How do you give back to your community?

I was blown away when I watched MADD Canada’s latest PSA entitled “Impact — Victim Support“. Its goal is to let the public know that MADD Canada has victim support services available. MADD Canada’s mission isn’t just to stop impaired driving. It’s also to support the victims of this violent crime. The organization and its hundreds of chapters and volunteers across Canada offer support to those who have lost a loved one or who themselves have been injured in an impaired driving crash.


It’s timely that I watched it now because while you are reading this, hubby and I are embarking on a 5-hour drive to Windsor, Nova Scotia to take the weekend-long Level II training to become MADD Canada Victim Service Volunteers; otherwise known as a VSV.

VSVs are there to offer support to victims of impaired driving. To become a certified VSV, hubby and I have to undertake two levels of training. First, we had to complete an online training course that took about 10 hours to complete and was designed to increase our sensitivity and knowledge of victims’ issues. We had to receive a “gold” standing to be invited to take the next level of training, which we did – woot woot.

Level II, which we are taking this weekend, is an advanced face-to-face training course. Once we successfully complete this training, as well as meet other screening requirements (criminal background check etc), we will then officially become MADD Canada certified VSVs.

As VSVs, our role in the community will be to provide emotional and practical support either face-to-face or over the phone to victims. As requested, we will offer victims support such as information, a list of relevant resources, advice on how to obtain accident and/or collision autopsy reports, guidance on communicating with crown attorneys, investigating officers, probation officers and/or parole officers and other services as appropriate to victims. We might also be asked to assist victims with the criminal justice process and civil litigation such as court accompaniment or helping them to write a victim impact statement.

As well, we’ll be able to bring them information on many of MADD Canada’s national services such as the National Memorial Wall, traveling wall and On-line Tributes as well as the National Conference for Victims of Impaired Driving and the Annual Candlelight Vigil.

I can’t tell you how inspiring it is to think about giving back to others in the same way that we were supported as a family. It’s sort of like coming full circle. To have the opportunity to offer support to someone in a time of tragedy is both an honor and a privilege.

Keep your fingers crossed that we pass…especially now that I put it all out there.

How do you give back in your community? During times of crisis or tragedy, what kind of support have  you benefited from and/or has surprised you? If you have lost a loved or were injured by an impaired driver, what kind of support has really helped you? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

On August 1, 2009, 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, YouTube, and on the Web.

Text MADD to 45678 to donate $5 today. Report impaired drivers – CALL 911.

More blog deliciousness here:

  • World building intimidates me but Fae Rowen’s post on Writers in the Storm on with world building techniques made it sound way more doable!
  • After reading Patricia Sands interview post with Nicky Wells, I am dying to read her books!
  • FAB guest post by Tamara Ireland Stone on Janice Hardy’s blog about using writing prompts. I definitely filed this one away to use.


  1. Natalie: What an excellent job on this piece and the few previous posts I’ve seen since finding your web site/blog, very recently. I, too watched the video for the first time. So impacting!! Hopefully this will go viral!!. I will certainly be sharing this post, and others with my friends, etc.

    VSV’s are SO IMPORTANT for those of us who’ve lost a loved one to an impaired driver. The VSV support that I’m most THANKFUL for: was the support of the VSV II from the MADD Saint John chapter when we were in court for the trial for the individual who took the life of my best friend/soul sister. Especially the comfort given/shown to me, in hearing revealing testimony from the accident reconstructionist, for the first time.

    As a former provincial correctional officer, I had seen the ‘unjustice’ system from one angle, but after my loss, to know that the MADD Saint John chapter/VSV II would be there to support myself, and my friend’s family meant more, then I think any words I’ve spoken to them, could ever convey.

    Unless you’ve walked in someone’s else shoes, then you really can’t imagine. But VSV’s have been there and walked in the same shoes (sadly enough). So like yourself and Scott, who take the VSV training, the support means so much!! Have a safe trip!

    • Wow…Sue, I think I can speak for both Scott and I when I say that we definitely know exactly how you feel and we share your deep gratitude and appreciation for the work that VSVs do. They are saints that walk among us and it’s with great honor and pride that we look to pay that gift forward…Hugs!

  2. Natalie, you and Scott are going to make such a difference in your new roles as VSVs. You already have without it! Good luck!

  3. I love how much you two give of yourselves.

    I’ve grown up with family that encourages that attitude – we’ve been involved in a lot of projects. My best friends even did a long stint of volunteer work when Katrina devastated New Orleans.

    I always feel like I get just as much out of it as the organization or people I am helping. Often, more.

    I’ll be doing #GoWithout again – hopefully before the end of the year. I’d love to feature your and your cause when it’s time.

    Safe travels!!

    • I find it such an incredible gift when a family encourages that sense of community in their children, Amber. How wonderful for you. And then to have friends that are just as given…I can’t imagine. It’s like a tremendous sense of giving and love…

      I couldn’t agree more. I do find you get out often more than you ever put in. And in some of the most unexpected and surprising ways.

      Ohhhhh…LOVE your #GoWithout campaign, will definitely take part and would ADORE to have me and/or the cause featured. Fahhhbulous! You just let me know when and where. Gonna start planning my #GoWithout item…fun!!!

      You are so innovative and inspiring Amber…keep up the great work!

