Most of us dream of changing the world, but few know how to do it. Those who do quite often are thrust into that position through circumstances beyond their control. At Givio we call this their ‘why,’ that all-important moment when life forever changes and a movement is launched.
Such was the case with Candace Lightner, a California real estate agent, whose life forever changed on May 3, 1980. That was the day Candace’s 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver.
The loss of a child is the worst pain imaginable. It is an interruption of the natural order of things – children are not supposed to die before their parents. But for Candace, grieving the death of her daughter wasn’t enough. Again, and again she went over the details of her daughter’s death, struggling to understand how and why a drunk driver was allowed to run over her daughter while he was out on bail from another hit and run drunk driving crash. (Cari was walking inside a bicycle lane with her friend when she was killed.) And the more Candace dissected the problem, the more her anger rose and her why was born.
“The more I dug into the problem of drunk driving, the more I understood that as a society, drunk-driving was basically an accepted behavior,” Candace told Givio. “And with that realization, I knew what I had to do. I had to change laws, state by state. And to do that, I had to change the public perception of drunk driving.”
So how does one person change a state, a nation, the world? One step at a time. Looking back, Lightner believes her ignorance on what to do was her biggest advantage – not knowing any better, she simply charged ahead and did what seemed best rather than what might have been expected of her.
Discovering she wasn’t alone, that the world was filled with other mothers who were equally crushed – and enraged – because a drunk driver had claimed the lives of their children, Candace sought to channel their energies in the same way she was channeling her own.
She started with a small grassroots organization, christened it Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). She later changing the name to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving. She quickly discovered that her mission, her message, her why, resonated not just with other distraught mothers, but with a nation fed up with the alcohol-fueled carnage on their roads and highways.
Candace oversaw an organization that would expand to more than 400 chapters and a global footprint. MADD spearheaded more than 700 legislative bills at the state and national levels to increase drunk driving education, prevention, and criminalization efforts.
Ultimately, MADD became the most recognized legislative advocacy organization in America. Over its 40-year (and counting) history, MADD’s efforts have led to more than a 50 percent reduction in drunk driving deaths.
Or looked at another way, Candace’s ‘why’ translates to more than 370,000 people alive today who are celebrating birthdays, going to school, working, creating, starting families and otherwise living their lives.
And Candace isn’t done. Her ‘why’ has expanded to a new and equally dangerous behind-the-wheel threat: texting. In 2014, she founded We Save Lives, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating all forms of distracted driving, including texting and alcohol or drug-fueled impairment.
So, you want to change the world too? One way to start is to donate to We Save Lives. And if Candace’s story has touched your heart as it has mine, make the promise TODAY to never let your friends use their cell phone while driving, and never let your friends drive after they have had too much to drink.
– By Mary Carr, Contributing Blogger for the Givio Student Network