Commemoration of the MADD Victim Memorial Dedication
In 1999, a dream was born to give our community a victim memorial to remember individuals who were injured or who had lost their lives in impaired driving crashes. In 2003, MADD Hawaii dedicated a victim memorial located at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park that is a tangible reminder and is situated in a beautiful location for families to visit, reflect, and remember. On Thursday, March 16, 2023, MADD Hawaii commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the MADD Victim Memorial Dedication. The event was planned as a press conference and the media, several of MADD’s partners, supporters, and the MADD Advisory Board were invited to attend. Everyone agrees that IT’S TIME TO GET MADD ALL OVER AGAIN!
Under clear blue skies, each speaker shared their thoughts on the importance of MADD Hawaii, the MADD Victim Memorial, and ways that we need to continue working together to end these preventable violent crimes. Mayor Balngiardi spoke about his commitment to support MADD in its mission to end drunk driving in Hawaii. The Hawaii Attorney General, Anne Lopez, reminded us all how important it is to educate our youth to understand the consequences of using alcohol or marijuana before the age of 21. George Abcede, a Highway Administrator, with the Department of Transportation asked, “What is an acceptable number of impaired driving deaths?” and compared the number 25 to the number of family and friends typically at a social event here in our island home. His point being zero is the only acceptable number. Major Stason Tanaka of the Honolulu Police Department spoke about HPD’s efforts to remove speeding and impaired drivers from our roadways. And Rick Collins, with the Hawaii Alcohol Policy Alliance, provided an update on the bill moving through our state legislature working to lower the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of impaired drivers from .08 to .05. The lower .05 BAC, will keep our roads safer as has been documented in Utah – the only state to lower to a .05 BAC, so far.
Three mothers who lost their children to impaired drivers also spoke at the event. Theresa Paulette spoke about her 15-year-old son, Brian who was struck by a 6x DUI arrestee in Kaneohe and died on 9.2.92. Michele Lee shared about her 32-year-old daughter, Brianne, who was struck and killed by a speeding drunk driver at the intersection of Liliha and Vineyard on 2.16.19. And Jenna Gilman spoke of her 22-year-old son, TJ who while riding his moped home from work, was run over by a DUI hit-and-run driver in Chico California on 3.6.22. All three moms spoke of their grief and the comfort the memorial and its special location along the waterfront brings them when they visit it. It has also become a gathering place for victims to meet and share their unique stories and provide support for one another. MADD Hawaii also believes the Victim Memorial has served as a powerful reminder to Hawaii’s community that serious injuries and tragic loss of life can be prevented by setting a good example, being a responsible host when serving alcohol, and supporting MADD’s vision to create a world of No More Victims.
Jenna Gilman made an announcement at the event that a donation of $10,000 to MADD Hawaii was being made to help maintain the victim memorial. Ms. Gilman said. “MADD Hawaii kept me alive and gave me the support that I could not find anywhere else. It is giving me purpose.” The Gilman family has been fundraising for MADD since TJ’s death and collectively wants to support the important work of MADD Hawaii.
The bronze memorial was designed by respected artist John Tanji Koga of Hawaii, poignantly depicting a family trio with a void where the heart would have been. At the 2003 statue dedication, Mr. Koga stated “What’s different with this piece of art is that it represents emotions for thousands of people. I didn’t expect or realize the magnitude of it…that so many people would have the same emotional reaction towards my sculpture, with drunk driving, everyone is affected.”
When MADD was founded in 1980 there were approximately 28,000 alcohol-related traffic deaths in America each year. Since then, the United States has seen unprecedented progress in reducing alcohol-related traffic fatalities and injuries. Across the country, an estimated 400,000 lives have been saved with the help of our traffic safety partners and dedicated MADD staff and volunteers.
In Hawaii, there have been 2,295 alcohol-related traffic fatalities since the state began collecting data in 1982. From 2003, when the victim memorial was dedicated, until today, our data shows 1,014 alcohol-related traffic deaths.
“Over the past 20 years the fatality numbers had been trending down, however, in the last few years Hawaii and the nation have seen the numbers rising. This new trend is alarming. Regardless of trending numbers, 1,014, the number of deaths since the victim memorial was dedicated, is a tragic number of bereaved victims who are left behind to experience the horrible traumatic grief known to those who have lost a loved one in a sudden violent criminal act,” said Theresa Paulette, MADD Hawaii Victim Services Specialist. “For 20 years victims of drunk driving and other violent crime have found solace at the memorial. It is welcoming to family, friends, and visitors and continues to serve as a tangible reminder of the senseless deaths of so many of our citizens. It is a reminder to the community that we all have the power to stop these tragedies.”
The commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the MADD Victim Memorial Dedication was a very special event. All three television stations and the Star-Advertiser attended and covered the event. You may see and watch the coverage at the following links. If you have not had a chance to visit the memorial, we encourage you to do so.
You may watch the news coverage at these links.
Hawaii News Now – https://youtu.be/7qRAacauJUo
KHON – https://youtu.be/aDN6slkyYQg
KITV – https://youtu.be/_LB4Ni2cznQ
Star-Advertiser Photo Gallery – https://www.staradvertiser.com/2023/03/16/photo-gallery/madd-hawaii-commemorates-20th-anniversary-of-memorial/
Mahalo Star-Advertiser for the use of your photographs – those with a star in the right corner.