  4. WOW Natalie… and Scott are amazing people. I love how you two took this tragedy and turned it around into something positive, I honestly don’t think that I could have done what you guys are doing. God has a reason for everything he does whether we like them or not. In this case he may have taken a life of a wonderful women but just think of the lives you guys are helping save. There is no doubt in my mind that Mama K is smiling down at you two from heaven:o)

    • Awwww thank you so much Jenn. I feel her presence and her love every single day and I agree, she’s smiling down on us for sure. I really appreciate your kind and supportive words…MAUH!

  5. What a terrifying video. You know, the whole time I was watching it I was thinking, that poor officer. But then I read the rest of your post and realized that’s what you and Scott will be doing ~ not necessarily being the ones to tell the family members, but you’ll be their soft place to fall when they become overwhelmed. I’m so full of emotion right now just thinking about what an amazing thing it is the two of you are doing. Gratitude, mostly. I’ve never met anyone who turned loss into so much love.

    I was proud to know you before, but now that feeling is tenfold as huge. Even more. I love, love, love you two.

    • Awwwww…we LOVE you too Tameri!!! You are a true blessing and gift in our lives…

      Yes, we will try to be that safe place to fall, land, vent, and turn to. A supportive hand of someone who has been there but also recognizes every single experience is unique….I only hope that I can be to someone the support that others were to us…


  6. Thank you for sharing the video. It so saddens me that, unlike medical, genetic illness, death and injury from drunk driving is totally preventable. When more people become outraged by these mounting losses, and driving drunk becomes so socially unacceptable, we’ll have made a real difference. PA’s like this one help.
    And thanks for the blog love, Natalie. Everybody cringes at the idea of world building, but every writer does it when she builds her story–with the setting, the plot and, most importantly, the characters and what made them the people they are.
    -Fae Rowen

    • Here’s hoping the ending of impaired driving comes sooner rather than later Fae…amen to that!
      I loved your post!! You absolutely made world building seem so…easy and NOT scary! Thank you for taking the time to share…

  7. Be safe! So awesome you’re doing this! Good luck with the training!

  8. Natalie – There’s not a doubt in my mind that you and hubby will pass with flying colors. The best of the best are those that have walked in the shoes of the victims they are helping and unfortunately you’ve been there and done that. We both know giving back comes from the heart and soul and requires thousands of hours. I salute you for your dedication.

    • Thank you so much Sheri!!!! And yes, I am proud to report we did PASS!! I am so nervous to embark on this part of our journey but at the same time, I know how important and valued the service is…it is from the heart and soul, for sure!! Here’s to you as well and all you do to give back!

  9. Raani York says:

    That was great to read! I hope you and your husband will have a successful and fun training. I’m sure you’re going to be great within your new role!
    I prefer keeping my “giving back” small and hidden… I won’t be found in public selling hand made stuff for charity…
    I sacrifice my time to one or two people, usually elderly people who might need this or that hand to keep their apartment and living quality.
    In silence I do support them as good as I can… to me this is what I have to give…

    • Oh Raani…that sounds WONDERFUL!! And you know, that is what it’s all about. For each of us to find that little way to give that means the most to us…no matter how big or small…or how private or public…to just share and do what you can to make a difference in the world. And what you are doing sounds so beautiful and tender…brought tears to my eyes! Thank you for sharing…

  10. Safe journey, Natalie and Scott. There’s no doubt you will both excel at the course and become incredibly effective as VSV’s. It won’t be an easy role but you have been there and your experience is a priceless gift you will be able to offer other victims. Your commitment to giving back in memory of Donna and to help Jordan is touching and so very important. You set the bar very high for the rest of us … and that’s a good thing!

    • Sniff…thank you Patricia. Your words mean so much to me…truly! Here’s to all of us and our collective strides (no matter how big or small) towards making our planet a better place…HUGS!

  11. p.s. Thanks for the shout out! Nicky’s novels are great fun!

  12. Wow. Congrats on your soon-coming certification! You and your hubby are absolute rock stars. 🙂

    This isn’t exactly a tragedy, but the helping hand instance that comes to mind is the $20 bill a friend placed on my car windshield during an extremely difficult time—financially and otherwise. The little things are often huge in times of distress.

    • Oh August. That is such a beautiful story. You know…I was just commenting to Raani below that it doesn’t always have to be the biggest or most public display of giving to make a real difference in someone’s life. Sometimes just the smallest of gestures can go a long way in lifting someone’s spirits and giving them hope. Case in point. LOVE this story because you are so right…the little things are often HUGE in times of distress and it just goes to show us all, that whatever we have to give (be it time, money, etc), it will be valued and appreciated.

  13. Natalie, I was pulled into this feature by a Google Alert and I read your post with interest and sadness. I am very sorry for your loss but am in awe of your spirit and action. It’s a fantastic scheme that you are supporting and I am sure you will make a tremendous difference to other people’s lives. I can’t begin to understand what victims of impaired drivers go through but I am certain that having someone to talk to, someone who understands like you do, will help in more ways than you imagine. Awesome.

    On a more cheerful note, I am so pleased that my interview on Patricia’s blog captured your interest. Thank you for the big shoutout on your blog and I hope you enjoy reading Sophie’s Turn if and when you get round to it. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your amazing comment, encouragement and support Nicky. Means a lot to me….such a huge confidence builder. I only hope that hubby and I can give back and pay it forward as others have done for us…here’s to that!

      I can’t wait to read Sophie’s Turn…gotta hit Amazon and get it ordered. Your blog post was fantastic! 🙂

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