By Destiny Meilleur
On September 25th at 1pm MADD Canada will be unveiling a monument in Spruce Grove to honour those lost in tragic drunk driving incidents.
One of my dearest friends’ names will be on the monument.
On September 17 2020, my friend Alexandra (Alex) Lillia Ollington and her two friends were driving home when a drunk driver crashed into them head-on. The drunk driver was driving down the wrong side of the road at night with only his day-time running lights on. There were three people in the car. Ollington and one of her friends lost their lives with one surviving with life-altering injuries.
Ollington was only 17 years old. She had just graduated from high school and was in her first year at the University of Alberta. She was an active volunteer and part of her high school so to honour her they created a memorial scholarship in memory of her.
Ollington was the friend people would call when they had been drinking and needed a ride home, yet she was the victim of the thing she had been trying to avoid.
Ollington’s mom, Maria Popiwchak hopes this monument can serve as a reminder to think of the consequences before drinking and driving.
“I’m hoping that when people see or drive by the monument, that it makes them stop and think that if they’re ever in a situation where they’re contemplating driving after having maybe one too many that they […] find another way home. Ultimately, my hope [is] that at some point we will no longer have victims of drunk driving,” said Maria Popiwchak.
The consequences of drunk driving are well known. Yet every year there are many drinking and driving crimes committed.
“Drinking and driving is still a fairly […] acceptable offense to commit. We really don’t think of it as being as serious as it [is]. We think that I only have a couple blocks to drive home, everything is going to be okay. Until it isn’t,” said Popiwchak.
The timelines of how long this tragedy affects people is endless. Friends, family and community members will be mourning the losses forever. “Losing a loved one, by something that is totally preventable. It’s like having your heart ripped out of your body. I know that we all have losses, but there’s nothing like the loss of losing your child,” said Popiwchak.
On the weekend, September 17-19, the Heritage Hills Dog Park in Sherwood Park is having a fundraiser in honour of Ollington. They’re asking for dog or cat food to give to the Strathcona County Food Bank. Monetary donations are also being accepted on MADD’s website.
This monument is important so the community doesn’t forget those who have been lost and so there can be a regular reminder of what the consequences of drunk driving are. Remember when going out with your friends please find a safe, sober way home.