The 2012 Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) 24-hour spin event was a little different this year than it was in previous years.

This year marked the first time the Ecole Secondaire Beaumont Composite High School’s (ESBCHS) Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) partnered up with MADD to host the event.

This year was also different in that the event’s overall message — to not drink and drive — hit closer to home than anyone could have ever imagined.

On Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 a horrific car-crash involving an alleged drunk driver took the young lives of Brad Arsenault, 18 and Kole Novak, 18 of Beaumont, and Thaddeus Lake, 22 of Leduc.

Four months have passed since the incident and as the families and friends of the three boys try to move forward from the heartbreak that has forever changed their lives, the community of Beaumont has rallied behind them.

The MADD/SADD spin event was no exception. Ten teams were dedicated to spinning the wheels of their stationary bikes for 24-straight hours to raise awareness for the cause. Of those 10 teams, five were made-up entirely of students from ESBCHS and many of those students were riding in honour Arsenault, Novak and Lake.

Jenny Kash, community liaison and assets builder for Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), said this year’s student involvement set a record for the event.

In fact, Kash said the number of youth who participated in the event as a whole, either as a member of a team or as a guest, was unprecedented.

“I am absolutely ecstatic over the fact that we had more youth engaged in the whole weekend than ever. That is what really matters to me, because it is all about prevention and having the kids come out to show that they believe in the cause goes a long way,” said Kash.

The event started on Friday, Apr. 13 at 4 p.m. and didn’t wrap up until Saturday, Apr. 14 at 4 p.m.

In that time, MADD, SADD and FCSS hosted a variety of activities including a free community barbeque, a Mario Kart competition with fatal-vision goggles, a free yoga class and a movie marathon.

Each activity was aimed at educating the community about the impact and consequences of drunk driving.

None of these activities were more meaningful than the candlelight vigil that took place on Friday night.

In honour of Arsenault, Novak and Lake, friends and family, as well as members of the community, came together to pay tribute to their memory.

“It was very emotional. We knew this year would be different because of the loss, but at the same time I think it was very powerful. I think the message to those kids — who were maybe not so personally involved before — really hit home to them during the vigil,” said Kash.

Sheri Arsenault, mother to Brad, spoke at the vigil about how much losing her son has affected her and her family. She also spoke about her desire to prevent drunk driving in the future.

“No one should have to lose their child to someone else’s disregard.”

While the immensity of such a tragedy was palpable in the trembling voice of Sheri Arsenault and in the tears shed by community members during the vigil, it was not all sadness.

As much as the lives of Arsenault, Novak and Lake were mourned, they were also celebrated. Spin teams dedicated to the three men wore brightly decorated T-shirts and rode their stationary bikes with passion and enthusiasm.

Kash spoke of the student teams’ dedication to the cause.

“A lot of the teams had every member stay the entire 24-hours even when they weren’t on a bike. Lots of kids who were there but not part of a team still helped to cover shifts when teams needed it. It was really awesome.”

At press time, the event had raised $11,000 — and still counting. Kash said that students have been bringing in more pledges throughout the week.

“We quietly set a goal of $10,000 amongst our little planning group [for the event]. We didn’t want to talk out loud about it, but by noon on the Saturday we knew that we had beaten it,” said Kash.

This year, 25 per cent of the proceeds will go to the ESBCHS SADD program as reward for their participation in the event. That money will be used to fund several SADD initiatives throughout the following school year.

The rest of the proceeds will go to MADD and its future initiatives.

As for FCSS’ involvement, Kash said it is all about educating the youth. “FCSS’ main goal in the community is prevention and I think partnering with the high school to host an anti-drinking and driving event for high school students is the key to that prevention for teenagers.”

In support of BKT

In addition to Sheri Arsenault’s speech at the MADD/SADD candlelight vigil, Sheri along with her daughter Aimee, and Zane and Karmia Novak (Kole’s father and sister), set up a booth at the event to collect donations for the newly formed BKT Memorial Fund.

Sheri said the amount of support shown to her by the event participants was overwhelming.

“The vigil was very emotional for me. Especially when last year’s grad committee presented me with a cheque for $1,400. Historically that was always passed on to the next year’s grad committee. They presented that in Kole and Brad’s name. They said they saw no better-fitting cause than for those two boys who graduated last year,” said Sheri.

“It was also the 2012 grad class that donated that money too, because that money would have gone to them,” added Zane.

According to the Arsenault and Novak families, all the money raised through the foundation will be used toward two very distinct endeavours.

The first is to raise awareness about how the current judicial system treats instances of drunk driving and to work towards preventing tragedies of the same nature from ever happening again.

The second is to construct a memorial in the name of all three boys within the community of Beaumont. Both families feel very strongly about both endeavours.

“A lot of people don’t even realize how ineffectual our judicial system really is and now that we have been part of it, what we want to do is see what we can change about it through lobbying,” said Zane.

Currently, Johnathan Pratt is facing charges in connection to the alleged drunk driving incident that killed Arsenault, Novak and Lake. Pratt’s preliminary inquiry has been set for January 2013 — a delay that Sheri and Zane said they are not happy about.

“We want stricter sentences up front for people caught drinking and driving. We hope this will prevent people from having that first drink and to realize that there are very serious consequences to being charged with an impaired,” explained Zane.

Zane said he would like to see the province put money towards having police officers patrol local bars on weekends on a regular basis, as well as to put money towards more frequent and random checkstops.

“Right now the government isn’t willing to put tax-dollars toward these things, but they are willing to pay for long, drawn out trials.”

As for the Arsenault and Novak vision to build a memorial in names of their sons, Sheri and Zane said they want it to be something everlasting.

“This is the community that the boys loved and grew up in. They started kindergarten together and they graduated high school together. This is their community,” said Zane. “We want something that is tangible, where we can go and sit in a park bench and see a plaque with their names on it. We want others to be able to participate in it and enjoy it and hopefully to keep their memories alive, but also for younger generations who didn’t know the boys or may not remember the accident in a few years. We want it to be a preventative reminder of what drinking and driving can do.”

Sheri and Zane said they have spoken briefly with Mayor Camille Berube about the possibility of further developing the Beaumont and District Lions Skate Park or the Four Seasons Lake. Both of which were special places to Arsenault and Novak when they were growing up.

While both of these undertakings, or ‘missions’ as the families call them, are something that they can look forward too, Sheri said if it weren’t for the support of the community she’s not sure she would cope as well as she has.

“A lot of people have told me ‘you are so strong,’ and it isn’t a strong thing. When we are alone we have our moments, trust me. It is more the fact that we have this mission now and we have people walking with us and they are holding us up,” she said.

Zane agreed.

“The MADD/SADD event was great too because they allowed us to set up our table right across from theirs and we were able to raise funds for the BKT foundation. We piggybacked on their event and potentially got donations that would have been for MADD or SADD but they were so supportive and understanding.”

Source: Beaumont News

For photos, click here


Last updated on: 2012-09-17 | Link to this post