Submitted by April Ricci of MADD Rhode Island.

Who was Tommy?

Let me start this by being honest with you. I do not usually do something like this. Talking or writing about this is not my comfort zone. But I thought it was an important topic since the Walk has played such a huge part in my continued steps to heal.

Let me tell you about the love of my life, my fiancé Tommy.  He was born on July 11, 1976  in East Providence, Rhode Island.  We meet in Junior High School and starting dating when we were 15.  Tommy and I did everything together and had big plans for our life.  No matter what happened, Tommy and I knew we could face it together — and that meant at the end, it would be OK.  Family was so important to Tommy. When my two nephews and niece lost their father at a young age, he stepped right into the role of father figure.  Tommy loved those three as much as our own son.  There was such joy for him in raising them. He really was on incredible dad.  He loved his family, he was an incredible uncle, son, grandson, nephew and a fierce friend.

He was that person everyone wanted to be around.

At 26, we had been engaged two years, had a beautiful nine-year-old son and close relationships with family. We were excited with all that our future could hold.

The Crash

This part is hard for me.  This is a day I have spent the last 17 years trying to move past.

On the morning of October 12, 2002, Tommy was riding on the passenger side of his friend’s car when the driver, who had been drinking, sped down a road, missed the turn and crashed head-on into a median. Tommy suffered a fatal head injury.  There were three people in the car that morning. Everyone but Tommy survived.

At the young age of 26, the person who I had known since Junior High, the person who had been in my life for 14 years, was stolen from me. Our child no longer had a father. Three children who had already lost one father lost another.  Three friends’ lives forever changed that night. A father lost a son.  A grandfather lost a grandson.  A family and community were delivered a blow it didn’t expect or deserve.  He was stolen from us.

It isn’t fair. I was supposed to make plans for the future. A wedding, birthday parties, anniversaries, vacations and memories yet to be formed.

I was mad, hurt, devastated. I was lost.

Why We Walk

I had to keep going.  I poured all the love I could into my son, nephews and niece.  I was determined that they would know Tommy’s love for them even if he wasn’t there.

As time went on I realized I needed to find a way to honor Tommy, to remember him in sorrow and joy with others who had experienced the same loss.

Four years ago, I found myself in the office of MADD Rhode Island searching for something I knew I needed but not knowing where to find it.  After speaking with the director, he asked me to coordinate the Walk Like MADD for Rhode Island. There had never been a Walk Like MADD event in this state.  Our first walk was held in June 2016. It was exactly what I needed and it was the perfect event for other families in our state.  The walk provided an opportunity to remember and honor loved ones. It was a chance for the community to come together to heal. It was a place to ensure loved ones were always remembered. For victims to know they are not alone.  We walk to raise awareness so that these senseless crashes stop.

I have continued to work on the Walk over the past three years and with such success, we now host two Walks a year.  It has become a reunion of sorts for some of us and a first, welcoming step for others.  It’s a great feeling to help raise funds so MADD can keep offering needed services throughout our state.  The Walk like MADD events have help fill some of the void in my life since the loss of Tommy.

Thank you for letting me tell you about my Tommy. He is gone. But like so many others, thanks to MADD, he will never be forgotten.