Candlelight vigil for those lost to drunk driving

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MADD holds tri-county memorial crusading for safer streets

Families, friends and victims gathered at a Best Western Hotel in Stockton for the annual Mothers Against Drunk Driving Candlelight Vigil of Remembrance and Hope on Sunday, Dec. 2 to remember those lost or injured in a drunk driving tragedy.

MADD hosted the event for the San Joaquin County division, which includes Sacramento, Stockton and Stanislaus counties.

There were welcoming embraces, and cries among the crowd, but Judy Utter a victim specialist for the MADD San Joaquin division reminded attendees during her welcome: “If there is anything MADD can do please call.”

The national organization was founded in 1980 by Candy Lightner. Her daughter Cari was killed by a repeat drunk driving offender.

Since then the MADD organization mission statement reads as follows: “The mission of Mothers against Drunk Driving is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.”

MADD has been educating the public on the effects of drinking and driving throughout the country for almost 30 years now. The organization’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by families, and victims in need in our community.

“Hope is something we all need, and hope is what gives us the belief in a positive outcome,” said Brenda Frachsieur, MADD California executive director.

One positive outcome to a lost life at the hands of a drunk driver is what MADD wants individuals to walk away with.

“One person can change the course of another,” said Frachsieur.

The vigil proceeded with recognitions of important partners crucial in MADD’s crusade to stop drunk drivers on the road, including: Scott Fitchner, S.J. Chief Deputy District Attorney, Jeff Darnell, Stanislaus Deputy District Attorney, Steve Moore, S.J. County Sherriff, and Officer James Moore, California Highway Patrol.

James Smith of the California Highway Patrol has arrested about 200 drunk drivers this year, and was tied last year for the third most DUI arrests in the Stockton area.

He works with the Every 15 Minutes organization and helps educate students at more than 14 schools in the county.

“Our goal is that people drive safe, and drive sober,” said Smith.

The vigil ended with a roll call of names of the people lost or injured in a drunken driving accident within the community.

More than 60 names were called and candles were lit in remembrance by family members, if family was not in attendance a MADD organization member lit a candle for them.

Among the names called was Dominic Deiro, a former Delta College student who was lost in a drunken driving tragedy.

His legacy was remembered with special recognition of the “Dominic Designated Driver” program.

“The holidays are a time of remembrance and reflection, don’t quit your crusade against drunk driving,” said Utter to the families attending.