October 11, 2011

We've Moved!

MADD's blog has moved, please make sure to keep reading in our new location: www.madd.org/blog

To read only blog posts from National President, Jan Withers: www.madd.org/blog/jan-withers.html

Thank you!

September 23, 2011

Walk Like MADD...Cloudy Morning, Sunshine Hearts

The morning began cloudy with a brisk chilly breeze.   That didn't stop walkers from turning out for Georgia's Walk Like MADD event in Atlanta. When asked why they came, why they walk, they said:

I walk to raise money for MADD - so we can continue the work of saving lives.

I come to support others who have been victimized by drunk driving.

I walk in memory of my loved one who was killed by a drunk driver.

 I walk to bring awareness to this crime.  It is unacceptable.  It must stop. 

 I come to volunteer with my friends.  We want a life without having to worry about drunk drivers. 

I'm here because my grandparents brought me.  It's fun!  I love the moon bounce and the crafts.  The hotdogs are good, too.   

The morning was one of Friendship

of Family

         of Winners

of Love

and of All the Reasons Why We Walk.

Thank you State Farm for your generous support. 

September 12, 2011


Children reciting names
Exclaiming love to eternity
Engraving names in granite
Fingers tenderly stroking a name
Hands gently laid on a name
Wishing they were caressing
Hearts longing

Rose buds adorning stone
Tears falling on stone
Water falling over stone
Never forgetting
Forever loving

I saw a widow of a person killed on 9/11 being interviewed last week, in anticipation of the ten-year anniversary of that dark day.   As tears ran down her face while describing her husband and how much she misses him, the reporter asked with a bit of surprise, “It still hurts after all this time?”  

Hurting just below the surface, after “all” this time, for a lifetime 
Darkness eventually lifting 
Sunshine and smiles happening again
Holding them in our hearts perpetually
Missing them without end
Loving them ceaselessly

My daughter, Alisa, was killed by a drunk driver.  When she was a toddler, we used to say goodnight with these exchanges, “I love you sooo much.”  “Well, I love you to the sky.”  “Well, I love you to the clouds.”  “I love you to the moon.”  “I love you to heaven.”  “Well, I love you past heaven.” 

One night, little Alisa exclaimed, “Well, I love you to ‘finity!”  I decided not to even try to top that!  I was amazed she even knew the word infinity, let alone what it meant.   So, that is now our family saying when we say goodbye to one another:  “I love you to ‘finity.”  

As we say their names, let us shout, I LOVE YOU TO ‘FINITY!

September 9, 2011

Remembering 9/11 (Becoming "the Someone Else")

I always thought it would happen to someone else. But on April 16, 1992, I became that someone else.

It started with my husband Joe telling me that our daughter, Alisa, had been in an accident—that’s what he called it at that time. Of course, as it turns out, it wasn’t an accident at all. The truth is, someone made a choice—a tragic choice—to drive drunk.

Nearly 10 years after Alisa died, I received another shock to my system. On September 11, 2001, my husband Joe was supposed to be at the Pentagon. When I heard about the tragedies that were occurring that day, I just knew that he had died. After all, I had already been “the someone else” once before. Luckily, Joe didn’t die that day. However, our collective sense of security did.

Ten years ago this Sunday, thousands of people became “the someone else.” Losing a loved one in a tragedy caused by another person’s decision is something too many of us can relate to. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the September 11th attacks.

It can happen to anyone at any time. Don’t become the someone who loses a loved one to a drunk driver. Become the somebody who does the something to make sure these tragedies no longer occur.

September 8, 2011


Gifts of Love
Last weekend in Virginia Beach was indescribably wonderful.
Gift of Gratitude:    A ballroom full of law enforcement professionals were honored by  MADD Southside Virginia, presenting awards for the officers’ commitment to saving lives in preventing drunk drivers from populating the roadways.   I was taken with how excited and appreciative they were to be recognized for their hard work.

Gift of Dedication:  Kaye and Bob Walsh are dedicated to saving lives after their daughter, Robin, was killed by a multiple repeat drunk driver.  They both quit their jobs in order to fully pursue effective means to stop this violent crime.  These two MADD volunteers began a court monitoring program that is now a model for the country.  Their efforts are credited by the city of Virginia Beach for significant reduction in drunk driving last year.  In addition, the Navy recognizes their contribution in reducing drunk driving on the Naval Base by 30%.  That’s pretty powerful tributes to Robin’s legacy!

