, but I know that even if I ever had the chance or the courage to ask the 19-year-old that killed my sister a question, I'd be at a loss for words. There will never be a correct answer or an apology big enough to heal my broken heart.
I've made it my mission to make sure this tragedy never happens again to any family. Being able to team up with MADD has been a beautiful experience. Bringing awareness to so many young lives and their families is just so unforgettable.
I remember an event I did at a local high school. After I spoke, a student came up to me and hugged me. There, in a gymnasium full a strangers, a young 17-year-old girl cried on me. She showed nothing but gratitude. When I asked why she cried or why she thanked me, the only thing she could say was “Your sister's story touched me, it opened my eyes. I never want to put my parents in that position. I never want to lose a friend. I want to make the right choice, and stay above the influence." In that very moment I knew out of the 1,000 students present that day, my job was done. One life changed, one less teen drinking, one young life deciding to be responsible. All because of my sisters life.
I encourage everyone to take advantage of MADD’s underage drinking prevention programs for PowerTalk 21®. Students, teachers, parents use the materials to make a difference. The more we make it know, the more awareness we bring to our cause.
Don't be the reason why a family is broken, a child is left without a mother or why many hearts are broken. Join MADD and start the conversation this PowerTalk 21 day to help prevent underage drinking and save lives!
MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church poses with Juan at his sister's photo at the 2015 PowerTalk 21 Kick-off in Houston