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Monday, February 09, 2009

Young Boy’s MADD Fundraising Campaign Makes Big Impact

DWI Survivor Collects Pennies to Eliminate Drunk Driving

December 8, 2006: Justin Morgan's family had just left a barbecue restaurant when a 25-year-old drunk driver struck their car, instantly killing Justin's best friend, 8-year-old Patty Burgdoff.

The crash also left Justin with a dislocated hip, fractured head, and a fractured bone in his eye socket. The 7-year-old had double vision for six weeks. Fortunately, his mother, Shania Wilhelm, who was seven months pregnant then, went on to give birth to baby brother Jaycob, now 2. Justin's stepfather, hospitalized for broken ribs and a torn aorta, still has complications from his injuries.

To pay tribute to his best friend and support MADD North Carolina, which Justin says helped him recover from the crash, he has begun a fundraising campaign, with the goal of $37, 655.23 to be raised by March 25, 2009. At MADD's "Tie One On For Safety" kickoff in December, he pledged his dream of beating the world record by raising enough pennies to completely cover the school gym floor. Help Justin achieve his dream by visiting and making a donation. You can also add MADD as a cause on your Facebook page.

When his mother suggested he express himself, Justin wrote, "I want to do something great for me and Patty and other people hit by drunk drivers. One of the ways that helps me remember Patty is helping MADD. MADD has been there for me and other people hit by a drunk driver."

His mother says he is very quiet, and slightly bashful. "We were quite surprised when he got in front of news cameras and spoke!" Yet Justin says he's happy when the media wants to interview him. He wants the world to understand how drunk drivers killed his best friend, and 487 others.

Justin is a remarkably competent writer and artist for such a young age, and has memorialized his close friendship with Patty by drawing a portrait of the two friends playing Uno at his house. In his special written tribute to Patty and other victims of drunk driving he wonders, "Why do people have to drink and drive?"

"His mind goes all the time," Shania says of Justin. When he grows up, he wants to play soccer, and be a fireman like his father, Jerry Morgan, who has helped to raise money by participating in MADD walks. Shania never thought that her straight-A son would dream so big when she urged him to make something positive happen from his experience.

In two years, the Morgans have already raised over $5,000 by participating in "Walk Like MADD" fundraisers. They're all grateful for MADD NC's support in the two years since their crash. Shania is especially grateful for MADD’s support in the courtroom during the trial.

The driver who hit Justin's family's car pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 94-122 months for 2nd degree murder, and 10-12 months each for felony serious assault by a motor vehicle on both Justin and Michael. The same driver had been charged with DWI in the past, but the arresting officer did not appear in court and the charge was dismissed.

In 2009, MADD will continue to support stronger legislation in North Carolina and other parts of the nation to mandate alcohol ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers. At the present time, North Carolina and most states can use interlocks only as a DUI sanction at the discretion of judges. Only 14 states enforce laws mandating that a certain class of first offenders use interlocks. MADD is working to amend the law so interlocks are a mandated sanction. Support ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders in your state.

According to MADD's state progress report, the 487 drunk driving fatalities in North Carolina in 2007 are a 15.7 percent increase from 2006. Significantly, there are more than 2 million drivers with three or more drunk driving convictions still driving on our nations' roads, including over 400,000 with five or more drunk driving convictions. Ignition interlocks would seriously reduce drunk driving crashes, fatalities and injuries across the U.S.

Is your teen a safe driver? The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has developed a new Teen Injury Prevention course to emphasize driving safety for teenagers. For more information, including a Driver Education Book for Parents, visit

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