Resilient Roundtable a Resounding Success

By Robin Stimson, LMSW, and Rae Carkhuff

Resilient Round Table Virtual Invite. Image courtesy of R. Stimson and A. O’Neill.

On Thursday, January 20, 2021, MADD Mid-Atlantic Victim Services was honored to hold a  Resilient Roundtable – the first-ever event of its kind for MADD! 

This inaugural event was a roundtable-style conversation facilitated by Robin Stimson, Victims Services Manager, and Alisa O’Neill, Victims Service Specialist for MADD’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Team. 

“[We] were excited to add a fresh resource for victims and survivors,” O’Neill said of the inception of the event. “We wanted to create another opportunity for a safe space for our victims to [hear from] someone who has been in their shoes and is further along in their healing journey.” 

The three panelists, Jan Withers, Vickie Brown, and Patricia Arnold Halbleib candidly and vulnerably shared their stories about their grief journeys after the loss of their children in impaired driving crashes. 

Jan Withers. Image courtesy of Daily Local News.

Jan Withers served as the MADD National President from 2011 to 2014. She joined MADD in 1992 after her daughter, Alisa Joy, was killed by an underage impaired driver. Jan has lobbied for tougher legislation against impaired driving and, as a result, was privileged to be in the oval office when President Clinton signed the federal bill which decreased the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level to 0.08% in 2000. Jan’s passion is providing support for those impacted by this violent offense. In fact, Jan is a trained Victims Service Specialist! She has worked to create support groups and other safe spaces for victims and survivors of impaired driving. 

At the roundtable, Jan opened up about how Alisa’s death is not the only tragedy in her life that she has had to navigate. She spoke of the anger she felt in the aftermath of Alisa’s death, and how that feeling extended to other parts of her life, including her spirituality. She shared her top coping mechanism, which is to surround herself with the ones she loves most. 

Alisa Joy Withers. Image courtesy of J. Withers.
Victoria “Vickie” Brown. Image courtesy of V. Brown.

Vickie Brown has volunteered for MADD for almost 18 years. Vickie became a volunteer for MADD after her son, Darius, was killed in an impaired driving crash in 2004. Vickie, her husband, and her daughter were also hurt in the crash. In her time as a MADD volunteer, Vickie has spoken to over 2,000 impaired driving offenders and over 2,000 high school students about the impact of drunk driving. 

During the roundtable, Vickie expressed the deep sorrow she still feels today after losing Darius. She explained the difficulties of connecting with your living child/children after losing a child. Darius’ memory stays alive through his mother, Vickie explained, because she refuses to ever stop telling his story. 

The Brown Family. L to R: Vickie’s daughter, Vickie’s husband, Vickie, and Darius Brown. Image courtesy of V. Brown.
Patricia Arnold-Halbleib. Image courtesy of P. Arnold-Halbleib.

Patricia Arnold Halbleib joined MADD in 2018 after her daughter, Taylor Ann, was killed in an impaired driving crash in 2017. Patricia, her husband, and her daughter volunteer for MADD together speaking on Victim Impact Panels to impaired driving offenders. They have also helped with Tie One on for Safety launches and have appeared on media spots to discuss the impacts of impaired driving.

While speaking at the round table, Patricia shared insight into her family’s dinner table, and how it’s missing member is a gaping hole in her whole family’s heart. She reminded us that when a child dies, siblings also grieve, and they do it in their own ways. She explained that while it can be difficult, remembering Taylor and the sunshine and joy she brought to their family is healing. 

Taylor Halbleib. Image courtesy of P. Arnold-Halbleib.

Thanks to these courageous women, and the participants, the session was supremely powerful and a tremendous success. 

“The event was incredible,” remarked Stimson. “Afterward, I felt inspired, hopeful, and in awe of our panelists. Alisa and I were so proud that we were able to facilitate such an amazing, one of its kind resource for those in need.” 

At the height of the conversation, 21 participants filled the Zoom meeting room. The chat was overflowing with testimonies from participants about their own losses to impaired driving, and journeys of grief. 

All in all, “not only did the event promote resiliency for parents who have lost their children, but it also created connection,” said O’Neill. “We were super honored to have our panelists share their personal stories and insight.” 

The Resilient Roundtable event is only just beginning! The next one is tentatively slated to take place in May 2022 and will be centered around Injured Survivors.