Lives Lost Can Lead to Lives Saved

“Our daughter, Amanda Brown, was in a serious crash on June 28, 2013. Amanda and her friend, Tyler Stuart, were ejected from a truck due to not being restrained. Tyler was killed instantly and Amanda died on July 5, 2013. When I found out that Utah did not have a primary seat belt law, I contacted Representative Lee Perry to see how we could make it a primary law. Rep. Perry had tried twice before to get a primary seat belt law passed. We worked with Rep. Perry, Tyler’s mom Kellie Stuart, and Clark and Debbie Hill who lost their daughter in a crash to get the bill passed. It became a primary law on May 12, 2015.  We have met many wonderful parents going through the same struggles of losing a child due to not being restrained. We hated losing Amanda, but we hope the primary seat belt law will prevent other families from going through the struggles we do every day.”

Kyle & Melissa Brown,

Parents of Amanda Brown, featured in our 2013 Teen Memoriam

“We organized a 5K race called ‘A Run to Remember’ in honor of our son, Michael Lefevre, to help others remember to wear their seat belts. The money we raised from the race continues to sponsor a scholarship for a graduating Delta High School senior in our son’s name. We don’t know what would have happened that night if Michael had been wearing a seat belt, but if just one person wears their seat belt, then all of the work and all of our efforts will be worth it.”

Larren & Norene LeFevre,

Parents of Michael LeFevre, featured in our 2010 Teen Memoriam

The day that Tyler died, it was Lee Perry who came to tell me. Lee was a family friend & the minute he found out Tyler was involved in this accident, He stayed with Tyler’s body and then insisted he be the one to notify me. He was crying as he delivered the news that Tyler had been involved in a car accident and that he had been killed.

Only a parent who has lost a child can understand the pain & devastation of that news. I wanted to die.  There are not words to describe how much I hurt.

When the investigation into the accident was closed several months later.  Lee Perry again came to me personally to deliver the news. If Tyler would have had his seat belt on, he would have been fine.

Lee Perry then explained that he had been working to pass a seat belt law in Utah for the past couple of years, but to no avail. He asked if I would help him.

I didn’t want to keep telling Tyler’s story & reliving that horrible day. However, after much thought and prayer, I decided if my efforts helped pass this law, and it saved just one family from the pain my family & I had suffered, it would be worth it.

I started by writing letters to each and every representative and legislators in Utah explaining who I was, telling them about Tyler and explaining the importance of the Tyler/Mandy Bill and how seat belts save lives. I also stated that as an ER nurse, I often saw what happens when you wear a seat belt and when you don’t.

In December, I sent all representatives and legislators a Christmas card with pictures of Tyler and our family and a plea to vote yes for the Tyler/Mandy bill.

In January, I personally went to the Utah State House of Representatives, and pulled Representatives out of session to plead my case about the importance of seat belts and to please vote yes for the Tyler/Mandy bill. I told many skeptics, that if this bill only saved one life, it was worth it. When one representative told me he didn’t think it was worth it, I asked, “Isn’t this worth one human life to you sir?” He later told me, because of our conversation, he changed his vote to yes.

Later, I testified in behalf of Utah’s primary seat belt law. Many people against the bill were there. Some emotions ran very high on both sides of the issue. But, I needed something good to come out of my beloved Tyler’s death.  I was so passionate about the importance of this seat belt law. I knew it would save lives.

Happily, thanks to hard and tireless work by Lee Perry, the Tyler/Mandy bill was passed into law.

A couple of years ago, UHP patrolman Josh Carr, my neighbor, came to tell me the Tyler/Mandy bill had saved a life. A young man who knew Tyler was driving and didn’t have his seat belt on. He looked down at his Tyler bracelet and decided to put his seat belt on, after all, it was law now. A few minutes later, his car rolled. Because he had his seat belt on, he walked away. When UHP patrolman Carr arrived on scene, he saw this young man’s Tyler bracelet and said, “Hey, Tyler was my neighbor, how do you know him?” The young man explained how he knew Tyler & why he decided to put his seat belt on.  So Josh delivered the wonderful news that I had my one saved life!

I am sure many other lives have been saved & I am so grateful to the Brown family for their help & support & especially to Lee Perry for his tireless work & support & for not giving up to get this law into place.

