Chloe Kaniusis was 30 years old when she died in a head-on collision with an impaired driver.
Nine years later, almost to the day, candles were lit in honour of Kaniusis and many others who have lost their lives due to collisions involving impaired drivers during the Red Deer and District chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 31st annual Candlelight Vigil of Hope and Remembrance at St. Luke’s Anglican Church on Saturday night.
“Chloe and I were really close – we were best friends,” Brenda Brown said of her daughter.
“Every day is hard. Especially seeing her children grow up without her. They’re 13 and 10 now.”
In 2014, Kaniusis and Brown were on their way home to Condor after Christmas shopping in Red Deer when an impaired driver smashed into their SUV on a bridge near Eckville.
“When he hit us, he was eight times over the limit. He shouldn’t have even been walking, let alone driving,” Brown recalled.
“He killed her instantly. I was trapped in the vehicle for three hours with her – they couldn’t get me out. It was an absolute nightmare. The PTSD is really bad for me still and will be forever.”
MADD’s candlelight vigil is always an emotional day, Brown added.
“It’s a beautiful ceremony, but it’s very difficult as well,” she said.
Joan McIntyre, president of MADD’s Red Deer and District chapter, said the vigil is a time for families to remember and honour their lost loved ones.
“There are people who go through such tragedy that is 100 per cent avoidable. We’re not telling people, ‘Don’t drink.’ We’re just saying, ‘If you do drink, don’t drive.’ You can get a ride, ask a friend to drive, get a (designated driver),” said McIntyre, who has volunteered with MADD for more than 25 years.
“The sad part is that it seems like every year we add more pictures (of victims who are killed in collisions involving impaired drivers).
“This chapter was the first one west of Ontario’s border. We’ve been here the longest of any of the western provinces, so we have a long history.”
MADD is currently running its Project Red Ribbon Campaign, which is a fundraiser and public awareness event that runs until Jan. 8.
“Some of our members put out red ribbon boxes at different businesses and companies. Those boxes have red ribbons in them, so people can make a donation or take a ribbon and tie it to their backpack, purse, keychains to remind people not to drink and drive,” said McIntyre.
For more information, visit maddchapters.ca/reddeer.