SOUTHWEST FLA. — This weekend is the 5th annual "Walk Like MADD" 5K & 10K to raise money for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. This is usually a big event at JetBlue Park, but because of COVID-19, the run is now happening virtually.
This event is extrememly important to MADD because it's their biggest fundraiser of the year, and it's leaders told Fox 4 this year's event is even more important because we're seeing more crashes during this pandemic.
"Very simply put, we have a vision of no more victims of impaired driving," Lori Burke, the Executive Director for Mother's Against Drunk Driving in Southwest Florida said.
Burke said the first step is raising awareness.
"We not only help with raising awareness with new drivers and soon-to-be new drivers, and in middle and high school, but we also we also raise awareness with DUI offenders. We raise awareness with the general public. We work a lot with law enforcement to make sure that there is enforcement," she said.
The main thing MADD does is support the victims of impaired driving -- whether it's parents who've lost a child, people who've lost their spouse, or even someone severely hurt in a crash.
"We help victims and we support them, not only at the immediate time when the crash happens, but all the way through. There are advocates that will help during the investigation. There are advocates that will help during the court process, but then all of those things and end, and we don't," Burke said.
But to keep up this support, they need funds. This weekend's 'Walk Like MADD' event is always their biggest fundraiser. Money raised goes toward materials for victims on coping with the death of a loved one or surviving a serious injury, information about the civil or criminal justice system, court costs, and education for new drivers.
Burke said raising this money is especially important this year.
"Per miles driven, there have been more crashes during COVID-19 than the same time last year," Burke said. "There are more cars per mile that are getting in crashes, and a lot of those are drug and alcohol. A lot of them a single car crashes, or crashes where they hurt or kill a passenger."
She said drug and alcohol use have gone up during these trying times.
Burke said another side effect of the pandemic is isolation is leading people who were impacted by impaired driving years ago to feel re-victimized.
"The grief process never ends. It's very, very messy, and it's not a straight line. So having an uncontrollable situation is really bringing up different parts of grief that a lot of our victims felt like they've worked through," she said.
You can take part in the virtual Walk Like MADD 5K or 10K by running or walking anywhere in your community.
To register for the event or donate, click here.