By Tamas Mondovics
More than 800 walkers, along with many who could not physically participate but gave financial support, took part in the Ninth Annual Walk Like MADD fundraising walk. The signature, victim-tribute and community awareness event hosted by West Central Florida Affiliate and Hillsborough Advisory Board of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD WCF) was dedicated to fallen Deputy John R. Kotfila Jr., of Valrico, whose watch ended on Saturday, March 12 when he was killed by a wrong-way drunk driver on the Crosstown Expressway.
According to Event Manager Bianca Kendall, the community has responded to this year’s walk more then ever before.
“The event has not only met, but exceeded its goal of $75,000, which was the most money it has raised since MADD was founded in 1980,” Kendall said, adding that the walk is held annually to finish the job that was started by a grieving mother 36 years ago.
Kendall emphasized that Walk Like MADD Tampa raises mission-critical funds to help save lives in Hillsborough County and provides the opportunity to educate the community about the dangers of impaired driving and underage drinking. In addition, local victims and survivors come together with law enforcement and other community partners to pay tribute to those lost to and affected by impaired driving crashes.
“All funds raised stay in our community and support MADD’s victim services, underage drinking prevention programs and our campaign to eliminate drunk driving, throughout West Central Florida,” she said. “Our goal is to bring the community together to remember victims and survivors, while we inspire change and commit to end drunk driving.”
By being dedicated to Deputy John R. Kotfila Jr., the timing of Tampa’s 2016 Walk Like MADD was also significant as it took place at a time when law enforcement, community partners and coalition partners are seeking solutions to the plague of wrong-way drunk drivers in the community.
In a recent press release, MADD reported that despite a nearly 50 percent decline in drunk driving deaths since MADD was founded, almost 10,000 people are killed by drunk drivers and another 290,000 are injured in drunk driving crashes every year.
Walk Like MADD events are taking place in more than 100 cities across the country this year. Events will take place in Pasco and Pinellas counties in the fall. Visit www.WalkLikeMADD.org/Tampa to register, donate or get more information.