On July 9, 2011, 7-year-old Xitclalli “Chilli” Vaszquez spent the day at the mall with her sister, cousin, and aunt. She got her hair cut so that she would look extra pretty for her 8th birthday that was just three days away. On their way home, a drunk driver hit the car she was riding in head-on. The doctors didn’t think she would survive—but she did. And her life will never be the same.
Chilli is now paraplegic, which means she has total paralysis of her lower body from the breastbone down.
As part of her healing journey, Chilli decided to write a letter to the offender, which her mother read in court. Here is the letter, as written by Chilli:
The offender in Chilli’s crash pled guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He’s eligible for parole in five years. Chilli is hoping that he writes her back some day.
Chilli and her family now work with MADD to help raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving by speaking at MADD events across North Texas. Chilli also shares her story through the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Faces of Drunk Driving campaign. Read more about Chilli and see the other Faces of Drunk Driving victims and survivors at facesofdrunkdriving.com.
On July 17, 1996, 13-year-old Mary Irwin spent the summer day playing with her best friends, Jesse and Jodi. When it was time for Mary to go home that evening, Jesse and Jodi’s older sister Tracey offered to drive her. So they all piled into their parents van.
On their way, they made a quick stop for snow cones. And after deciding what flavor to get, they hopped back in the van to head home. The next thing Mary remembers is sharp pain, sirens, and panic.
A drunk driver with a BAC almost three times the legal limithad sped across the center line and hit their car head on. Mary, Jesse, and Jodi were severely injured. And Tracey, who was driving the van, died before she made it to the hospital.
A stop for frozen treats on a warm summer night ended in hospital stays and a funeral, and changed many lives forever.
Mary was forced to grow up with the physical and mental scars of the crash – the scar on her face reminders her every day of that tragic night. She still experiences anxiety driving, especially at night.
Now, Mary volunteers with her local MADD office to help save lives. She volunteers at several victim impact panels each month, sharing her story to save lives. She also participants in vigils and monthly support groups to help provide the much needed support for other victims and survivors during their healing journey. She also supports MADD Missouri at their fundraising events, and is a team captain for “Team Tracy” at the St. Louis Walk Like MADD.
Mary works to help make sure no other children have to grow up living with the life-changing consequences of someone else’s choice to drink and drive. So that they can go get snow cones on a summer night without putting their lives in danger.