Winning senior dodgeball team poses for a photo after their win.

Megan Wallace

Dodging Distracted Driving

Students play dodgeball to raise money for Ashley's dream

December 12, 2018

In 1998, Ashley Easterbrook was five days away from graduating from Troy High  when she and two of her friends were killed by a drunk driver. Now, students and staff are remembering Easterbrook and her story.

Megan Wallace

Ashley Easterbrook was a senior and died at the hands of a drunk driver three days before her high school graduation

The fourth annual school-wide dodgeball tournament will take place on Dec. 17. The event is run by the school’s personal communications classes and they chose Ashley’s Dream to be the charity for this year. Ashley’s Dream is a non-profit organization set up and run by Ashley’s father, David Easterbrook, with the goal of bringing awareness to drunk driving and to help bring a stop to drunk driving all together.

In the past, students raised money for Karen Barrientos—a student with cancer,—Theresa Martin—a biology teacher who has Mast Cell Activation Disorder—and mental health. Personal communication teacher Harriet Clark feels this charity, as well as the others, has  a connection to the school.

“Every year [each charity] has kind of had a tie to [the community], which I like,” Clark said. “Each one has a little bit of a correlation to what’s going on with our students, past or present.”

There were multiple reasons for choosing Ashley’s Dream to be this year’s charity. In the 20 years since her death, David Easterbrook has supported the school with scholarships and speeches to raise awareness of distracted driving. The Easterbrooks are far from being the only family in the community to be affected by drunk driving. Senior Lindsey Gawthrop’s grandmother, Elizabeth Gawthrop, was killed in a drunk driving accident on Oct. 25, 2014. Gawthrop and her younger brother, Matthew, were staying at their grandparents’ while her parents were out of town. Elizabeth left with Matthew for his soccer game, but they never made it there. On the way they were hit head-on by a drunk driver, instantly killing Elizabeth and injuring Matthew.

“The police came to my grandparents’ house and told my grandpa there had been an accident and he needed to go with them,” Gawthrop said. “When I found out that my grandma had died, it was one of the worst moments of my life.”  

Gawthrop and her family took the drunk driver to court where he was charged and convicted with manslaughter. He will get a maximum of 15 years and a minimum of four years in prison.

Senior Quest Bigelow watches the action during the in-school dodgeball tournament after watching a ball.

Sentences for drunk driving can differ though. Sergeant Meghan Lehman from the Troy Police Department says sentencing depends largely on the circumstances.

“First offensive most likely you won’t have jail time, although jail time is possible. It could be a hefty fine or probation. Third [offense] is a five year felony, which means you can do up to five years [in jail], but those convictions have to be within ten years of each other,” Lehman said. “But killing someone while under the influence can result in more serious punishments.”

Having dealt with the aftermath of the results of a drunk driving accident firsthand, Gawthrop thinks choosing Ashley’s Dream was a great idea.

I think that drunk driving is one of the things that kind of just gets swept under the rug, so I think it’s really good that we’re raising money and awareness for it.”

— senior Lindsey Gawthrop

According to the Troy Police records, there have been 314 people arrested for operating under the influence of liquor or drugs so far in 2018. Last year, the total was 373 arrests for both drunk driving and driving while under the influence of drugs. Lehman says that they deal with a lot of people under the influence of drugs as well.

“Most of the drunk drivers we [arrest] are not just simply drunk; they can be under the influence of drugs too, prescription or illegal, whether it’s a prescription painkiller— like an opiate—or marijuana,” Lehman said.

This is precisely why the personal communications classes are bringing awareness to not just drunk driving but all distracted driving. This could mean drugs or alcohol, but also texting and driving or doing something seemingly innocent like makeup in the mirror.

“There is a huge problem with distracted driving,” Clark said. “All kids text while driving, and we want to bring awareness to the number of deaths due to the distracted driving.”

Some students are also wondering why dodgeball was chosen as a fundraising activity.

“The thing about dodgeball is that it is so non-threatening. You don’t have to be athletic,” Clark said. “With dodgeball, you can basically run out on the court, pick up a ball and throw it at someone and if you miss, no one cares. It’s a sport that you don’t need any talent or skill; just have fun and don’t worry about anything.”

Some students who didn’t want to play dodgeball but still wanted to donate money went to the event on Dec. 17; it was $3 to get in and watch. All the proceeds went to Ashley’s Dream. Clark believes it’s really important to donate and think about what this charity stands for.

It’s just nice to give back and to remember, let’s not wait for another student to get killed by a drunk driver, that’s pointless. Instead of waiting for another tragedy, let’s try to prevent one by bringing awareness to an organization that can hopefully stop someone else from going through that pain.”

— Personal Communications teacher Harriet Clark

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