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YOUTH-Turn® Featured Stories

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Story #1 - Casey Feldman

casey-posed-s.jpgCasey Feldman was twenty-one when she was struck and killed by a distracted driver while walking in a crosswalk.  Losing a young person that was so compassionate and caring and had unlimited promise is an immense tragedy, but that tragedy can be lessened if it is used as a catalyst for positive change.  Because of Casey, a commitment has been made to prevent other senseless traffic accidents.  Law enforcement and safety officials have educated the public about a new pedestrian safety law that went into effect in New Jersey on April 1, 2010.  With the help of Casey’s friends and others, a website was created which allowed people to collectively support each other.  On the first anniversary of Casey’s death, her “angelversary", friends and family across the country celebrated her life with a day of service and remembrance which was capped by releasing scores of pink helium balloons.  Learn more about Casey Feldman.

Story #2 - Tyler Presnell

g320258000000000000a424f5b4dd559c9a12c8019a1546ac9549f7f005.jpgTyler Presnell took the brunt of a 70 mph crash into a telephone pole in a horrific accident at age 14 in Vancouver, Washington. Presnell survived and recently began to publicly talk about it. "I feel like I was kept alive to try to save people," he said. Presnell, who walks with a limp because his lower right leg is paralyzed and has survived 22 surgeries, says that surviving has turned him into a passionate preacher to teens, and he implores teens to speak up if a supposedly cool driver is driving dangerously.  Tyler also encourages teens to wear a seat belt (he was the only one of six in the car who didn't).  “I used to be angry and ask why God did this to me.  Now I ask why he’s blessed me with this.” 

Story #3 - Zach Veach

zach-veach.jpgEighth grade wasn’t very kind to Zach Veach. Though he was a race car driver, at only 80 pounds and standing just under five feet tall, you might say he was a target for bullies. Zach would be laughed at, pushed around, and taunted day in and day out. But Zach remained strong and true to who he was and used the hate as motivation to progress his racing career. Zach placed first in his race and got a new hat, which he autographed and gave to the bullies. Currently a 16-year-old driver for Andretti Autosport, Zach is a poster child for being outside of the ordinary. He uses his unique positioning to be a role model to kids his age, imparting his wisdom and sharing encouragement. Recently, he wrote a book called 99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16 in which he writes about the importance of being yourself, rising above challenges, and pushing toward your goals. Visit his website to learn more.

Story #4 - Reid Hollister

Reid.JPGReid Hollister, 17, died in a one-car accident on Interstate 84 in Plainville, Connecticut on December 2, 2006.  From 2007-2008, his father, Tim Hollister, served on a statewide task force that transformed Connecticut's teen driver law from among the most lenient to one of the strictest in the nation.  Out of that experience, in October 2009, Tim launched a blog for parents of teen drivers.  Tim's focus is helping parents make informed decisions about whether and when their teens get behind the wheel.  Earlier this year, Tim's work was recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with its national Public Service Award.  Check out the blog.

Story # 5 - Jacy Good

jacy-good-306.jpgOn May 18, 2008, after her college graduation, Jacy Good was traveling home with her parents.  After making it almost halfway, her father reached a green light at an intersection.  A tractor trailer headed through the green light in the opposite direction, but a young man, talking on his cell phone, went through his red light to make a right turn.  The tractor trailer swerved to miss the car, causing it to hit Jacy's car at full force.  After two months of surgeries, Jacy survived and was determined to tell her story  After coming out of a coma, Jacy was told that her parents had both died in the accident.  The reckless actions of the distracted driver had resulted in a severe tragedy, but there were no criminal charges brought against the distracted driver because there is no law in Pennsylvania banning the use of cell phones while driving.  Jacy contacted Representative Josh Shapiro, a legislator who had been trying for several years to get a law passed in Pennsylvania to ban the use of hand held cell phones on Pennsylvania roads.  She is now a board member on the federal organization advocating for cell-free roads, FocusDriven, turning her tragedy into actions that will help others.  Check out more about Jacy Good.

Story #6 - JourneySafe

homepage_Jill_Jon_pullout.jpgJourneySafe is an outreach program established by the family and friends of Jill Sabet and Jonathan Schulte, two teens who lost their lives May 26, 2005, in a senseless single-vehicle automobile crash.  They were passengers in a friend's overcrowded car on the way to their junior prom.  It was no freak accident, and no drugs or alcohol were involved - just an instant of distraction in which the young driver looked away from the road to find a pack of gum.  The driver then panicked and lost control of the car.  The primary goals of the JourneySafe program are to prevent similar tragedies from happening and to educate teens and parents about the unique risks faced by young drivers and their passengers.  Using the story of Jill and Jonathan and focusing on the 6,000 teens killed each year in similar automobile crashes, JourneySafe promotes and teaches a "positive peer pressure -- friends protecting friends" concept that teens can use as a tool to protect themselves and each other on and off the road.  Head to  JourneySafe to learn more.

