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Smaller crowd comes out for 5th annual Walk Like MADD event

HOULTON, Maine — A smaller than average group showed up Saturday for the 5th annual Walk Like MADD event as just under 30 people took part in this year’s event.

But while the attendance may have been down, the generosity was not diminished as once again the greater Houlton community showed just how caring it can be. A fundraiser for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, this year’s walk collected $11,500. 

Two years ago, the event raised $12,500. The walk was not held in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Event organizer Nicole Hutchinson, a 1988 alum of Houlton High School whose sister Darcie was killed at the age of 21 in 1996, said she continues to be amazed by the continued support the event receives in her hometown year after year.

“I appreciate so much the fact that you all came out here today,” she said.

Mary Jane Cleary served as the guest speaker for Saturday’s event and relayed her own personal story of how her mother was killed by an 18-year-old drunk driver on the North Road in Houlton. That driver pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was convicted in May 1991. He was sentenced to seven years in prison with all but two years suspended and four years probation.

HOULTON, Maine — August 23, 2021 — Mary Jane Cleary was the guest speaker at the fifth annual Walk Like MADD event to remember Darcie Hutchinson. The walk is a fundraiser for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Hutchinson now resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but has returned for the past five 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.

September marks the 25th anniversary of Darcie Hutchinson’s untimely passing. Her big sister Nicole can still vividly recall the night her world changed.

“It was a Friday the 13th and I was living in Arizona working a night shift,” Hutchinson said. “I got a call from my godfather, who never calls me, so I knew something was wrong.”

Darcie Hutchinson was on her way to a convenience store in Uncasville, Connecticut, when a Ford F-250 with a plow on front smashed into the driver’s side door of her vehicle, sending her vehicle into a telephone pole.

“It rips your heart out and you will never be the same again,” Nicole said.

The operator, a habitual drunk driver who was a three-time offender, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with five years suspended.

HOULTON, Maine — August 21, 2021 — Nicole Hutchinson speaks during the 5th annual Walk Like M.A.D.D. 5K race and walk was held Saturday in Houlton. Her sister Darcie was killed 25 years ago by a drunk driver in Connecticut. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

From that point on, Nicole Hutchinson became a staunch supporter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. As the president of the Maine Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, despite living in North Carolina, Hutchinson has made it her mission to educate people about the cause. She is also on the national board, serving as chairperson of the Missions and Field Delivery Committee.

“If we can help one person, then I feel like we’ve accomplished something,” she said. “My thing is to never have her [Darcie] forgotten.”

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.

HOULTON, Maine — August 23, 2021 — Brian Harris, commander of the Maine State Police Troop F barracks in Houlton, was the first to cross the finish line Saturday in the Walk Like MADD fundraiser in Houlton. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

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