Mark Nessia

Mark Nessia

“Can I ask you a personal question? Why MADD?”

The inquiry caught me off guard as I walked the grounds of The Park at River Walk with other members of the planning committee for the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I’ve never been asked why I volunteer for the things I volunteer for. I simply find causes I believe in and find ways to get involved. It was a simple, innocent query but it was enough to make me question whether my reason was good enough.

I try to be genuine and sincere in my actions, doing them not for the recognition but because it’s the right thing to do. But like all things, if you start to overanalyze it, doubt will creep into the picture.

The truth is I don’t drink. My beverage of choice is water. I’ll drink a Gatorade after a bike ride and every now and then I’ll indulge in a hot chocolate when the weather gets chilly. I can’t remember the last time I drank a soda – or juice for that matter. I have nothing against alcohol. It’s just not for me. I’m all for people having a good time as long as they imbibe responsibly and in moderation and use a designated driver, taxi or ride-hailing service after because there is absolutely no reason for someone to drink and drive. But they do and, most often, innocent victims pay the price.

That was the basis of my decision to join the local MADD chapter two years ago after witnessing firsthand the work the organization does in its mission end drunken and impaired driving, support victims and educate the community. I’m fortunate that I have not been personally affected by drunken driving. But many others can’t say the same.

Like Jessica Magee, the one who asked me, “Why MADD?”

Jessica started volunteering with MADD three years ago. The year before, a drunk driver crashed into a car she was riding in, taking the lives of her friends Jaclyn Kvasnicka and Pavinder Claire and leaving her with serious burns throughout her body.

Now she speaks out about her experience in hopes of ending drunken driving in Kern County. Jaclyn’s parents, John and Mary, are also members of the MADD planning committee. They donate their time in hopes that others don’t go through the same experiences they went through.

MADD Kern County’s fearless leader Carla Pearson, whose stepson was killed by a drunk driver, works tirelessly to comfort the families of victims, accompanying throughout the legal process. This is in addition to other notable members of the committee, like law enforcement personnel and attorneys.

And then there’s me just trying to do what I can to help.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to lose someone to something that is 100 percent preventable. To be the person who has to break the news to an unsuspecting family wondering why a loved one hasn’t returned home. The pressure to obtain justice on behalf of victims knowing that it won’t change the past.

But when the fifth annual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K/10K raised $67,000 a week and a half after Jessica asked me why I got involved, raising its total to $300,000 for local educational programs and victim assistance since it started locally in 2014, I realized the desire to help others is reason enough. There are so many worthy causes and dedicated organizations locally. We should find ways to get involved with the ones that matter to us.

Because giving is more than just monetary contributions. Our time and our attention are some of the greatest resources we have to offer and we should give it freely to help others in our community.

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