Story #7 - Mark Bauer

pg_1_element_1_orig.jpgThere is no way to explain the pain and devastation of losing a child.  On Friday, May 28, 2004, Mark Bauer died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.  Oxycodone, acetaminophen, morphine, and amphetamines were the substances identified as causing his death, and they were not prescribed for him.  When medicines are misused or abused, they come with the same risks and dangers as using street drugs.  According to the CDC, abuse of prescription painkillers now causes more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.  Since Mark’s death, Mark's father has been spreading the word about the dangers of medicine abuse.  He has spoken out nationally on this issue, has participated in national press conferences, and was invited to the US Capitol to brief congressional aides.  His hope is that this tragedy will help others understand the dangers of abusing prescription drugs and possibly help other families avoid the devastation that he and his wife Cookie live with every day.  To learn more, visit the virtual memorial, and watch a video about The Family's Journey.

Story #8 - The Sandy Johnson Foundation

On October 5, 2002, the Ohio Highway Patrol received notification of a three-car crash in Licking County, Ohio. Responders quickly determined the consequences of the crash:  two deaths and one victim with a non-life threatening injury. Dean, the husband of Sandy Johnson who was a victim of the crash, began a review of the crash location and surrounding area. It was discovered that driver-conditioning proved to be the underlying cause of most highway crashes. That understanding led to the development of The Sandy Johnson Foundation Highway Safety Initiative titled "Danger on the Highway" and a student workbook titled "Driver-Conditioning: The Unexpected Killer". They explain in simple terms what happens to a driver’s thought processes during the occurrence of this phenomenon and how drivers can work to lessen its affect. To obtain a copy of either of these publications, visit The Sandy Johnson Foundation.

Story #9 - Sarah Jackson

bookcoversm.jpgWhen 15 year-old Sarah Jackson climbed into a car with an underage drinking driver, she didn't know that choices can impact dreams.  The driver lost control and crashed.  Sarah sustained a severe traumatic brain injury after being in a coma for 3 1/2 weeks.  She underwent four months of physical, occupational, speech, and recreational rehabilitation. Today, Sarah has become a leader in our nation's efforts to promote traffic safety, speaking to student and adult audiences across the country.  Visit her website for more information.

Story #10 - Nicole Hansen

nicole_top.jpgListen to the words of Nicole Hansen:  “I never thought I would use drugs!  But more and more pressure from my friends convinced me it wasn’t so bad, and I fell into the lifestyle.  I researched all about drugs and thought there was such a thing as ‘safe’ drug use.  In only a few short months, I hit rock bottom, but the worst was yet to come.  At age 17, I ingested GHB when I was totally off guard.  I fought for my life, was in a coma, and flat-lined twice, but even that wasn’t what made me want to stop!  You may not be so lucky!  I found it can happen to anyone!  I knew I had to remove myself from this lifestyle.  Did I think I could still remain in touch with my ‘friends’?  Yes.  Did it work?  No!  Do I often feel misjudged as a result of my past?  All the time.  Listen to my story, and hopefully it may help save the life of a friend, or even yours!”  Find out how Nicole took her personal tragedy and turned it into positive action. Read more on her website.

Story #11 - Matt Maher

maher2.jpgIn the early hours of Saturday, March 7th, 2009, Matthew Maher made the fatal decision to drive his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.  Traveling at a high rate of speed on the Atlantic City Expressway, Matthew struck the vehicle of 55 year-old Hort Kap, husband and father of six children.  Mr. Kap was pronounced dead at the scene, and Matthew was arrested and charged with aggravated manslaughter.   Matthew's poor decision to drink and drive would tragically change many lives.  He was eventually sentenced to 5 years and 5 months in prison.  Matthew has dedicated himself to honoring the memory of his victim, Mr. Hort Kap, by continuing the call of finding purpose in unspeakable tragedy.  His story is compelling in that it exemplifies the power of forgiveness and redemption.  It challenges us to ask ourselves, "Can my faith really sustain me in life-changing trials and uncertainty?"  This story is a living example of how bad things can happen to good people.  It's about choices, consequences, and how our actions can change countless lives – for the good or bad.  To learn more, check out the Matt Maher Story.

We'd love to hear about your stories and how you've used the YOUTH-Turn® resource!

Please send your YOUTH-Turn® Story by contacting us.