Q & A with Atlanta Falcons Organization

When the National Football League (NFL) formed a league-wide partnership with MADD, each team was given the opportunity to create a program that is unique to their city and their fans. We wanted to take a deeper look into how a team gets involved by interviewing two of the leading advocates from the Atlanta Falcons, Angie Macuga and Amy Sands.  

MADD and the Atlanta Falcons began a partnership in 2013 with the team, the owner and his family foundation, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Leading the charge has been the team owners’ fiancée, Angie Macuga, and her dear friend, Amy Sands. With their leadership, the Atlanta Falcons have become one of our biggest champions in the state of Georgia.

Q: What was your motivation behind getting involved with MADD?

Angie: I am the mother of teenage children who lost their father to alcohol, and the daughter of an alcoholic father. Both of these realities make my children and me victims to alcohol related tragedies. I wanted to educate my children about the dangers of underage drinking while they are still young.  MADD provided a platform to help my children make better, more educated decisions when faced with very real situations involving alcohol.

My ultimate hope is that one day during my lifetime, we will be able to fulfill MADD’s mission of “No More Victims.” For anyone tempted to drink and drive, please realize that one irresponsible decision can last a lifetime or have a snowball effect, such as taking the life of a family member or loved one.

Amy: October 16, 2012 is a day I will never forget. It is a day that changed the trajectory of my life and found me leaning on the support of MADD Victim Services. That day, my step son Tyler made a life-ending decision to get into a car with a fraternity brother who was underage, drunk and under the influence of other banned substances. It was Tyler’s 22nd birthday.

Cynthia Hagain, Director of MADD Victim Services Georgia, was a life saver for me and my family. Through her own tragedy of losing her mother, sister and her sister’s boyfriend in a DUI related car accident, Cynthia knew the comfort and guidance we needed to get through this horrific time in our lives.

After finding out that the young man Tyler got in the car with that night had previously been arrested four other time for DUI and underage drinking in multiple states, I knew I wanted, and needed, to become a part of an organization working to help pass laws that protect the public from drunk drivers and enforce stricter penalties on the individuals who decide to get behind the wheel of a car intoxicated. To end the brutal reality that repeat offenders typically suffer little consequences, enabling them to either kill an innocent person or themselves when they continue in their destructive behavior. MADD was that organization for me.

MADD is the platform by which I can educate youth and their parents about the power and courage each of them has to stand up and take a pledge to not participate in underage drinking, drinking and driving or getting in the car with someone who is drunk. It is my mission and the mission of my family to fight for the lives of those that have not been affected, to assist in passing tougher laws and to talk to as many students as we can about the consequences that certain choices can have.

Q: Do you have a most memorable moment working with MADD you would like to share?

Angie: Being a mother in the audience observing two of my children and two of Amy’s children speak about the dangers of alcohol to a room full of their peers during Red Ribbon Week at Lassiter High School in 2014. It is both uplifting and exhilarating to see the work that MADD does on a daily basis impacting my children, Amy’s children and all of the other people that we may never know.

I felt like everyone in the auditorium, from the students to the adults, was completely consumed by the testimonies shared by Amy’s children and others – stories which demonstrated how quickly lives can be changed from one bad decision. By the end of the session, there wasn't a dry eye in the auditorium.
Amy: I don’t want to just call it a walk because it was so much more than that for me, but my very first WALK Like MADD even in 2013 stands out. It allowed victims, like my family, and supporters to come together to share their stories, to form bonds with each other, and to acknowledge the efforts of our law enforcement who unfortunately witness the aftermath of this preventable crime each and every day.

The day proved to be one full of emotion while celebrating the lives of those lost and thanking the community participants supporting MADD’s mission to impact the future.

Q: Who do you see as a crucial audience for adopting MADD’s goal and how would you like to reach them?

Amy: To me, the crucial audience is our youth. It is pertinent to start instructing them early and consistently by repeating and reinforcing the message. In order to stay in touch with today's youth, we must adapt the different sources of social media they are using and entice them through involvement and awareness challenges, so they will respond.

Q: How would you like to see MADD tapping this youth audience as well as other audiences in Atlanta?

Angie: I would love to see MADD’s message integrated into more Atlanta area schools, throughout the year.

To provide that consistent, repetitive message in a space where this group already is by expanding the Power of Youth and Teen Influencer programs into Atlanta area after-school programs, sports clubs and local colleges.

Amy: Engaging with local law enforcement agencies and supporting their efforts to deter and monitor underage drinking is going to be a critical way for MADD to make a larger impact in Atlanta.
Q: If you could identify MADD and what it means in 3 words, what would they be?
Angie: Impaired Driving Kills
Amy: Choices have Consequences

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

Amy: Educating children at an early age is critical. Parents have to be knowledgeable about the dangers of alcohol and strong enough to take a stand against allowing teens to experiment with it. As a part of MADD, we have to be relevant and adaptable to the changing landscape in order
to connect, influence and embed our mission for NO MORE VICTIMS to our young adults.

Angie: Parents have to openly communicate with their children about the dangers and effects of alcohol/drugs. Parents should have a plan in place with their children just in case they are ever put in a compromising situation of being left with an intoxicated driver. The more you openly talk to your children, the more they will engage in conversation with their parents about what is happening in their lives.