HOULTON, Maine — Walkers and runners turned out in droves Saturday for the fourth annual Walk Like MADD event to honor the memory of a Houlton native killed by a drunk driver in 1996.
Event organizer Nicole Hutchinson, whose sister Darcie was killed at the age of 21, said she continues to be amazed by the continued support the event receives in her hometown year after year.
“I’m so excited to be here and again this year we were able to have the national MADD President here with us,” Hutchinson said. “I can tell you the grief really does not get any easier, you just learn how to cope.”
Hutchinson now resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but has returned for the past four years to participate in the walk. Prior to becoming an officially sanctioned MADD Walk, Houlton resident Heather Campbell held a walk for several years in Darcie’s memory, as the two were classmates.
A fundraiser for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, this year’s walk collected $12,500. Last year, the event raised just over $8,600 in Houlton. The record amount raised came in 2017 when more than 150 people participated, generating $13,000 for the cause.
National MADD President Helen Witty gave an emotional talk on how her life was forever changed when her 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie, was killed by a drunk driver.
“Today, June 1, marks the 19th anniversary of my daughter’s death,” Witty said. “Drunk driving is not an accident. It is a crime that kills people.”
Witty recalled how the day her daughter died had been just like any other day. Helen Marie asked her parents if she could go rollerblading without her little brother in tow because she wanted to go fast without him slowing her down.
“She went to the end of the driveway, twirled around, blew me a kiss and said ‘I love you mom, I’ll be right back,” Witty said. “That is how I prefer to remember her.”
Her daughter was struck and killed by a 17-year girl who was both drunk and high, after spending a day drinking and smoking marijuana.
According to the MADD website, on average, two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime; every 120 seconds, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash; and every day in America, another 28 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.
MADD officials do more than simply educate youngsters on the dangers of drunk/drugged driving. The group also serves as a personal support system for families in drunk driving cases, assisting with medical and legal struggles and also working with state legislators to create tougher laws for offenders.