Aug 08, 2013 - EMPTY SHOES BUT A HEART FULL OF HOPE [Grace Wynen]

A Conestogo mother whose 11-year-old daughter Grace was killed in a car crash involving a drunk driver is bringing a pair of Grace's shoes to Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Although the driver wasn't found at fault for the crash that took her child's life, Julie Wynen wants to increase awareness of impaired driving. She is calling her mission the Empty Shoes Project.

"She's never going to fill those shoes again," Wynen said. "All over the country, there are empty shoes that belong to victims of drunk driving."

Wynen is asking Canadians to join in the project by sending in a pair of shoes symbolizing a loved one lost to impaired driving. She'll bring the shoes to Parliament Hill on Oct. 21, the anniversary of the crash that took Grace's life three years ago. It also comes two years into the United Nations' Decade of Action for Road Safety.

"I want one pair of shoes per person who loved them," said Wynen. "If that person loved sports, send a pair of soccer cleats or hockey skates. If they loved scuba diving, send flippers. Decorate a simple white pair of Keds. Send any kind of footwear that expresses that person and who they were."

The inspiration for The Empty Shoes Project came while Wynen was recovering from extensive injuries she suffered in the crash that took place on an October evening in Woolwich Township in 2010, including 12 spinal fractures and a skull fracture that saw her in a weeklong coma.

"As a parent, you struggle with why I woke up and she didn't. I need a reason. That's when I realized I had to do something," said Wynen.

Grace's classmates at Conestogo Public School had decorated a pair of her shoes, signing them like a yearbook. It was the sight of those empty shoes on a shelf in Grace's room that gave Wynen the idea to bring them to Ottawa.

At just 11 years old, Grace was tall and athletic, with size 11 feet that caused her to describe herself as "a big capital L", Wynen said with a smile.

"She was a bright spot to whoever met her. She kept a definition of the word 'joy' taped next to her bed as a reminder of how to live her life," said Wynen.

Wynen hopes the Empty Shoes Project will bring increased awareness to a problem she said isn't going away.

Police-reported impaired driving incidents have been rising since 2007, the most recent Statistics Canada report released in January 2013 reveals. Police reported more than 90,000 impaired driving incidents in Canada in 2011, about 3,000 more than in 2010.

"We think the conversation has been had about impaired driving and it's over, but it's not," Wynen said. "What took Grace, it wasn't cancer. This is something we have a cure for. And we're not using it."

The other driver involved in the collision that took Grace's life pleaded guilty to a single count of driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit. Police and Crown prosecutors concluded the 25-year-old man wasn't to blame for the crash, however, and he was found not guilty of impaired driving causing death.

If you'd like to donate a pair of shoes symbolizing a loved one lost to impaired driving, visit Wynen's website at www.emptyshoes.ca and leave a comment. Wynen is also asking for a photograph and short description of the loved one.

"This is a job I'd love to work myself out of," Wynen said. "That's my ultimate goal, for shoes to never be empty and waiting."

Source: The Record


 

Last updated on: 2015-10-22 | Link to this post