Speaker lost son to drunk driver
By Holly Neumann
For the first 14 days of the second semester at Iola-Scandinavia, all students in the middle and high school participate in J-Term.
The new program is aimed at meeting students’ needs at each grade level.
“While some worked on test preparation, organizational skills and self-reflection, our aim for the seniors was one of personal growth as graduation is only a few short months away,” Jessica Wennesberg said. “During J-Term, all seniors received CPR/First Aid Training, filmed footage for a senior class video that will be shown at the Senior Recognition Program and had the opportunity to hear from various guest speakers who shared different life perspectives and experiences.”
According to Wennesberg, when pondering who to have speak to the seniors, Liz Thorne came to mind instantly.
Thorne is the mother of Dylan, who was killed by a drunk driver on July 19, 2012, less than two months after graduation.
“Dylan was an unforgettable student, athlete and friend to so many in our community that his loss still resonates loudly today,” Wennesberg said.
Thorne showed pictures of Dylan as she shared her story.
“Dylan loved life,” said Thorne. “One person, making one bad choice, ended his life. He had his whole life ahead of him, and it was cut short for no reason.”
Thorne asked the students if they can imagine walking down the aisle on graduation day, next to one of their classmates, thinking about having their whole lives to explore, only to find out that person was killed shortly thereafter by a drunk driver.
“I don’t want any of you to have to face this,” she said. “It not only affects your family, but also your friends. It affects the whole community.”
Some students cried as Thorne spoke.
“I was a little teary eyed,” said Lindsey Frank. “I put myself in Dylan’s shoes. With graduation drawing near, I realized that our lives can be taken away from us at any moment.”
“It was definitely emotional,” Collin McNamara said.
Several students said they know of peers who have been drinking and driving.
“If I was in that position I would take their keys and say no,” said McNamara. “I wouldn’t want them to even slightly risk it.”
“If I was put into a situation where I knew someone would drink and drive, I would stop them and remind them that other lives are in their hands,” she said. “Do they really want to be responsible not only for the life taken of one individual, but the grief for a whole family for the rest of your lives?”
Brenna Bonikowske said it really hit home when she realized Dylan was just about her age.
“It was tough to hear. You really felt the emotion and you realize how much the family has gone through,” Bonikowske said. “We need to be smarter with our lives. It really made me think. What if that was my friend? I would feel horrible.”
“It is an unbelievable, serious deal,” Frank said. “Within seconds, you can lose the ones you love. I learned to not take one moment of life for granted and to always be responsible when getting behind the wheel.”
According to Wennesberg, the hope is that hearing from the various speakers helps students do further reflection about their futures, who they want to become and what impact they want to have on their community and world.
“One small action can have a large lasting effect, positive or negative,” she said. “In terms of what Liz shared, we hope that students will think twice and make safe decisions if they are ever faced with a drinking and driving situation.”
“I am very grateful that Liz took the time to come in and talk to our class,” Frank said. “She engraved into my heart how precious life is and how easy it can be taken away by one simple mistake.”
Thorne believes it is important to continue to share her message.
“I believe it’s good to show the emotions so people can see the effects it has had on me,” she said. “I hope with showing some emotions, it gets people to put themselves in our shoes. How would they feel if it happened to them?”