Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been remembering the lives lost to impaired driving in central Alberta for three decades.
The Red Deer and District chapter of MADD hosted its 30th annual Candlelight Vigil for Hope and Remembrance at St. Luke’s Anglican Church on Saturday.
“We do this to remember and honour all of the victims of impaired driving in the area,” said Brenda Brown, the vice-president and victim services for the local MADD chapter.
“We try to put together a memorable and meaningful program every year. We send out invitations to the families of victims so they can come and be part of a larger group that can support them.”
Brown has been with MADD for about five years. Her daughter Chloe Kaniusis was just 30 years old when she was killed by a drunk driver in 2014.
“She and I were Christmas shopping in Red Deer. We left her two little boys with their grandpa – their dad was working at the time. A drunk driver hit us on the Eckville bridge. It killed her instantly,” said Brown.
“Her little guys were only 18 and a half months, and four and a half months old.”
Gillian Phillips, MADD’s victim services director for Western Canada, attended Saturday’s vigil in Red Deer. She spoke about losing her 16-year-old daughter, Theresa Mary McFaul, in a collision in 2000. McFaul was a passenger in a truck being driven by an impaired driver.
“Theresa was beautiful inside and out. She was funny, very smart, wrote beautiful poetry, and she loved her family and friends,” Phillips said to those attending the vigil.
“There are no words I could use … to describe the loss of your child or loved one. The devastation and grief are overwhelming and it changes you forever.”
In the aftermath of impaired driving collisions, victims often don’t know where to turn, said Phillips.
“We know it can be a very rocky and treacherous road to travel. We often feel disheartened, devastated and defeated. It seems impossible to take another step forward,” Phillips said.
“But then we discover we are not alone. There are those who have traveled this road and they are there and here to help you with this journey.”
Saturday’s ceremony offered central Albertans the opportunity to pay tribute to those affected by impaired driving, said Phillips.
“It also serves as a powerful symbol of senseless crime of impaired driving,” she said.
“Every year hundreds of people are killed and 10s of thousands are injured in impaired driving crashes. The most tragic part is every single one of these can be prevented.”
MADD’s Red Deer and District chapter is currently looking for volunteers. Anyone who is interested is asked to reach out – contact information can be found at www.maddchapters.ca/reddeer.