NEW ORLEANS - A third of people who lose their lives in car wrecks in Louisiana, is because of drunk driving. That's the personal cost. In dollars, it costs taxpayers $1.1 billion a year.
Now a personal and touching story is motivating a group to bring back Mothers Against Drunk Driving to the local area for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.
It was the day little girls dream about. Vanessa Wolff smiled because she had found her wedding dress. But the 23-year-old would never get to wear it down the aisle.
"I went to bed that evening thinking something was wrong and I didn't sleep very well that night. And I was awake at 5:30 in the morning when our doorbell rang," said Vanessa's mother Charlsey Wolff.
On October 21, 2006, a drunk driver with multiple DUI's ran a red light in Boca Raton, Florida, killing the bride-to-be and one of her bride's maids, Jessica.
"She and I talked five or six times every single day," said Charlsey about her only daughter and first born. "She was like my best friend. I know she wasn't. She had many friends and I was still her mom."
The Cabrini class of 2001 started a scholarship fund honoring their lost classmate.
Knowing that she wasn't able to have her wedding, she wasn't able to have children, I've since had two children, so that's why I've decided to join MADD. I could never imagine what Miss Charlsey went through losing her child," said Mary Olivio, Vanessa's Cabrini classmate.
"We had our 10-year reunion missing one of our classmates and that's not supposed to happen. So it's devastating," said another classmate, Ann Tucker.
A Cabrini eighth grader was the winner of this year's scholarship based on the essay she wrote.
"The day before my mom's birthday, Lori lost her life. My mom lost her best friend and the world lost a good person," Lori Launey read from her winning essay. Her mother was pregnant with her when her friend was killed by a drunk driver, so she named her baby girl after her.
The scholarship is meant to teach.
"Twenty-seven people a day is too much. That's more than hours in a day," said Launey comparing drunk driving deaths to time.
In fact, by the time a driver is arrested for being drunk, he or she, on average, has already driven drunk about 87 times without being caught.
Classmates asked Vanessa's mother Charlsey to start a local MADD chapter. There hasn't been one since Hurricane Katrina. That's when they met Linda.
"If we could help another family not to go through what my family went through, you know, it's just the pain and you know, the fact that we'll never be able to see my mom again," said Linda Bauer through tears about her mother, Ngoc Do, who was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 54 a few years ago.
She says her mother had a big heart. She sent money to Vietnamese orphanages. She went to mass every day. She was killed in New Orleans East on her way to an early morning mass.
She and Charlsey share that loss, devastation and pain.
"She was just a beautiful girl. She was my baby," said Charlsey about her daughter.
MADD's first fundraising walk is at should beat the rains tomorrow morning at LaSalle Park, 6600 Airline Drive.
Registration is at 7:30. Opening ceremonies 8am and the walk begins at 8:30. There will be t-shirts, food, refreshments, door prizes, raffles, and health screenings.
To register or to make a donation:
To volunteer or join MADD call 1-225-926-0807.