Local families to host MADD event

Published 10:54 am Friday, February 20, 2015

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Two local families are hoping an upcoming event can provide a healing outlet for those affected by drunk driving.

The family of Michael Chancellor, as well as the family of Haylee Burks, are working together to host a Walk Like MADD event at Richard Wood Park in Thorsby on March 14.

The event is part of a nationwide campaign in association with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and/or impaired driving in communities.

Co-organizer Bethanie Chancellor, wife of Michael Chancellor, said the event, which will feature a 5k, vendors and motorcycle ride, came about after she participated in a similar one in Florida.

“The idea of organizing an event here in Chilton County came to be while we were participating in a Walk Like MADD event in Pensacola in September,” she said. “I had been invited to attend the event with the family of Haylee Burks and thought that something similar might receive a good response in Chilton County.”

Chancellor lost her husband when her family was involved in a wreck with a drunk driver in February 2013. She said her experience, including the severe injuries she and her children sustained in the wreck, brought her closer to the Burks family.
Haylee Burks, a student at Jemison Elementary, was killed when she was struck by a drunk driver while leaving an air show in Tuscaloosa County in April 2012.

“I became connected with the family of Haylee Burks through a coworker, Christy Haigler, who is a relative of Haylee,” she said. “After my family’s accident, Christy—who had been largely impacted by the death of her little cousin—and her family became a major support to me and my boys. Coincidentally, both Haylee and my older son, Peyton, attended Jemison Elementary School.”

Chancellor said both her and the Burks family are new to organizing large events, but said both have faith that the event will prove to be a success.

“None of us have experience with an endeavor of this magnitude but we are relying on God and this community to make this event a success,” she said.

The event’s 5k will follow the same route—starting at Richard Wood Park—as the Thorsby Swedish Fest 5k, Chancellor said, and the motorcycle ride will start in Thorsby and will travel to Wind Creek Park in Alexander City before returning to Thorsby for lunch.

Chancellor said in addition to raising awareness, the event aims to raise money for MADD.

“We are hoping to have at least 100 walkers/runners and 50 riders but will certainly welcome more,” she said. “We have set a fundraising goal with MADD of $7,750 and hope to obtain this through walker, runner, and rider registration, sponsors, a silent auction, vendor booth fees, and school participation—we are waiting on approval from the Board of Education at this time. However, in addition to the fundraising, we have set a concurrent goal to increase awareness in Chilton County with regard to responsible driving. We hope to use our stories as a way to prevent others from experiencing injury and/or the loss of a loved one. Unlike cancer or other physical sicknesses, deaths and injuries as the result of impaired driving are 100-percent preventable and there is a cure.”

Chancellor said she hoped to help those in the community better understand the devastating impact drunk driving can have.

“Moving forward from my family’s accident and the death of my husband, I hope our families’ stories influence others to be responsible and possibly spare another family the devastation we have experienced,” she said. “Prior to our accident, I didn’t give a lot of consideration to this issue; however, it is now something that demands my attention daily through our loss and the residual impact of injuries my children and I sustained. MADD’s primary goal is the prevention of impaired driving, so it was a ‘no-brainer’ to do a fundraiser for them.”

The cost to enter the motorcycle ride is $25 per bike plus $5 for an extra rider, while the cost to enter the 5k is $25 for adults, and $20 for youth aged 5-18.
For more information, visit www.walklikemadd.org/chiltoncounty.