On December 2nd, 2017 MADD SC hosted the annual State Candlelight Vigil for victims and survivors of impaired driving. The event was hosted at the SC State Museum in the Vista Room and was presented by the Yarborough Applegate Law Firm. MADD staff, volunteers, and first responders joined us to honor and remember victims.
This year, our Victim Services Specialists encouraged the family and friends of victims and survivors to bring pictures of their loved ones. The pictures were placed on a table at the front of the room, facing the audience where candles surrounded them. Staff from other MADD SC program areas, along with volunteers, assisted with welcoming friends and family. Guests were instructed to write the name of their loved one on a paper, heart-shaped ornament that would later be placed on a small lighted tree. Families also received a bag with a small take home memento to remember their loved ones.
MADD SC’s Program Director, Steven Burritt, initiated the memorial event. A message of hope was delivered by Pastor Timothy Bupp of Reformation Lutheran Church in Columbia. The guest speaker for the event was MADD National President, Colleen Sheehey–Church. She shared her story of grief and loss with the audience. Colleen lost her son Dustin to a drunk and drugged driver in 2004. When Colleen finished her story, family and friends were asked to come forward. Each spoke the name of their loved one as they proceeded to a small tree with white lights where they placed ornaments containing the names of their loved ones. The tree began to fill up with ornaments meant to honor loved ones while silently forming an invisible bond among all of the people who placed them there.
Following the ceremony, Colleen met with family members and friends who came out to honor their loved ones. Many shared pictures and stories. Colleen stated that MADD Vigils were her “safe space”—a place where it is okay to grieve and okay to cry because you are among your MADD family.
For some of those in attendance it has been many years since the loss of their loved ones. Although they will always grieve, some are at a place where attempting to help others who have suffered a loss is very therapeutic. It has been 24 years for one of MADD SC’s Victim Services Specialists, Kimberly Cockrell. However, the Frilot family of Spartanburg will soon encounter the first anniversary of the loss of their daughter and sister, Melissa. Kimberly has been supporting the Frilot family who are still trying to form some semblance of a “normal life.”
No matter the reason for attending, it was evident that everyone who came to honor a victim or survivor shares a common bond—one that was responsible for the deaths of 331 people on SC roadways in 2016. No matter when or how you come to MADD, just know you will always have a place.