Kelli Stuart,

Mother of Tyler Stuart, featured in our 2013 Teen Memoriam

“The Zero Fatalities effort to educate teens about how their actions can devastate others is an extremely effective preventive measure; something our legislators often ask for when considering how spend taxpayer dollars. Fatalities that never happen spare not only the families of the victims, but we avoid the very real social costs that often follow the loss of a loved one. The books show the ripple effect our driving decisions can have on our families, friends, and communities. These teens’ memories will live on, and their stories will not be forgotten.”

Carrie Moore,

Director of The Bradley Center for Grieving Children & Families

“In order to honor my daughter, Tayla Marie’s memory we had a highway sign posted just west of where the car crash took place.  It is our hope that drivers will see the sign and remember to buckle up and slow down.  Also, a friend of Tayla’s started a Facebook page called Teens Against Speeding to help provide teenagers with reminders of the dangers of speeding.”

Korby Have,

Mother of Tayla Have, featured in our 2013 Teen Memoriam

The phone call that no parent ever wants to get came at about 8:00 PM one evening late in August while I was sitting at the kitchen table correcting student homework. It was from the police chief in a neighboring community who also happens to be my brother. He informed me that Jake had been involved in an accident. When I asked how serious of an accident his response was “I’m not sure, but the officers at the scene said he was ejected from his vehicle when it rolled”. At the conclusion of that statement I had a flashback to an activity my school kids had participated in 15 years earlier where UHP troopers conducted a demonstration were they placed mannequins in a vehicle (some buckled in some not) then spun it around simulating a vehicle rolling. Some of the students in attendance thought it quite comical when the mannequins began flying through the air landing haphazardly on the road and sidewalks bordering the parking lot. I couldn’t get that image out of my mind as we raced to the hospital and again even more vividly as we followed the Life Flight helicopter to a trauma center in Ogden.

Our vivacious, strong, handsome young athlete never regained consciousness and was removed from life support five hours after the accident. My world imploded around me as I realized my life had once again (my wife had died previously) been thrust into the raging torrent of grief. How does one go on living after trauma like this I wondered?

Months after the accident, I was approached by Jake’s former high school principal and asked if I might consider sharing Jake’s story with the student body at the high school he graduated from. Many of the students knew Jake or knew of him through his love of soccer and zest for living life to its fullest.

I cautiously accepted and found myself connected to this auditorium full of kids who knew and loved my son. As I spoke about life and choices and consequences, I looked at their faces as the tears flowed and realized I was speaking to my own children and the feelings of caution and hesitancy faded. If I could share with and touch only ONE of the thousands gathered in that auditorium then maybe something positive could come from Jake’s passing.

Since that day in the school auditorium, I’ve spoken to numerous school groups, drivers ed classes, adult seminars, and youth groups about texting and driving and wearing seat belts.

I began the “Click-it-club” in our elementary school where I teach after speaking with representatives from “Zero Fatalities” who contacted me about the program. Every year, our group of 5th graders take on the task of educating and informing students, parents, and members of our community about the risks involved in not buckling up and driving distracted. Jake was one of my 5th graders. When I see those kids in the hall wearing their “Click-it club” shirts and handing out pencils and stickers to remind others to buckle up, I see Jake and I’m motivated all over again to try and make a difference in someone’s life. One student summed it all up when he asked me, “Mr. Hawkes, would you miss me if I died?” I responded with, “I certainly would.” Then he said, “Well I’m going to wear my seat belt so you don’t have to miss me.”  Indeed my friend, indeed.

Chad Hawkes,

Father of Jacob Hawkes, featured in our 2009 Teen Memoriam

“We started the Adrian L. Maxson Scholarship for Social Justice in honor of our son, Adrian, who as killed in an auto-pedestrian crash in 2007. Since Adrian’s death, we’ve awarded nine deserving Weber State University students who had the same vision as our son to ensure all human beings have equal rights through service and democratic engagement. Our endowment fund is around $50,000 and still growing.”

