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 

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