The Laurel Packing House was a place of solemn reflection Sunday as the Central Okanagan Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving hosted its second annual Victims’ Candlelight Vigil.

The event was created to honour and remember those who lost their lives or were injured in an alcohol or drug-related crash.

Several guests spoke, music was shared and candles were lit to remember.

MADD Canada’s national president Angeliki Souranis attended and said the event is an important one for both victims' families and friends as well as the survivors.

“Remembering them, honouring them, paying tribute to them,” said Souranis.

“It is important to hold these events to remind people that these things do happen, it can touch anybody, but it also allows those affected to pay tribute.”

Souranis joined MADD after losing her 20-year-old son in a drunk driving accident. He was the passenger in a vehicle driven by an intoxicated driver.

“I lost my son Craig seven years ago,” said Souranis. “It is very important to me. He is my inspiration, my motivation for doing this work. I understand how people feel, I have been personally touched. Especially with the holidays coming around, there will be those people with those empty places at the table – and nothing can ever replace that.”

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater also spoke at the event, a victim of drunk driving himself.

He was T-boned by a drunk driver in downtown Kelowna on March 27, 1981 – the accident nearly cost him his life and still effects him to this day.

“They took me out of the car with the Jaws of Life,” said Findlater. “I was pinned in the car, and I knew I was hurt pretty bad. I asked them as the firefighters cut me out if I would live, and they said they didn't know – I didn't either.”

Findlater spent months recovering in hospital, enduring intense surgeries and subsequent physio.

“I was about 180 pounds and dropped to 120 pounds during that time,” said Findlater. “I went through quite the experience.”

Today, the nerve damage still affects his gait, causes pain and makes wearing shoes nearly unbearable – Findlater has made sandals a regular piece of his wardrobe.

“I can get into shoes, but it is hard to get into them, they hurt. So, my best option is sandals which is why I am wearing socks and sandals on a -6 C day – they are simply more comfortable,” he said. “But, I haven't let it stop me. I have got back to a pretty normal life. I can't run very well, some days I barely walk well, but I did learn to ski again.”

Souranis said the event serves as a reminder that impaired driving continues to be a senseless and preventable crime. Impaired driving continues to be the number one criminal cause of death in Canada – on average four citizens are killed and 175 are injured each and every day in our country.

“There are so many choices, so many ways to get home, after that party, after that event – particularly this time of year,” said Souranis. “Take a taxi, take a bus, stay over. Don't drive and don't get into a car with someone who is driving impaired.”

She added it's important to remember the daily crashes across Canada are not only involving those impaired by alcohol, but also those impaired by recreational and prescription drugs.

“We see that, that is on the rise, particularly in our youth,” said Souranis. The 16-25 year old age group are getting the message that you should not drink and drive, but that message about smoking that joint and driving is not there yet.”

While she believes MADD Canada is making headway and Canadians are listening – there is still a lot of work to do to get impaired drivers off our roads.

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Source: Castanet


Last updated on: 2015-12-14 | Link to this post