Linda Ryan's son, Corey, was 11 years old when he was killed in a Sudbury car crash caused by an impaired driver on Jan. 23, 1983. Her husband, Bill, was badly injured in the same crash.
That was nearly 37 years ago, but Ryan remembers vividly praying that Corey was alive on her way to the hospital. She recalls screaming when she was told he was dead.
After Corey's death, as a way to deal with the tragedy, Ryan helped to found a group called People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (PRIDE).
PRIDE eventually became Action Sudbury, a Sudbury group that after 35 years, continues to campaign against impaired driving.
With the support of former Sudbury Mayor Peter Wong, Action Sudbury brought its anti-impaired-driving message to the province, and from there, provincial groups spreading the same message were born.
“The incidence of impaired driving fatalities has decreased, although it's not eradicated yet,” said Ryan, speaking to Sudbury.com Nov. 29 after the launch of Action Sudbury's annual Red Ribbon campaign.
“When I started PRIDE, it wasn't an issue to drink and drive. People did it, it was the norm. Today it's socially unacceptable. That's because of PRIDE and the (groups) that evolved from PRIDE. Amazing, amazing consequences.”
Action Sudbury presented Ryan with a lifetime achievement award for her role in founding the group.
Ryan, who now lives in Wasaga Beach, but called Sudbury home for 40 years, said the commendation was an “absolute surprise.”
“I thought I'd get through this whole event without tears, but as you can see, that brought an emotional response,” she said. “I wasn't expecting that.”
The Red Ribbon campaign launch featured several different speakers, including Lynn Sivret-Gauthier, whose 22-year-old son, Patrick Roussel, was also killed by an impaired driver in 2017.
Other speakers included local politicians, including Mayor Brian Bigger and Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas, representatives of the Greater Sudbury Police and OPP, and Wanda MacDonald, who spoke about the Back on Track rehabilitation program for impaired drivers.
Action Sudbury volunteer Mary Roy was presented with the Mousseau Community Recognition Award during the event for her contributions to the group. The award is named for another longtime volunteer, Rolly Mousseau.
Her husband, Ron Roy, is the chair of Action Sudbury. He said there's no doubt the group and others like it have made a difference.
“When I started, 56 per cent of fatalities were caused by impaired drivers,” he said. “Now we're down to 26 per cent. A lot of people are getting the message, but there's still a lot of people who haven't.”
This year marks Action Sudbury's 31st annual Red Ribbon campaign.
People are asked to tie a red ribbon on their vehicle to show respect for the thousands of Canadians who have lost their lives due to alcohol-related crashes, as well as to remind people to drive sober during the holidays and always.
Red ribbons can be found at Canada Post offices, the Travelodge Hotel, PartSource and Gélinas' constituency office.