MADD speakers relate experiences to students

by Chris Howe

In an effort to increase alcohol awareness, more than 400 students gathered to hear two people share their sobering stories.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving speakers Sue Kirk and Jim DeLeo talked to students Monday evening as a part of Alcohol Awareness Week.
Both Kirk and DeLeo shared harrowing stories involving drinking and driving: Kirk’s son was killed by a drunk driver in Elk River in 1992 and Deleo, while drunk, collided with another car and injured its driver.
To a rapt audience, Kirk was the first to take the podium.
“Our family was in Berlin when we heard the news. My husband’s scream was so unique,” Kirk said. “I will never forget it.”
The driver who killed her son had turned 21 that same day. At the scene of the accident, he was found to have had a blood-alcohol level just over the legal limit.
For killing her son, the man served 14 months of a 21-month prison sentence before he was released.
It was after his death that Kirk began speaking on behalf of MADD.
“If you speak thinking you’re going to change the world, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons,” Kirk said. “I know on Friday when kids see the beer, they’re going to forget all about what I said.”
Kirk said she was motivated to continue speaking to students about her son’s death after she read something on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. The quote read, “If you forget my death, then I die in vain.”
DeLeo was second to speak before the crowded Willey Hall auditorium.
“I rear-ended a car after drinking. An elderly woman ended up in the hospital,” DeLeo said.
At the time of the accident, DeLeo’s blood-alcohol level was found to be well over the legal limit.
“The hardest thing for me to do was to walk into the hospital and face the woman who had been injured,” he said.
DeLeo offered students words of advice. “Teach brothers and sisters, friends and family to think twice,” he said.
According to MADD’s Web site, about 240,000 to 360,000 of the nation’s 12 million undergraduates will die from alcohol-related causes.
The event was coordinated by Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol.
“Our goal is to raise awareness for use and misuse of alcohol and that it is not only an issue in the greek community, but a campuswide issue,” said GAMMA president Adrianne Kriewal.