When Cathy Dewitt, Cody’s mom, visualized her oldest son’s high school graduation she dreamed a time of joy, celebration, and planning ahead for the next stage of his life. Cathy was excited about the numerous possibilities for Cody; she never imagined that she would sit next to an empty chair covered with flowers and an unworn cap and gown.
Cody was a few months shy of graduation, and beginning the next chapter of his life. He had done the hard work—completed homework, paid attention in class, participated in projects and earned his degree. Yet due to someone’s choice to drink and drive, Cody did not live to see the fulfillment of all of his hard work and plans.
On December 24, 2011, Cody hugged his mother goodbye. He went to a friend’s house to enjoy the last of his winter break. Cody and his friends hung out in the friend’s garage and drank alcohol until 1:15 AM, when they were asked to leave. Cody was riding in a passenger seat when the driver lost control of the car and hit a tree. Less than a mile away from home, the impact of the crash killed Cody instantly.
Cathy describes the next year of her life as a blur. She shares few memories of the day that she learned her son was killed. She remembers Cody’s friends at her door telling her that he had been in a crash. She remembers arriving at the scene of a blocked off road and seeing the word “coroner” on the side of the vehicle. She remembers feelings of shock and haze, being physically present but mentally and emotionally absent. That shock stayed with her for an entire year, “I don’t remember the first year after the crash, by the second year I started to realize that the crash did happen, and by the third year I started to grieve”.
Cody was a country boy at heart. He loved cutting wood, hunting, camping, fishing and being outdoors. “He was so active and always had to be doing something. As soon as he turned 16 he got a job to help me out.” Cathy, Cody, and Ben (Cathy’s youngest son) were a team. Together they were one. They did everything with each other and for each other. Cathy recalls a conversation with Cody days before the crash, “he told me that he wanted to have fun for a little bit before he had to grow up.”
A night of fun and someone’s choice to drink and drive changed many lives forever. Cody died, the driver was sentenced to six years in prison, Ben lost his best friend and big brother, Cody’s girlfriend lost her first love, and Cathy struggles to live the rest of her life without her son.
Their stories are examples of the devastating consequences of drinking and driving. Cathy believes that this is a community problem for which we are all responsible to prevent. “It affects more people than you’ll ever know, EMT, hospital staff, bystanders, neighbors, friends, everyone”. Cathy wants young people to think of how many lives they touch every day. She shares her story in hopes that she can prevent others from experiencing the grief that she lives with daily. Cathy now volunteers as a speaker at Victim Impact Panels and is committed to help MADD fight for its mission of No More Victims®. Drinking and driving is a 100 percent preventable crime, but even one life lost due to underage drinking is unacceptable. There needs to be zero tolerance for underage drinking considering two out of three underage drinking deaths do not even involve a motor vehicle.
MADD encourages parents talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking. Kids who start drinking young are seven times more likely to be in an alcohol-related crash. MADD believes by taking proactive steps to protect our loved ones, especially our children, we can achieve a future of No More Victims®.