By Nikki Velarde
The Belton Journal
Sunday afternoon, family and friends gathered at West Temple Park to help raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving as well as honor and remember those who have been affected by alcohol related crashes in the Walk Like MADD event.
Reita Hill, a Victim Services Specialist explained that within Central Texas, which spans 12 counties, there have been 31 fatalities and 348 serious injuries all from alcohol related crashes this year. She stressed that “every one of those crashes were 100% preventable”.
The organization MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving, strive to “stop drunk driving, support the victims, and prevent underage drinking” as seen on their website. The organization was founded by a mother whose own daughter was killed by a drunk driver.
Since then, it has grown to be the largest non-profit organization aiming at protecting families from underage drinking and drunk driving.
MADD supports victims and survivors at no charge and has a 24 hour help-line available for them to call. Approximately every 8.6 seconds, a MADD Victim Advocate serves a victim or survivor. In 2012 over 61,000 victims and survivors nationwide were provided help and support.
Hill commented that the Walk Like MADD event is meant to raise awareness and money to help support MADD since it is non-profit. She said that bringing awareness to the dangers alcohol can pose makes “our community a safer place to live”.
The event was successful in bringing families and friends together. Jaime Gutierrez, the Texas State Executive Director of MADD was happy with the turnout and commented that “this event is just a great way to bring awareness to the issue” of how drunk driving can affect everyone.
All who were in attendance walked the 5k in teams, each team supporting a particular victim of an alcohol related crash.
The Fireside band from Temple came out to play in support of Team Shelly in remembrance and honor of Shelly Easter, the wife of one of the band members.
Another was Team Kimmy. In May of this year, Kimberlyn “Kimmy” Longbotham had just turned 18 and was about to graduate from Temple High School. She was returning home from a sporting event when a drunk driver crossed four lanes of traffic and hit her head-on. Seven hours later, Kimmy succumbed to her injuries.
During the MADD event, the park was filled with people wearing bright yellow t-shirts supporting Team Kimmy.
Kimmy’s friend Andlyn Irons talked about how “there’s no way you can ever prepare for something like that to happen” to someone close to you. It’s a serious crime that has a profound effect on everyone. She talked about how it made her “reassess her life” and how because of Kimmy, Andlyn has gone back to church and become more religious.
The MADD website explains that they “advocate for states to provide a source of compensation funds for the financial losses and expenses of all victims of violent crime, including DWI/DUI victims and survivors of loved ones killed by an impaired driver”.
Eligibility varies from state to state but survivors can apply for Crime Victim Compensation. This financial assistance program can help with funeral expenses, medical expenses, lost wages, counseling services, child care, and crime scene cleanup.
The Walk Like MADD event worked in that it brought people out and further strengthened the support system of the families.
Team Kimmy set out to raise money for the MADD organization, and they set their goal at $10,000. Already, they have far exceeded that goal. You can read Kimmy’s story and donate by visiting support.madd.org.
To reach the 24 hour MADD help-line, please call 1-877-MADD-HELP or for more information on how you can help support victims and their families, please visit MADD.org.