MADD Canada

MADD Canada

December 18, 2006 08:20 ET

A Holiday Wish with a Sobering Message

MADD Canada's Chantel Parkes reflects on the eve of her 9th Christmas without her father

Attention: News Editor OAKVILLE, ONTARIO --(CCNMatthews - Dec. 18, 2006) - Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada today sends a holiday wish to all Canadians in the form of a member's reflection of the holidays without her father, killed in an impaired driving crash when she was only 14 years old.

Chantel Parkes shares her vivid memories of how she learned about her father's death and what it has been like to experience each holiday without one of her parents.

"We thank Chantel for sharing so much of herself with the public in this important reminder during the holiday season to not drive while impaired with alcohol or drugs," says Karen Dunham, MADD Canada's National President. "We hope Chantel's reflections will move people to think twice over the holidays. For the many, many impaired driving victims and their families, the holiday celebrations will never be the same. Their thoughts of what could have been will always be present during each holiday season and at every special occasion."

"So, our message is 'Don't drive while impaired.' Don't get into a vehicle with someone who is impaired. Don't let your family and friends drive after consuming alcohol. If you drink, arrange a ride, take a taxi, stay over."

Mrs. Dunham adds, "We wish all Canadians a very safe and happy time with their family and friends over the holidays. All the best in 2007."

To view Chantel Parkes' Holiday Wish, please visit this webpage:
http://www.madd.ca/english/redribbon/holiday_wish.html

Chantel Parkes is a staff member of MADD Canada's National Office.

*** VISIT www.madd.ca for special webpage devoted to this holiday message

*** TEXT OF THE MESSAGE:

Through the holiday season, MADD Canada urges Canadians to drive sober and straight. Think of your loved ones when you're out and be sure to make plans if you're going to be drinking or partying. Just as importantly, don't let a loved one, a friend, or a guest drive impaired. As Chantel's story reveals, the consequences can be devastating…

"It was the morning of November 7, 1997. I was 14 years old. I was sleeping soundly and suddenly woke to the sound of screaming. Then silence. Uncertain whether it had been a dream, I fell back asleep. I awoke to more screaming and this time I rushed downstairs. There in the living room were some of Dad's colleagues, Dad's brothers and some police officers. My 11 year-old brother Dustin was running around the table screaming. My 15 year-old brother Sonny was also at the table, pacing around it and crying. Mom was in the bathroom with one of the police officers, completely hysterical. That's when I found out that Dad had been killed in an impaired driving crash.

"Dad had been out with his work buddies at a birthday party the night before. Too drunk to drive but wanting to get to a bar in time for last call, Dad and six of his buddies piled into his Lincoln. One of these buddies said he was OK to drive and the rest of them accepted that. Minutes later, they were struck head-on by a BMW. Dad and his friend Gary, each seated beside a door on the right side of the vehicle, were violently crushed from the impact and killed.

"Mom had to go identify the body. Her husband's body. My father's body. I wanted to go with her. I hoped that she would come back and tell me that it was the wrong person. Dad was only 40 years old. He was too young to lose his life and I was too young to lose my father. It just wasn't fair.

"A few weeks after the funeral - my very first funeral - came Christmas. Usually we always went to Grandma and Grampa's for breakfast, then to my Oma and Opa's place for dinner. Everyone tried to be cheerful, but we could never go back to the way things used to be. Dad used to shop the day before Christmas and get each of us a special gift. Never again. I saw my cousins with their father and I couldn't help but be envious. Everywhere we went and everything we did during the holidays, Dad was missing.

"This year will be my ninth Christmas without Dad. Don't ask me if I'm over it, because I'm not. Sure, I've learned to function and be happy, but my life will never, ever be the same. These days my friends are starting to have babies and I see their fathers beaming as they hold their grandchildren. It breaks my heart that I will never experience this with my own father.

"Today I work at MADD Canada's National Office as a School Outreach Program Coordinator. I first became involved with MADD Canada as a volunteer during high school, after Grandma became the Chapter President in Sarnia. It wasn't until I started full-time here that it opened the floodgates of emotion in me. I hadn't realized how much I had suppressed over the years as I was coping the best I could without a father. I really wasn't expecting to get so emotional, but it allowed for a bit more healing to take place.

"Sometimes, it's hard to come in here and maintain a level of professionalism. My family photo is right outside my office on the Wall of Remembrance. But what I love about working here is that I am surrounded by compassionate people and my grief is acknowledged. I can also relate to the many victims who turn to MADD Canada for support. I understand their anger, sadness, pain and frustration. Listening to them, supporting them, we are making a difference one victim at a time.

"As much as I hear so many horrific stories, I also hear stories of prevention and that's when I know that MADD Canada's message is reaching some people before they make a choice that could ruin lives. I attend conferences and victims' weekends. I work with schools. I hear feedback from students. I hear kids and teens say that they're going to go home and hug their parents because they're still alive and well. I hear them say they're going to talk to their parents if they see them drinking before taking the wheel. I also hear them make commitments to never drive impaired. That's encouraging.

"I'm tired of hearing excuses about why people choose to drive when they are impaired. Is it really worth making that choice when in a split second, someone's family could be destroyed like mine was? How can people live with themselves after killing someone? When is it OK to take someone else's loved one away from them?

"My wish for Canadians this holiday season is that they realize impaired driving is 100% preventable. It's not enough to say, 'Don't drink and drive'. Everyone has a social responsibility to do what they can to keep our roads safe. My Dad and his friends - seven grown men - made a choice to get into a vehicle driven by an impaired driver instead of taking a cab, staying put or making other plans. That hurts. One of them… all of them… could have spoken up and changed the lives of everyone in that car - and the lives of their families too. What happened to my family didn't have to happen, and this makes Dad's death that much more tragic. So let's all do our part to keep families together and keep our roads safe."

From Chantel and from all of MADD Canada, enjoy the holidays and don't drive impaired.
/For further information: www.madd.ca
Andrew Murie, MADD Canada's CEO @ 1-800-665-6233, ext. 224 / IN: SOCIAL, OTHER

Contact Information

  • Karen Dunham, National President
    Primary Phone: 506-650-7473