MADD dedicates new memorial bench at third annual Strides for Change

Prince Albert Chief of Police Jon Bergen (foreground) speaks at the third annual Strides for Change walk on August 25 in Prince Albert. (Bailey Sutherland/Daily Herald)

Bailey Sutherland, Daily Herald

A new memorial bench for victims of impaired driving was unveiled at the Prince Albert MADD chapter’s third annual Strides for Change walk Sunday.

The 5 km run, held on the Rotary Trail, was put on to support the chapter’s efforts in educating the public about the dangers of impaired driving and to help victims. Three guest speakers opened up the ceremony and the unveiling of the new MADD memorial bench placed in the Elks Park kicked off the run.

“There is nothing more important to us than ensuring these tragedies do not happen to other people and to other families. If we can prevent one person from driving impaired, than it is all worth it”, said Trina Cockle president of the Prince Albert MADD chapter, during the opening ceremony.

Around 50 people attended the walk, including Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for SGI. He applauded the Prince Albert MADD chapter for their hard work in organizing the event, as well as all the work they do as one of the most active chapters in the province.

“We want you to keep the fight up, keep working on it, and support the MADD chapter here and the good work that they do”, he said to the audience. “This fight that we have against impaired driving, it is a crime, and it is a shame. It is such a preventable thing; it has taken so many lives and injured so many people. Just don’t drink and drive”.

Prince Albert Police Chief Jonathan Bergen delivered a heartfelt speech on his personal experience with impaired driving.

“As a police officer, I have had to knock on a door; more times than I ever want to remember, but so unforgettable, to bring the message of loss,” he said.

“Each message was completely avoidable, and a better decision would have made the difference of a lifetime. I know that our members will continue to knock on doors, and bring that horrible news of injury and death related to impaired driving”.

According to Bergen, there has been a 33 per cent decrease in impaired driving offences since 2018. Due to partnerships with the Government Saskatchewan, SGI, and the RCMP, as well as the Combined Traffic Services Saskatchewan (CTSS), the police continue to put forward effort to creating a positive change on our roadways.

First responders also face trauma after observing an impaired driving accident, many members of emergency services witness “carnage, pain, and suffering”, said Kris Olsen, Prince Albert Fire Chief. He also talks of the long lasting “ripple affect” that is caused after a tragic accident such as an impaired driving crash, “Whether it is the long lasting sorrow of a death or a loss of a loved one that never goes away, onto survivors and their continuing medical, doctors, physiotherapy, speech therapy, brain injuries, learning disabilities, and on and on and on. When I say it is a ripple, the ripple does not end, from one careless act of drinking and driving”.

Trina Cockle contributed the commissioning of the MADD memorial bench to Karen Anthony-Burns’ hard work. Anthony-Burns is a member of MADD whose son was killed by a driver in an alcohol-related crash in 2010. She delivered a teary-eyed speech, where the audience could see her passion for educating other on the affects of impaired driving.

“We decided we needed a permanent memorial to Prince Albert and area because we are over represented in fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving and alcohol-related crashes”, said Anthony-Burns.

“The bench is dedicated to everyone affect by impaired driving: the victims, their families, their friends, the responders, anyone who just witnesses one of these horrific crimes. It is our hope that those who see the bench, will pause and reflect about the tragic consequences of impaired driving and that they will influence others in their lives to make the right decision not to drive impaired”.

MADD dedicates new memorial bench at third annual Strides for Change The Strides for Change event ended with a memorial for impaired driving victims. Cockle says this is an important part of the event, as victims deserve to be remembered. “It is important for us to always keep the victim’s memories alive”.