As you are out celebrating the holiday season, the Katie DeCubellis Memorial Foundation (KDMF) is reminding drivers to be safe. The KDMF launched their magnet program campaign and so far has teamed up with Rhode Island State Police, AAA Southern New England, Big Blue Bug Solutions, Del’s Lemonade, Munroe Dairy and Almeida Plumbing to get their message out.
The initiative will continue throughout the year, but the foundation felt the holiday season was the perfect time to remind people to drive responsibly. The foundation is named in memory of Katie DeCubellis, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1999 at the age of 13. DeCubellis and her friend’s mother, Marsha Bowman, were both killed in the accident.
The Katie DeCubellis Memorial Foundation carries on her legacy by promoting youth leadership, supporting education and generating public awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and substance abuse on a statewide level.
Her parents, Meg and John DeCubellis, turned their private pain of the passing of their daughter into a mission and formed the foundation.
“Every time Meg and I hear or read about a similar tragedy happening to someone else, we relive that day when the State Police came to our home to notify us that Katie had been killed by a drunk driver,” said John DeCubellis, who serves as executive director. “We constantly replay going to Kent County Hospital and the vivid image of seeing Katie lying on a gurney, with a tube protruding from her mouth, looking as if she had merely fallen asleep. But, of course, she never woke up. That was the very last memory of our 13-year-old daughter."
The Katie DeCubellis Memorial Foundation was set up to memorialize Katie and all that she had accomplished in her short 13 years of life.
The magnet initiative has already begun and continues to grow throughout the state. Rhode Island State Police have already kicked off the campaign, putting smaller magnets on 100 of their cruisers. Each month, one or more of the KDMF partners plan to put larger magnets on company vehicles. The Foundation works to raise awareness about drinking and distracted driving. The KDMF are looking for more companies to join the magnet campaign and hope, as word spreads, more businesses will want to participate in their latest quest to keep the roads safe.
“The State Police will partner with those who are committed to heighten the awareness and educate the public on the destruction that is caused by driving while intoxicated. We are committed to taking these operators off the road and hold then accountable for their actions,” RI State Police Colonel Steven O’Donnell said in a press release.
AAA of Southern New England, who is also on board with the magnet initiative, shares that commitment.
“AAA Southern New England is proud to be associated with the great work of the Katie DeCubellis Memorial Foundation,” said AAA’s senior vice president of public and government affairs Lloyd Albert. “If this thoughtful and timely awareness campaign helps to avert even one crash caused by a distracted or impaired driver, it will have been well worth the effort.”
Meg DeCubellis said her family is “honored” to have well-respected businesses and agencies join forces with the organization.
“The KDMF encourages the public to take an active role in helping it promote responsible and safe driving through the use of social media. It would be great if everyone who spotted one of our magnets would post a comment on the official KDMF Facebook page, and if you were not actually driving, even consider taking a photograph of the magnet and post that on the Facebook page,” John said. “That would get people thinking about, discussing and promoting safe and responsible driving, and that is what awareness is all about – you.”
In addition to the ongoing magnet campaign, the KDMF runs an annual writing contest. Katie was a talented creative writer who enjoyed writing poems for school, prompting her memorial foundation to promote creative writing assignments with a contest and cash prize to their winners. Joan Parker is the 2013 judge. Parker is the editor and inspiration to the best-selling book and television series, “Spenser for Hire,” by author Robert Parkers.
To date, The KDMF has awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships, prizes and donations. The Katie DeCubellis Memorial Foundation also offers a variety of scholarships in Katie’s name such as the Make a Difference Scholarship, which is given to two high school seniors who are active in their school’s SADD program. The No Glory-Everybody’s Gain Scholarship provides an opportunity for leaders and students with good academic records to receive financial aid. The Victims Relief Scholarship is for a Rhode Islander who was injured or debilitated by a driver who was handling a car while impaired.
According to the latest Centers for Disease Control statistics, nearly 11,000 people died due to alcohol impaired driving crashes in 2010 alone and more than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes. Those alarming numbers have spurred Rhode Island businesses and organizations to join forces with the KDMF.
For more information visit www.kdmf.org or go to the Foundation’s Facebook and Twitter pages.