Pushing Through to Positive Change - MADD Members and Their Strength to Persevere

Sometimes bad things happen to good people, but how do we allow these bad experiences to shape us into something greater?


I was recently reading many articles and blogs that were posted on the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) website.  What sparked my interest was the alcohol ignition interlock systems that are being used throughout many states as a prevention tool for repeat offenders of driving under the influence.  There are so many individuals who are killed by alcohol impaired drivers every year.  In fact, here are some of the statistics from the MADD website: 


*In 2007, an estimated 12,998 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes -decline of 3.7 percent from the 13,491 fatalities in 2006.


*The fatality rate, per 100 million vehicle miles of travel (VMT), decreased to 0.43 – the lowest on record.


*Thirty-two States had decreases in the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2007, as compared to 2006.


*Twenty-five States and the District of Columbia had increases in the number of alcohol-impaired motor-cycle riders (operators).


*Alcohol-impaired motorcycle riders increased by 10 percent in 2007 – the only category of drivers to show an increase.



I was inspired by the women and men who used the tragedies that occurred in their lives to empower themselves toward making a difference.  How would you use events in your life to empower yourself to make a difference in someone else’s life?  Here are a couple of the presidents of MADD and a short brief about their personal story.


They hail from the beaches of California to the orange groves of Florida to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. They speak with Southern charm and Northern wit. And although they are sometimes soft-spoken, they are always commanding. They are dynamic, smart, funny and magnetic. They are MADD’s national presidents—those who have served as the organization’s national spokesperson. The role of president as the national spokesperson began with MADD’s charismatic founder, Candy Lightner. From 1980 to 1985, she crisscrossed the country sharing her tragic story, and the stories of other drunk driving victims, with the media, government leaders and the public to raise awareness, educate and establish tougher anti-drunk driving laws. In doing so, she put a face on the tragic statistics and established MADD as a grassroots powerhouse in the fight against drunk driving. Though she left the organization in 1985, the role of national president continues today.  The elite group of MADD national presidents have experienced the challenges, humility and responsibility that come with being the voice for thousands. On their journeys of grief, healing and hope, each has achieved amazing accomplishments at every level of MADD. And each has sacrificed his or her life for a brief time to selflessly speak on behalf of victims everywhere.


Norma Phillips became involved with MADD shortly after the death of her son, Dean, and his girlfriend, Tish Crothswaite, who were killed by a drunk driver on Thanksgiving Day, 1981. Less than a year after that tragic crash, Norma organized the MADD San Diego chapter, which quickly grew to more than 1,500 members. With tireless energy and spunk, Norma eagerly picked up the mantle of MADD’s national spokesperson, taking great pride in following in Candy’s footsteps. Norma was committed to nurturing local chapters and, during her presidency, many states began hosting leadership conferences, creating other chapters nationwide.  Under Norma’s leadership, MADD made the transition from a novelty to a well-respected, powerful organization known for its relentless pursuit to stop the crime of drunk driving.



On Easter weekend 1981, Milo Kirk’s family vacation turned to tragedy. Her 9-year-old son, Kevin, and family friends were coming back from dinner and a movie when their car was hit by a 19-year-old drunk driver with three prior DUI convictions.  Kevin suffered severe head injuries and other injuries, including the loss of vision in one eye. His best friend and an adult were killed in the crash.  Within the year, Milo and one of the women injured in the crash formed a MADD chapter in Dallas. Milo began legislative work at the state level, going on to advocate for policy changes at the national level. In fact, she initiated the development of a Legislative Committee on MADD’s national board, a decision that helped ensure that the organization’s pursuit of proven policy goals would continue.  Known for her poise and grace under fire, Milo served as president during a financially difficult time for MADD and one that had a change in leadership. Milo took pride in the fact that she was part of what she considered to be the most influential public interest group in the country.


Beckie Brown and her husband, Charlie, were driving home from a party on Dec. 8, 1979, when police cars raced past them. As they came upon the scene of the crash, they were saddened to find that someone had been killed. An instant later they were devastated to discover that the victim was their 18-year-old son, Marcus. He was killed by a 19-year-old drunk driver.  Soon after starting a MADD chapter in her hometown, Beckie realized that legislative work was her passion. Known for continually asking “What can MADD do to save more lives?”  Beckie became the catalyst behind the development of a series of Impaired Driving Workshops, which continue today. In her pursuit of solutions, Beckie served in a key role in the development of National Sobriety Checkpoint Week and spearheaded MADD’s Rating the States program, which rates individual state’s efforts in the fight to prevent drunk driving.  Perhaps her greatest accomplishment was laying the foundation for MADD’s “20 X 2000,” a five-point plan to reduce alcohol-related deaths by an additional 20 percent by the year 2000—a goal that was accomplished three years ahead of schedule.


On a country road in Franklin, Tenn., a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent rear-ended the family car carrying Millie; her husband, Roy; their 4-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Lori; and their 19-month-old nephew, Mitchell Prewitt, Jr. Millie, who was seven months pregnant at the time, suffered a broken neck and burns on nearly 73 percent of her body. Mitchell lived for six hours, while Lori suffered for two weeks before dying. Born prematurely, Millie’s baby, Kara, was left legally blind as a result of the crash. The embodiment of Southern charm, Millie used her presidency to embrace MADD’s volunteers, always seeking to recognize the talents of each individual volunteer in the organization. Known for turning her physical and emotional scars into stars, Millie helped light the path for others suffering the same pain she had once endured.  After nearly 29 years and 23 surgeries as a result of the crash, Millie’s presidency culminated with the adoption of a national standard for drunk driving of .08 BAC— the same deadly level of impairment that once shattered Millie and her family’s lives. They were all in attendance when President Clinton signed the bill into law on Oct. 23, 2000.  (provided directly from the MADD website)  www.madd.org


How will you use yourself to change someone’s life forever?  It can be the smallest gesture that will impact someone beyond belief.  Mother Teresa stated, “What I do you cannot do; but what you do, cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”


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