Mark Maxson,

Father of Adrian Maxson, featured in our 2007 Teen Memoriam

“The Teen Memoriam book has helped my family with our healing throughout the past nine years. I remember when I received the first letter in the mail asking me to share Isaac’s story. I was so confused and hurt and didn’t know why the Utah Department of Health would be contacting me to relive such a tragic event. But then I started to think about how I didn’t want my son to be forgotten. I had to do something to share his story and to try to help other teen drivers (because it was a teen driver who wrecked into our car). The book didn’t bring back my son, but it allowed me to share his story. It also allowed me to meet other parents who were in the same pain that I was. I handed out books to all of Isaac’s family and friends; I shared his story at an assembly at his high school; I managed a safe driving campaign at my work; I received calls, texts, and visits from Isaac’s friends wanting to know more about the book and Zero Fatalities program; and it has helped keep his memory alive. I want to thank you and the entire Zero Fatalities team for the opportunity to make this happen.”

Lori Martinez,

Mother of Isaac Martinez, featured in our 2008 Teen Memoriam Book

We have been blessed to be able to speak to 144 drivers education classes at Bingham High, where Blake attended, with each presentation averaging about an hour and 40 minutes with classes generally having between 28-35 students. We talked about Blake and then helped them to see that he wasn’t much different from them, how poor choices can change lives in a moment, and how important it is to be a responsible driver. We talked about what “stupid friend” behaviors are and if they had some of those friends or behaviors and what changes they could make; parent relationships; impact on family and friends; and what happens to those who may cause death or injury to someone as a result of their poor driving choices. It was interesting to see that once we involved the students in the presentations and personalized it to them, how real it became and meant more to them.

We also attended many of the Zero Fatalities Parent Nights that preceded our presentations. We were able to speak to the students and parents at the school where Blake coached lacrosse and how the various lacrosse organizations recognize young men who emulate the same high standards Blake had for himself. We were able to participate in a New Year’s Eve news broadcast regarding not driving drunk. We have had great feedback from each of these and even a few brave students who made poor choices after they heard the presentations and now realize how they nearly lost their lives. They have vowed to not make the same mistakes.

The Festival of Trees was sweet as two different years, individuals have entered trees in remembrance of Blake. This is an event we now continue to support. The donor wall on Library Square in downtown Salt Lake is something else where Blake is honored and we have been able to be positive advocates for organ donation.

The experience of losing our son in such a tragic way will always remain with us but we have made it our purpose to help others not only to get through these trials and to understand and educate individuals in whatever way we can, but most importantly to continue their lives with joy and happiness and to have their loved ones life have meaning and remember them with fondness and love.

Tim & Susan Strebel,

Parents of Blake Strebel, featured in our 2009 Teen Memoriam

“We wanted to bring awareness to the dangers of SR73, the road where our daughter, Hailie, and her friend, Simon, were killed by a drowsy driver who was driving a lifted truck. We worked with UDOT to put up a memorial sign that could help save other’s lives. Our long term goal is to get a law against drowsy driving and update the laws already in place for lift kits. We will not give up trying to improve our safety laws.”

Jon & Jami Godfrey,

Parents of Hailie Lee-Ann Godfrey, featured in our 2016 Teen Memoriam

“A man from Springville, Utah read our family’s post in the newspaper, how we had forgiven the driver because that is what Simon would have wanted. This man showed up to the viewing 15 minutes before and asked if I was Simon’s father. He started to cry and gave me and my kids a hug. He said 31 years ago, he accidentally killed a 7-year-old little boy in his truck. He said a day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t think of this; that every time he hits a bump in a road or a pothole, he starts to shake, thinking he hit someone’s child again. He said I don’t know your family, but I wanted to be a part of the service knowing how you forgive others. He said this had brought some healing to his heart . . . and it brought comfort to ours.”

Lane Olsen,

Father of Simon Olsen, featured in the 2016 Teen Memoriam

One of Landen’s favorite quotes was, “No regrets, just love.” Remembering those words is one of the ways we honor him. We strive to live our lives without regrets. We strive to love more, love deeper and love unconditionally.  We strive to live in the moment. We give to those in need. We donate blood in his name. We sing along to his favorite songs. We laugh because of the great memories. We cry because we miss him. We think of him and remember him every day. He didn’t want to be famous, he just wanted to be remembered.

Tiffany Bigger,

Mother of Landen Hickmon, featured in our 2015 Teen Memoriam