On February 20, 1994, Shawn Brown spent the afternoon with her 10-week-old son JaKori and sister visiting family. They were just a few miles from their house when a drunk driver, driving 60 miles per hour on the wrong side of the street, struck their car head on. The impact was so hard that everything that was in the trunk flew out the back of the car. He was trying to beat an oncoming train to the next intersection, but they later learned that there was never a train coming, the train track arms were broken.
Ten-week-old JaKori died at the hospital from his injuries, Shawn’s sister was seriously injured, and Shawn suffered a fractured skull, broke both her upper and lower jaw, as well as a broken femur. Despite being pronounced dead twice, she survived.
Shawn worked with her local MADD advocate in California throughout the court process, where the offender was sentenced to four years in prison. But it wasn’t until she moved to Georgia that felt compelled to get involved with MADD. She called the Georgia office and they immediately invited her to share her story at a Victim Impact Panel.
Shawn continues to share her story at MADD events, and participates in the Atlanta Walk Like MADD each year with team JaKori’s Angels. She also owns a bakery and has dedicated a cheesecake called “My Little Pumpkin” to JaKori, from which a portion of the proceeds are donated to MADD.
Shawn says, “If my tragedy can help others in anyway I will use it as a blessing to others. If it can save a life I would be forever humbled and grateful.”
On July 10, 2004, 18-year-old Dustin Church was hanging out with friends when they decided to go on a late-night pizza run. But on the way home, in the short two-mile stretch between the restaurant and the driver’s house, the speeding car ran off the road, hit an embankment and landed upside-down in a Connecticut river.
The driver was an impaired teenager, who had been illegally drinking underage and using drugs. Dustin was in the backseat of the two-door car as it sank into the river.
The two in the front seat survived. But not Dustin. He died trying to get out of the backseat. He died trying to breathe as the car sank deeper. In short, he died trying to live. But he didn’t live, he drowned.
Dustin, known for his fiery red hair and his laughter, had recently graduated high school and was trying to decide what he wanted to do for college. He was considering an acting career. Dustin was well liked by his peers and was always able to find the best in everyone.
Dustin’s step-mom, Colleen Sheehey-Church said that “for about a year, my husband, our other son and I were heartbroken and lost. Then I called MADD. They saved me.”
As time went on, Colleen and her husband Skip decided they didn’t want to just be victims. They wanted to be a part of the solution and started volunteering with MADD.
Colleen Sheehey-Church is now the newest MADD National President. She will travel the country sharing Dustin’s story and working to put an end to drunk driving.
|Colleen, Dustin and Skip|