Hundreds gathered as University of Central Florida’s Memory Mall served as host of remembrance to victims of drunken driving on Saturday evening.
The UCF Police Department partnered with MADD, which is the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization, to orchestrate MADD’s signature event at UCF, Walk Like MADD.
This marks the first time that UCF hosted the event for MADD. UCF police officer Frank Imparato, who also served as co-chairman of the event, said this was different than previous Walk Like MAAD events, due to the atmosphere.
This is MADD’s biggest fundraiser every year. It is normally held at Lake Baldwin, so the format of the event changed at UCF, Imparato said.
MADD is a nonprofit organization which fundraises and campaigns to spread awareness about drunken driving as well as working to provide services for victims and help to educate about the dangers of underage drinking.
MADD partnered with several people and organizations to host the event at UCF this year. Among those partners are the UCFPD and former professional wrestler Bill DeMott.
DeMott has served as an advocate against drunken driving since the 2015 death of his daughter Keri Anne. DeMott spoke to the crowd as the event started and thanked everyone for being there for not only his family, but for families everywhere.
“When you can gather a crowd of people together like this, that means that something important is happening,” DeMott said. “Once again, Orlando is surrounding its communities and continues to show love and support that keeps our communities strong.”
This followed the events in nearby Polk County on Thursday, when five middle school students walking home were struck by a driver who is being charged with drunken driving.
“The children trying to go home from school in Polk County matter,” DeMott said.
The event primarily served as a fundraiser for MADD and victims of drunken driving, but participants were also given the opportunity to interact with law enforcement from UCF, Titusville and other nearby communities.
This involved the chance to interact with a police helicopter, which landed directly onto Memory Mall, as well as other law enforcement vehicles.
As hundreds gathered on Memory Mall on a warm and sunny spring day, they shared memories of loved ones. They laughed, cried, smiled and shared memories. They honored victims and worked to prevent any future victims.
“We are going to walk to remember our loved ones,” said Colleen Sheehey-Church, the MADD national president. “We are going to walk and to inspire and to commit to others and to inspire others that there really is hope and to show that we are committed to ending drunken and drug driving.”
DeMott spoke about how the lives of victims of drunken driving could have made a difference.
“Everyone who has suffered loss knows their family member was going to change the world, and because they were going to change the world…we walk,” DeMott said.