5k dash and walk support MADD


Rhiannon Stroberg

Kaitlynn Tackett, 2, is seen petting Macho, a miniature horse, with Officer Sonja Peery at a Life Interrupted booth set up at the 2nd annual Walk Like MADD event.

AK Pachla, Reporter

The Park at River Walk hosted the second annual Walk Like MADD/MADD Dash 5K on Sept. 19. Community partners, law enforcement, victims and advocates gathered to share stories, raise awareness, and take action to end drinking and driving in Kern County.

The California Office of Traffic Safety, in the most recent numbers available, counted nearly 650 alcohol involved fatality or injury crashes in Kern County for 2012, including 262 pedestrians.

“We have an epidemic here,” says MADD victim advocate and family survivor Carla Pearson, standing next to a windowed trailer holding a wrecked car, a mechanical casualty of drinking and driving. “We have a problem with people who make a choice to drink and drive.” Pearson lost her son Adam to a repeat offender drunk driver in 2002.

The event isn’t just for victims and families. Walk manager Tina Harland hasn’t been personally affected by drunk driving and says it “wasn’t really on my radar” until coming to work for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

After having seen firsthand the devastation contact with a drunk driver can inflict on a family, Harland says she is motivated to educate others on the dangers of driving under the influence in order to prevent tragedy, both for her family and the other families of Kern County.

It is the mission of Kern County MADD to get that number as close to zero as possible. “It’s not about drinking,” says Harland. “It’s about making a responsible choice.”

It is a choice with far reaching consequences. At the park, two empty chairs sit beside the family of Bakersfield College nursing student Christina Valadez. On January 17th, 2014, Vanessa Carillo, Valadez’ cousin-in-law, and her unborn daughter Khloe were struck and killed by a repeat offender drunk driver.

“It’s a split second that could change your life forever,” explains Valadez. Saying the consequences of drunk driving extend from prosecution to personal injury and worse.

“Every day we’re still grieving,” Valadez tells the Rip. Her family has attended Walk Like MADD/MADD Dash 5K at River Walk for the last two years, helping to raise community awareness and put the faces and names of people to the problem.

Kern County MADD welcomes community sponsorship, as well as offering volunteer opportunities for residents who want to make a difference in the drunk driving statistics in Bakersfield. Anyone interested in contacting MADD is encouraged to call the Kern County Mothers Against Drunk Driving at 916-481-6233. Information is also available at www.madd.org.