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Walk Like MADD teams were escorted out the Oxnard and Ventura Police Departments and Ventura County Sheriff’s office. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, August 15, 2019

By Chris Frost

chris@tricountysentry.com

Oxnard—The Collection at River Park was packed with people making a difference, Aug. 10, as the Walk Like M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) 5K was filled with hugs, remembrance, and hope.

 

The walk, hosted by the Oxnard Police Department, took on a “Back to the Eighties” slogan. Participants dressed in their favorite retro outfits took to the streets and were escorted by Motorcycle Police from Oxnard and Ventura.

 

M.A.D.D. seeks to stop drunk driving, underage drinking, and advocates stricter rules against driving drunk or on drugs. The group also supports those affected by drunk driving and underage drinking.

 

The event is the group’s primary fundraiser and a large crowd came out and took an active role to create a world where there are no more victims.

 

Program Specialist Chris Garcia led the event and said he’s been with M.A.D.D. for about a year. He took action to give back to the community.

 

“We’re expecting about 220 people,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll reach 250.”

 

Law enforcement agencies across the county offer the group much help, and he was thrilled to have the Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Ventura Police and Sheriff’s Department.

 

“They are critical to our success because they keep our roads safe,” he said. 

 

Senior Program Specialist Jackie Townsend said M.A.D.D. is a big family and she wants to help out her work family.

 

“My job is a hybrid position, and I do programs which deal with prevention and awareness,” she said. “We go out to local high schools, junior high schools, and elementary schools. We also go out to community events to promote prevention and awareness.”

 

She is also a victim advocate.

 

“We provide services for victims and survivors of impaired driving free of charge,” Townsend said. “It involves everything from emotional support, to court accompaniment, facilitating support groups, and providing them with external resources.”

 

Garcia organizes Power Parents, which gives them the tools to have a good conversation with their children about drinking and driving, along with underage drinking.

 

“We also have Power Youth, where we speak directly to the teens and positively influence them,” he said. “I also organize the walks in Ventura County and Southern California.”

 

Townsend said sometimes it’s hard to engage teens, get them involved, and do things outside what they would typically do.

 

“That’s why Chris (Garcia) mentioned our Power Kids program,” she said. “It’s so important to have a continuous conversation with your kids. Every time they go out, ask them, how are you getting home? What are the alternatives if you can’t get home with that person anymore? Empower your kids to make the right decision.”

 

Sergeant Rick Vasquez is proud to be part of the walk. For the last two years, the Oxnard Police helped out the Ventura Police with the walk.

 

“Last year, I asked if we could host this in Oxnard and it was received with open arms,” he said.  “We proud that everyone is helping out.”

 

The department will have police explorers, volunteers, and law enforcement personnel along the route, he said, and he will be leading with the sheriff’s department.

 

“We’re also going to have officers trailing, as well,” he said. “Everyone will be together and safe.”

 

He loves the walk, and the group surpassed their goal of over 200 walkers and runners.

 

“We did a good job sharing the message about the awareness of drunk driving,” he said. “We’re trying to reduce D.U.I. related incidents.”

 

Looking forward, Vasquez asks adults to make smart choices.

 

“If you are going to go out and elect to drink and have a good night, use online driving services like Uber, Lyft, or a taxi,” he said. “Designate a driver, so everyone gets home safely.”

 

The same rule holds for young adults.

 

“If you see something wrong, say something,” he said. “Young adults need to take steps to be responsible and not get involved with drugs or alcohol.”

 

One of the participants was Tank, who is a Saint Bernard and volunteer police canine.

 

“He is for community outreach and the conversation started with the police department,” Senior Officer Paul Knapp said. “We are going to be with the choose your ride car, which is the Mothers Against Drunk Driving vehicle, and it will be up at Central Park. Tank will be hanging around out there.”

 

Maria Chavez wanted to come out, have fun with friends, and do something good for a great cause.

 

“This is my first year,” she said. “A friend invited me, so I decided this was a good way to spend Saturday morning.”

 

Erika Escovedo was part of the organizing foundation and wanted to show her support for the walk.

 

“Let’s keep the streets safe,” she said. 

 

Vanessa Escovedo loves taking part in the walk and bucked the trend among her friends and decided to participate.

 

“I tell my friends to make the right choices and stay educated,” she said about her friends who make wrong choices. 

 

For more information, visit madd.org.