MADD presentation powerful

By Rhonda Cooper

In Jonas Samson Junior High School’s gymnasium full of about 500 teenagers, staff and guests, a pin drop could have been heard during the moment of silence following the Damages video presentation the afternoon of Jan. 11. The crowd quietly reflected on those who have been negatively impacted by the loss of someone due to driving impaired.

“We do a MADD (Mothers Against Drinking and Driving) presentation each year,” said Wendy Craig, JSJH councillor. “It is a new presentation every year and they get better every year. I believe this to be the best one so far.”

Craig is the advisor for the school’s Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD) and is now a member of Meadow Lake’s MADD chapter.

“I joined this year to act as a liaison between the two groups,” she said. “The Meadow Lake chapter is very active and it is they who paid to have the presentation brought to the schools.”

Damages presenter Jason Kliiger’s daily job is to take the production to schools. Originally from Airdrie, AB, he is currently based out of Calgary and although he has not personally experienced a loss from drinking and driving he has experienced the loss of people close to him, even acting as a pallbearer for his best friend at a very young age as well as the loss of a fellow classmate due to a homicide just a couple of weeks prior to high school graduation.

Brooke Ebach and other members of the JSJH SADD group sign the MADD car following the tear down and loading of the presentation's equipment. Spots on the car are getting smaller and smaller as Jason Kliiger takes his message across Canada.

“The only difference in the loss, is the how,” he said. “It is important for junior high school students to see the presentation because they may be getting into situations due to older brothers’ or sisters’ involvement or friends.

“The feedback I get from the kids is that it makes them think.”

The 45-minute presentation depicted a fictional character, Jessie, who chooses to get behind the wheel of a vehicle while impaired. His choice results in a single car crash where his younger sister is thrown from the car and killed on impact, his best friend ends up in a wheelchair and his girlfriend is fitted with a neck brace. Jessie’s aspirations to become a lawyer are destroyed and he is found guilty of the four charges laid against him, thus depriving his parents of both their children.

The fictional scenario was followed by the factual testimony of members from three different families who lost people in drinking and driving crashes. One was a high school girl, whose parents were both killed and her younger brother severely injured when hit by a drunk driver, the second was a mother who lost two sons to drunk drivers, the first on Hallowe’en night and the second when he chose to get in the car as a passenger with an impaired friend behind the wheel and the third, a mother and son who lost a daughter and older sister when she got back into a vehicle with an impaired driver. Although the crashes had taken place a handful of years ago, the pain and suffering each portrayed reached out and grabbed the audience.

“It is really touching to see the actual stories of people at the end,” said SADD president Jordain Ebach, a Grade 9 student.

Ebach believes the timing of the presentation is right for her fellow students, before they start driving.

“Someone in this room could have already gotten that phone call and had the policemen at the door,” she said. “You just don’t know.”

Ebach was one of two SADD students who participated in a RCMP Checkstop in Meadow Lake prior to Christmas.

“When you hear the statistics you think that they didn’t do that in Meadow Lake, probably somewhere in the States,” she said. “But at the Checkstop we got to see how many people were drinking and driving. The statistics became real.”

Ebach said the Checkstop experience was a good one and would do it again and also recommend it to others.

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