FRANKLIN – Up to 70 students and their friends from Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School sacrificed an early Sunday morning to participate in the HERO Walk to promote awareness about the importance of having a designated driver.
The three-mile walk, which took place along the school’s track and consisted of 12 and a half laps, was held in honor of Navy Ensign John R. Elliott, a resident of New Jersey who was killed in 2000 by a drunk driver just two months after graduating from the Naval Academy.
The walk is nationally recognized and is a recipient of the Public Service Award given by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Anne Marie Guanci, Tri-County’s Students Against Destructive Decisions advisor, smiled upon her students as they walked lap after lap around the track.
“It’s great that the kids really want to do something,” Guanci said. “When the SADD kids get an idea in their head, they’re very motivated. ‘Go big or go home,’ that’s their motto.”
Walking with Guanci was Kristen Nagas, an engineering teacher at the school, for whom drunk driving hit close to home.
“It’s something I forget about, but this kind of event brings it back in my memory,” Nagas said, referring to the accident that occurred when she was 4 years old: a drunk driver hit the car she was riding in with her mother and uncle on the way home from a family picnic. Nagas, who was sitting on her mother’s lap, was thrown through the windshield and suffered a fractured skull.
“It’s something that nobody thinks will happen to them,” Nagas said. “It’s so important to see the young people take it seriously.”
Nagas also hoped that the students participating in the walk were thinking of the importance of a designated driver, and as it turned out, they were.
For Bella Leonardi, 16, of Plainville, the example has already been set.
“If my mom goes out with her friends, she’s always the designated driver,” Leonardi said. “This was a good cause and I’m glad I did it.”
Leonardi’s friend, Kaylee Dunn, 15, of North Attleboro, also understood the importance of having a designated driver by the time she is old enough to drive.
“I think it’s making me feel better that more people know about this cause,” Dunn said. “It would make me feel safer if more people knew how important it is to have a designated driver.”
In the midst of the students was the school’s principal, Jean Mallon, who was as proud of the teens’ participation as Guanci was.
“I think it’s amazing,” Mallon said. “A number of students look at this and see this as a serious problem, and they want to do something constructive about it.”
The HERO walk was first held by Tri-County at Gillette Stadium two years ago and raised $1,700. The funds from Sunday’s walk are expected to reach the same amount. For more information on campaigning or donating, visit herocampaign.org.
To view the complete event photo gallery, click here.
Source: The Sun Chronicle | Author: Judee Cosentino