Gifts of Love:  The volunteers gathered the following day to share and exchange ideas.   The love as well as mutual respect was profound. 
Krystle Burke and Alex Owens were so proud that we pulled off surprising Bob and Kaye with an award at the banquet.   As Kaye said, “You made me do the ugly cry.”  That’s the ultimate compliment.   Krystle and Alex donate their time and talents because of their beliefs, big hearts, and desire to never be personally affected by drunk driving.   
Susan Newton was severely injured by someone impaired by alcohol and drugs.  She steadfastly speaks at victim impact panels in order to influence convicted drunk drivers how victims of the crime are affected.  She, along with all the MADD volunteers, does whatever is needed to stop the carnage of this crime.
Bobbie's husband is a police officer.  She came with her daughter just to share with us how much the ceremony and recognition meant to the officers and how much they appreciate the partnership with the MADD volunteers.
Sharon and Steve Etzell's beautiful daughter, Laura, was killed only two years ago by a drunk driver.   They relay how Bob and Kaye have loved them to the healthy place they are now.  Kaye has been known to have them come over just to eat a bowl of soup she makes for them and take a nap.  She says, “No, we didn’t do anything – you two have done all the hard work.”   

Before they left, Sharon gently handed me the most beautiful bracelet to keep.  She first created many of these bracelets to donate to their Walk Like MADD as a way to raise revenue.  Steve said they would be up late at night stringing the beads together.   I feel so privileged.  I not only will keep this gift, I am wearing it with joy and treasure it with love, always remembering Laura.  I like to think she is dancing with my Alisa now, as they care for their many kitties together.
Gifts of Love:  Our MADD family is so inspiring, so uplifting and so loving.   I left feeling embraced and wanting more.   What a gift!
Warmly,                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Jan Withers,  MADD National President 

September 1, 2011

Labor Day Weekend Drive Safe and Sober

We are on our way to Virginia Beach to join with MADD Southside Virginia in honoring their law enforcement officers for their efforts to fight drunk driving. Clearly the Labor Day weekend traffic has begun. Our highway safety officials are warning us to Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. This symbolizes the last weekend of the summer when families frequently share the time together. The roads are jammed with cars filled with families.

We at MADD just want you to enjoy the time by planning a way home with a sober driver. My own daughter was killed when she was only 15, her life cut short before it began. Be sure no one you love has their life cut short by someone who chooses to drink and drive. Jan Withers....MADD President

August 30, 2011

Planes, Automobiles, Ferries, and Horse-Drawn Carriages

Flying into Traverse City, Michigan we seemed to float on one layer of fluffy clouds and were gently protected with a layer above. The setting sun was a cranberry red, sending its rays across the cottony sky, gleaming off Lake Michigan and making it sparkle like rose-colored diamonds. I wondered if this where the angels dance?

Any potential trepidation of driving two hours to Mackinaw City where I was to board a ferry to magical Mackinac Island flew out the window with the cool Michigan country air.

Mackinac Island is a journey back in time. Victorian homes wave to ferry travelers from the hillsides and the unmistakable smell of horses greets visitors at the dock, for no automobiles are on the island. Instead the taxi that greeted me was a horse-drawn carriage. The Grand Hotel crowns the island in graceful splendor since 1887, still pampering its guests in romantic elegant fashion.

The true joy of the trip were the wonderful people of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. Ken Stecker and Marcia Beatty were most gracious hosts, making sure every need (even when I had no needs - I was in heaven) were cared for.

Culminating the visit was a celebration of honorees at the PAAM Conference Banquet. I felt extremely humbled to partner with Mike Prince, Director of Michigan Highway Safety Planning, in presenting the David M. Schieber MADD Michigan Lifesaver Award to Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Athina Siringas. She successfully prosecuted a driver who was impaired with a 0.26 BAC while driving over 100 mph. He hit and killed a 24-year-old young woman traveling home from babysitting.

APA Siringas shared that the victim's mother asked her to not let her daughter die in vain. She asked her to simply seek justice. That is what APA Siringas did. She obtained a conviction of second degree murder as well as OWI causing death. For that I applaud Ms. Siringas.

On behalf of drunk driving victims, I offer our gratitude for treating the offense as a serious crime. It is still distressing that today our society too often treats killing someone while driving drunk as an accident instead of the violent and offensive crime it is.

I see the future with advanced technology putting an end to it. If that doesn't work, I like the idea of going back to the horse-drawn carriage days. What a peaceful thought.

Jan Withers
MADD National President