MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Every year, the number of people who are killed by drunk drivers continues to rise. It is a tragedy many families will never get past, but a local activist is using the pain of losing a loved one to make a difference here in South Florida.
Heather Geronemus has many vivid memories of her father, Dr. Robert Geronemus, a successful, well known, kidney specialist in Fort Lauderdale.
“My dad was very cerebral. He was extremely smart. You could talk to him about anything. As a child my dad would take me on his rounds on the weekends. It was such a thing that the nurses would keep coloring books for me and just seeing him work and seeing his love for his patients,” said Heather. “To see my dad connect with his patients in that way I don’t think that I realized it at the time but it is something that has left a lasting impact on me.”
Ten years ago, after speaking at a medical conference dinner in Downtown Miami, Dr. Geronemus was struck by a car, and Heather received the most dreaded news.
“A drunk driver, blew a light at a very high rate of speed struck my father, he flew 75 feet and he died in the middle of Brickell Ave,” recalled Heather. “There was a time when I was angry, despondent, totally disconnected from what was going on and Mothers Against Drunk Driving reached out to me. I wanted to be part of a world that didn’t need a call from a stranger that didn’t need another victim to talk to.”
Heather went to work.
“So, we started this 5K to raise money for MADD and it’s become more than just a one day event, it’s become a year round conversation about the dangers of drinking and driving,” she said.
As founder of Fort Lauderdale’s Walk like MADD and MADD Dash, Heather heads up the most successful fundraiser for the organization.
“Drunk driving is still the number one killer on our roadways in this country people would have you think that texting and driving is worse than drunk driving and statistics show that it’s absolutely not,” said Heather.
The money raised at the annual event stays right here in South Florida, funding early intervention in high schools, volunteers like victim’s advocates and support for local law enforcement.
“We do things like, terrible things, like death notification training for officers one of the hardest things that a police officer has to do and they don’t necessarily get a lot of training on that,” Heather said.
Heather’s role involves advocating and sharing her personal story hundreds of times, which has helped keep her father’s image alive.
“To this day almost every time that I speak somewhere, somebody will come up to me and say ‘Your father saved my mother or my father’. So, his impact even though he’s been gone for 10 years, is still in this community today.”
Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale takes place on Sunday April 28 at Huizenga Plaza. You can learn more about both events and register for them right here.