9.02.2011

yvette

Yvette and my mom.
(Don't be mad about your silly face, mom! You still look beautiful.)
I never met my aunt, Yvette. I've only known her through the stories my mom tells and through old photographs. I never met her because she was taken from this earth much too soon.

At only fifteen-years-old she was killed by a drunk driver. It was a week before Thanksgiving, and she was a passenger on a drive with her friends. They were struck by a speeding van that failed to stop at a stop sign. The driver of that van was drunk. The car spun, hitting a fire hydrant, which Yvette struck her head upon. She was air-vacced to the hospital where she remained in a coma for six days, until she was announced brain dead. Two of her friends also lost their lives.

Yvette's death crushed my mom and her family. Speaking to my mom just now, I still heard the shakiness and pain in her voice when we talked about her little sister. It's something that will live with the family forever.

As I grew up, my mom was always very particular with who I drove with, and when I got my license there were definitely some rules. She still has me call her when I get home after a visit, and she always texts me on the weekend nights saying, "Stay safe. Love you." As a teenager I didn't like her protectiveness at times. I wanted to drive around with my friends. Now that I'm older I have a huge appreciation and understanding for her rules and how much she cares about me.

About a year ago, I got the letter "y" tattooed on my left wrist in memory of my aunt. It serves as a reminder to make wise decisions and to never take life for granted. Although I never met her, she still lives in our hearts and has taught us all such valuable lessons.

My mom was a member of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) for years, which is why I was extremely pleased to find out that the president of MADD, Jan Withers was recently announced a Champion of Change by the White House. Champions of Change is a way to acknowledge the imaginative and innovative educators in our country.

Here is the website's write up,

"Jan Withers joined MADD in 1992, after her 15-year-old daughter, Alisa Joy, was killed by an underage drinker who chose to drive after consuming numerous alcoholic beverages. Withers first volunteered by sharing her story and lobbying for tougher legislation — she wanted to make a difference by helping to stop this 100 percent preventable violent crime. Withers actively campaigned to lower the illegal limit of blood alcohol content for drivers from a .10 BAC to a .08 BAC, both on the national level and in her home state of Maryland. She was privileged to be present in the Oval Office when President Clinton signed the federal bill into law in 2000.
Her passion is providing support for other victims and survivors of this violent crime. Before becoming National President in July 2011, Withers served as a victim advocate for MADD Maryland, facilitating a support group for victims, while also participating in the MADD Maryland Operations Council. She joined the MADD National Board of Directors in 2005 and served on numerous committees, including Communications and Branding, Public Policy and Victim Services. 
Now as National President, Withers speaks to lawmakers across the country about the importance of legislation requiring ignition interlocks (or “in-car breathalyzers”) for all drunk driving offenders, a key part of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. She also advocates for federal legislation that provides research funding for technology that will turn cars into the cure for drunk driving. In addition, Withers continues to raise awareness for MADD’s victim support services—even leading a monthly support group—while also expanding the reach of MADD’s underage drinking prevention programs.
Prior to joining MADD’s Board of Directors, Withers served as Director of Victim Services with the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Colorado Women’s College and has been trained in group facilitation, crisis response, victimization, bereavement and trauma. Withers was born and raised in Colorado. She and her husband reside in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and together they have five surviving children and five grandchildren.
MADD, formed in 1980, was originally incorporated to aid the families of victims and increase public awareness of drunk driving.  MADD is a vocal advocate for more frequent, high visibility sobriety checkpoints and has a strong relationship with law enforcement.  In the years since MADDs founding, annual alcohol-related traffic fatalities have dropped from an estimated 30,000 in 1980 to fewer than 17,000 in 2005.  Key components to MADD’s outreach has been education and victim services on both the national and state/local levels; MADD serves a victim or survivor of drunk driving every ten minutes.  There are currently more than 600 chapters nationwide."

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