Mall tree memorializes victims of auto fatalities

RUTLAND - When it comes to automobile accidents involving drivers on the influence of either alcohol and drugs, Vermont does not have a record to be proud of-December was Drunk or Drugged Driving Prevention Month and one of the activities that happened before Christmas was the lighting of the Southern Vermont Red Ribbon Tree placed in the Diamond Run Mall. The tree is a way of remembering victims killed or injured in crashes involving drivers under the influence.

This year's lighting event was hosted by the Stafford Technical Center SADD Chapter, which includes the students in the Public Safety Services and Health Careers Academy and Jackie Fitz-Gerald, a student in the Architecture and Engineering Design Program.

SADD members from the Fair Haven Union High School and Proctor High School Chapters and their advisors represented their schools, as did contingents from Otter Valley Union High School and their school resource officer, Anne Bandy, and Mill River Union High School and their school resource deputy Jen Czachor, and teacher Suzanne Striglia. Castleton State College was represented by two members of their SADD Chapter. Lt. David Notte, Sgt. Dave Lertola, and Troopers James Wilborn and Stephanie Shaw represented the Vermont State Police. The Rutland County Sheriff's Department sent deputies Lawrence Ynesta and David Fox.

The emergency medical services community had members of the Wallingford and Middletown Springs Squads in attendance. Community anti-drug coalitions, the Rutland Area Prevention Coalition, and the Black River Area Coalition, both had staff members, Tina Coltey and Brigid Sullivan, who spoke to the assembled group of their agencies' efforts.

Three staff members from Rutland County Court Diversion and Community Justice Center were also in attendance. Susan Lebel from the Rutland Regional Medical Center told of the hospital's efforts and her personal experiences as an emergency room nurse. Lastly, Lawrence McLiverty, the Vermont SADD Coordinator spoke, and others shared their stories of how they were affected by a crash.

This event was planned and executed by members of the Stafford Technical Center SADD Chapter; student Kyle Lenher, a junior from Proctor High School, was the overall Project Director. He was assisted by Sarah Grimes, a senior from Otter Valley Union High School, who supervised her fellow Health Careers students. The tree will remain at the Diamond Run Mall into the New Year so that others can remember those who have been lost to these crashes.

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