Giving Back Spotlight: Pamela Ondash and Natalie Parkinson of MADD, Part One
Our last “Giving Back” spotlights feature two women we were honored to meet last year when they served as judges for our Words to be Heard college scholarship contest. The goal of the contest is to discourage dangerous driving behaviors, especially distracted and impaired driving. As victim impact speakers for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Pamela Ondash and Natalie Parkinson have made that goal their life’s mission.
We’ll let them tell their stories in their own words. First up is Pam Ondash.
Pam & David’s Story
“On July 17, 2011, David Cook’s life was taken by an impaired driver. David was my son. He was also a loving father, husband, brother, and friend to many. David was killed by a man who chose to drive while intoxicated—his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit five hours after the crash. He was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison and two years of probation after his release.
The offender was released on the 5th anniversary of David’s death, yet our family has been given a life sentence of living without David’s laughter, friendship, and love.
His children are going through life without the parent who loved them with all his heart, taught them how to love and respect others, and was there for them through every step of their young lives until he was tragically taken from them.
It is a choice to drive while impaired, a decision made without thinking about the consequences. That decision can impact a family’s life forever. Five years ago, I joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the hopes of reaching out to those who chose to drive under the influence.
The first time I spoke to offenders at a Victim Impact Panel all I could do was read the Victim Impact Statement I had written for the sentencing of my son’s offender. It is very difficult to pour your heart out to perfect strangers hoping that they understand your message and don’t just feel pity for a grieving mother. As time passed, it was easier for me to speak from my heart and tell these offenders the true impact on our lives: The emptiness we felt without David and the effects of his loss on his children and other family members.
I am a volunteer for MADD, I speak at Victim Impact Panels, and I am a coordinator for the Walk Like MADD. Our message is that driving under the influence is 100% preventable. I am a member of a group of incredible people who have endured such pain—a pain not understood unless you have experienced it.
I will continue to speak in honor of my son, David. If I make a difference in one person’s life, if I can prevent another family from experiencing the pain we have endured, then I feel as if I am doing something in my son’s memory.” - Pam Ondash
We are so thankful to Pam for sharing David’s story. The work that she does on his behalf has saved and will continue to save lives. People like her inspire us, and we hope that you found her passion as moving as we did.
How You Can Get Involved
MADD can always use more help. There are ways to give – from donating money to donating a vehicle for fundraising purposes. You can participate in their walks, volunteer, or sign up to stay informed on their latest initiatives and programs.