MADD Canada annual conference helps people heal

The last weekend in April, hubby’s two sisters traveled to Oakville, Ontario to attend MADD Canada’s 19th annual National Conference for Victims of Impaired Driving. Over 2 days, they gathered with 200 other people who have suffered loss or injury due to impaired driving, a bond no one ever wants to share and yet tens of thousands of Canadian do.

The participants attended sessions on a wide range of topics from living with injuries, parenting after the loss of a child, understanding the criminal justice system etc. There was also a special stream for younger victims, aged 25 and under.

One of the most amazing things was that the Conference centered around a Candlelight Vigil of Hope and Remembrance on the Saturday night. In a powerful ceremony, participants paid tribute to the loved ones they had lost or acknowledged the injuries caused by impaired driving with a photo, short reading and the lighting of a single candle for each victim.

Last year, hubby and the Dude attended the same conference and both said it was one of the most enlightening and supportive events they had ever attended.

Both years, the Saint John chapter of MADD Canada sponsored the Kennie family attending the conference so there was no cost to them to take part.

Sometimes people ask me what MADD Canada does for the victims other than advocate for change and create awareness. I can tell you that this conference has played a huge role in helping my family members heal from this devastating tragedy; it is an incredible place of help and support.

MADD Canada has volunteer-driven groups just like the Saint John chapter in more than 100 communities across the country, and they offer: grief and bereavement support; support through the criminal justice system (a representative of the MADD Canada Saint John chapter attended each and every court session with us); assistance with victim impact statements (they helped us write ours and showed us examples of good ones); help with understanding victims’ rights; a lending library; brochures, community referrals; and trained victim service volunteers.

I could never thank MADD Canada enough for all that they continue to do to support victims as well as create awareness and advocate for change.

How have non-profit organizations supported you in your time of need?

Two years ago, my beautiful mother-in-law’s life was cut tragically short by an impaired driver and my stepson’s life changed forever. In honor of Donna and Jordan Kennie, please don’t drink and drive. Impaired driving is 100% preventable. Think about it.

Support MADD Canada and follow them on Facebook, Twitter (@maddcanada), YouTube, and on the Web.

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  1. Thanks for explaining some of the other priceless assistance offered by MADD. As those touched by it know all too well, grief is possibly the most powerful and complicated emotional issue to confront. Learning of the support for the long and difficult process of healing that MADD offers families has made me want to support this organization even more.

    • I am so happy I was able to share more personally just what kind of impact and assistance MADD Canada offers people affected by this tragedy. They really are quite remarkable!

  2. Hey, Natalie! I don’t know if I ever officially “outed” myself on your site. For a long time, I was one of those impaired drivers. It’s only by the Grace of God that I didn’t cause an injury or death to myself of someone else. AA is the non-profit organization that continues to spur my recovery. It’s been four years since I had a drink–something I didn’t think I could go without for even a day. And, guess what? It’s happy on this side of that hell. Who knew I would end up being the “designated driver” when we attend parties. And, I do attend and enjoy them. I gained so much from this group. I no longer need a drink to rock a party. Club soda and lime works for me!

    Is it a bit odd that I admit this on a post dedicated to those who lost loved ones to people with my disease? Perhaps. But, if there’s one person reading this who thinks life is boring post alcohol, I bear witness to the fact that these are the happiest, most joyous, and free-to-be-me days of my life. I found a wonderful, celebratory group.

    Back in the day, I was mad at MADD, refused to read the lists of “you might be an alcoholic if” advice columns. I can’t undo my past, but I do look forward to my future with tons of glee.

    Deepest condolences (again) on your tragic loss. What would I have done had I learned the hard way that someone paid with their life because I was (1) too stubborn to admit I wasn’t fit to drive, or (2) too cheap to pay for a taxi? I don’t know.

    Charlie Sheen is wrong, btw. AA is not a boring bunch of losers and Bible thumpers.

    • Kudos to you, Gloria, for the courage it took to walk those first steps and the dignity to talk about it here. I applaud you!

      • Thanks, Patricia! Was it an easy journey? Nope. Was it worth it? You bet!

        But, don’t exclude me from happy hour invitations. I’m happy just the way I am when I’m surrounded by people. And, I’m a built in designated driver. A hot commodity on some nights. 😉

    • Gloria, I am deeply honored and touched that you shared your experience on my blog and on this post. I think it’s timely and enlightening. Your recovery and commitment to your future is an inspiration. I am proud to call you friend!
      As for driving impaired, we’ve all made those mistakes. What I have come to realize is that as humans, we are flawed, we make mistakes…but when we know better, we do better – and there is nothing more incredible than that!
      When you learned better, you did better!
      When I learned better, I did better!
      And even more…We are now the voices of those lessons learned, encouraging others, bringing awareness and being role models going forward…what is better that?!?! And who better to share this important message than people who know, learned and CHANGED!
      Amen to that…
      And HUGE hugs to you…thank you soooo much for sharing, and for your condolences!

  3. I love your passion in this regard, Natalie. What a worthy cause! I’m so glad that MADD Canada has been there for your family.

    I suppose my world has been touched most by breast cancer. M.D. Anderson is in my neck of the woods and while it may seem like just a hospital, it is one of the easiest organizations for me to get behind. I know from the personal experience of friends and family that MDA doesn’t simply treat cancer, they treat the person with cancer.

    By the way, I loved Gloria’s comment. Bless you, Gloria, for your willingess to speak up and be an inspiration to others.

  4. What a fantastic event and organization, Natalie. I’m so grateful for the healing it’s give you and your family! It’s amazing what connecting with others who “get it” can do. I had a similar experience when I attended the National Eating Disorders Awareness Association conferences some years ago. I wore my journalist garb, but was really there for me, personally. We humans need each other more than we know.

    • I couldn’t agree more August. There is something so therapeutic about connecting with others who truly get where you are coming from. It’s healing to know you are normal and that others get what you are going through and can encourage you to get through to the other end…
      We do need each other more than we know….

  5. I had no idea about this side of Madd. What a wonderful organization. And for Gloria, who outed herself on here…Congratulation. 4 years of sobriety and being the designated driver and really living is worth noting, talking about and celebrating.

    • I can imagine a lot of people don’t know the whole side of MADD. I didn’t until we were faced with our situation and we’ve all been totally blown away by what an incredible organization it is. It’s like the help the “whole” of the issue.

  6. Karen McFarland says:

    Natalie, I am so glad that you continue to write these posts! They help remind us that driving drunk is still a huge problem everywhere, not just in Canada. They can strike us all on a person level. Here in Huntington Beach, MADD is getting ready for a gigantic walk-a-thon through our beautiful beachside town as a reminder of how many lives have been lost and affected by driving while drunk.

    Take care Natalie and have a great weekend! 🙂

    • You are so right Karen, not just in Canada but around the world. I’ve been meaning to do a post on some of the resources and things going on in the US – soon! Love the gorgeous walk-a-thon coming up near Mother’s Day (how timely). That would be such an incredible event to take part in. Hubby and I actually just signed up for the local MADD Canada walk-a-thon coming up on June 2nd so watch for my post on that! 🙂

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