Corinne Williams, marketing director for Powell River Kings, contacted Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recently to see if she could do anything to raise awareness in the qathet region after seeing a familiar face on her social media feed.
“This story gets me a little bit because the family whose faces are on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving campaign this year include a young girl who was a very important part of the community back in my hometown, Rocky Mountain House.”
Chloe Kaniusis was killed by an impaired driver on November 21, 2014, and is the face of MADD Canada this year.
“I’ve always known about Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but I guess maybe it just rang a little truer once I saw the face of it this year,” said Williams. “It tears me up.”
On the Kings’ behalf, Williams agreed to partner with the local RCMP detachment and MADD’s Project Red Ribbon, an annual campaign that runs from November to January 3, distributing thousands of red ribbons and car decals for Canadians to display.
So far, the hockey club has donated 52 game tickets to be given out at roadblocks, along with ribbons and decals, to sober drivers over this holiday season.
In an email, detachment commander and staff sergeant Rod Wiebe stated that reports of impaired driving are up significantly in 2021 compared to 2020.
“As of December 10, 174 impaired driving incidents have been recorded, compared to 161 incidents in all of 2020,” he added.
Wiebe pointed out that increased proactive checks likely impact this statistic.
“I am impressed by how hard our officers are working in this area, but also disappointed that some drivers are still not getting the message to plan ahead,” stated Wiebe, adding that he thinks drivers were pleasantly surprised by the Kings’ tickets.
“It isn’t often that people are acknowledged for being responsible. Making the choice to be a [designated driver] or planning ahead for a safe ride home has a considerable and positive impact on road safety so we are very appreciative of those who do. Thanks to the Kings, we are able to reward people for their contributions to a safer Powell River.”
Williams said the ribbons also serve as a powerful tribute to the hundreds of Canadians killed and thousands injured in crashes every year involving impaired drivers.
Family dedicates time
Kings’ forward Mark D’Agostino knows what it’s like to have lost a family member to impaired driving. Before he was born, his great-grandmother was killed by a drunk driver. Surviving the crash were his grandmother and great-aunt, who left the scene alive but with broken bones.
Following the incident, his hometown of Branford, Connecticut, named a road after his great-grandmother and MADD opened a local chapter there. His grandmother and great-aunt, along with their other sister, have dedicated time to the organization.
D’Agostino said he and his other family members have also pitched in, and he’s happy to see the cause here, too. It reminds him of home.
“I think our team has a big impact on this community,” he added. “[Impaired driving] happens more than you think. It’s great that we’re trying to do something about it.”
Not only does he think it will impact the community, but the team, too. He said sharing this message as a 20-year-old shows younger folks they’re never too young to be impacted by impaired driving.
“It could change younger and older people’s minds,” said D’Agostino. “If our age group can hop on the wagon of trying to prevent this, it’s great.”
Williams said she’s never seen Project Red Ribbon in Powell River before, and hopes to see as many red ribbons on cars as possible.
“Hopefully, they pass out a lot of game tickets,” she added. “That means they made it through the checkpoint, which means they drove sober this holiday season, and that’s super important.”
Red ribbons and car decals can be picked up at the Powell River RCMP detachment, 7070 Barnet Street, while supplies last.