‘A very difficult time’: MADD groups in Edmonton hold an annual candlelight vigil ahead of the tough holiday season

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Families who have lost loved ones to disabled drivers held an event on Sunday ahead of what can be a particularly challenging time of year for many.

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Dozens of people gathered at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 10037 84 Ave., for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Edmonton and Area and MADD Parkland Chapter’s annual candlelight vigil.

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Mourners lit candles and shared the stories of their departed loved ones killed by disabled drivers.

“Obviously it’s a very difficult time for victims during the holiday season, so we want to make sure we get people together before then,” said Gillian Phillips, MADD’s victim support manager for Western Canada.

“One of the ladies I know that was their only child and she was killed 15 days before Christmas so for them they avoid it at all costs. We’re just trying to help people get that support, to understand that they’re not alone and that they’re with people who do understand and understand.

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Phillips has been with MADD for 21 years, after a disabled driver killed her 16-year-old daughter on October 29, 2000.

She said the holiday season is a time when both the prevalence and awareness of drunk driving is on the rise, but stressed that it is a year-round problem that remains stubbornly common.

“We’re not doing well,” she said. “There are accidents that happen at seven in the morning and one in the afternoon. We have so many incidents of it happening. I think it just happens more often during the Christmas season.

2022 has been a particularly difficult year, Phillips said, noting that in the past four months in Saskatchewan and Alberta there were two separate traffic accidents that left children orphaned.

Sunday’s event also included a guard of honor from the RCMP and pipers.

Lynda McCullough, left, and her sister Jean Poole light a candle for Lynda’s daughter, Jennifer Leigh McCullough, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2003. Mothers Against Drunk Driving held an annual candlelight vigil in Edmonton, Alberta, on December 4, 2022. Jason Franson for Postmedia Photo by JASON FRANSON /00098864A

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