Race in Memory of Wrentham Native Promotes Safe Driving

Grace Allen
Raffles for Scholarships, In Control Crash Prevention Vouchers Available
Issue Date: 
March, 2018
Article Body: 

After losing her daughter Elizabeth to a car accident, Sheila Giordano has used the tragedy to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. The Hummingbird Foundation, established in memory of Elizabeth Giordano, has raised close to $75,000 since her death in 2009. Those proceeds have been used for scholarships for area high school students, vouchers for classes at In Control Family Foundation and Crash Prevention, and an annual scholarship for a student at Curry College, Elizabeth’s alma mater.
On April 29, the third annual Hummingbird 5K & 10K will take place at the Crackerbarrel Fairgrounds in Wrentham. The event will start at 10 a.m., and will include entertainment, raffle prizes, food prepared by local chefs, and free t-shirts for the first 300 registrants. Runners, walkers, and skateboarders are all welcome to participate. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Teens who register to run the race, or sign up to help at the event, will have their names entered into a drawing for several $1,000 scholarships. The scholarship drawing is open to teens from all area high schools.
The Hummingbird Foundation started out as a music and arts festival because of the family’s interest in the arts, but transitioned to a run/walk event after obtaining 501c3 status. Its mission has been to promote safe driving by encouraging people to refrain from cell phone use behind the wheel, to never use alcohol or drugs if driving, and to always wear a seatbelt.
In Control Crash Prevention and Family Foundation has partnered with the Hummingbird Foundation to help raise awareness of distracted driving. In Control offers state-certified crash prevention training for drivers of all ages. Each year, Giordano gives away vouchers for the 4.5 hour course at In Control, which has locations in N. Andover and Weymouth. The organization is a 501c3 non-profit.
According to Dan Strollo, Executive Director of In Control, drivers are more likely to crash from distracted driving than from drunk driving.
“We see that not just teenagers, but drivers of all ages, are distracted by their phones, their dashboards, food, beverages, movies,” said Strollo. “We’re doing everything we possibly can do in a car, except drive it. All of these things lead to a driver not being focused.”
Strollo points out that a combination of inadequate driver training, as well as distractions, can be a deadly combination for teens. Between two-thirds and three-fourths of new drivers are likely to crash in the first two years after getting a license.
In some European countries, said Strollo, the road test to get a license is three times as long as it is in the U.S. European driving tests include highway driving and skid control.
“If we required an hour-long road test, we’d see far fewer crashes,” said Strollo, who will lead the race on April 29 in one of the In Control vehicles.
Strollo says the Giordano family, through the Hummingbird Foundation, is helping to focus attention on the hazards of distracted driving while honoring the memory of Elizabeth.
“Our hope is that we can get even a few kids to recognize the dangers, whether we influence them in our program or they’re touched by what they hear at the Hummingbird event,” said Strollo.
Giordano finds comfort in sharing her daughter’s story and hoping to influence others not to drive distracted. Her daughter, she said, was a respected young woman who was passionate about empowering other young women. Giordano believes her daughter would be proud of what the Hummingbird Foundation is trying to do.
After she found out her daughter had died, Sheila Giordano sat outside her house all night long, wondering how she was going to bury her child. When morning came, she looked up and saw her yard was filled with hummingbirds. Since Elizabeth’s death, a hummingbird has appeared to family members at other important moments in their lives, she shared.
“She is with me every day,” Giordano said. “Keeping her memory alive is important and healing to me. When I visit her grave, I can say ‘I’m doing everything I can to keep your memory alive.’”
To register for the race, help out at the event, or learn more about the Hummingbird Foundation, visit www.hummingbirdmusicandarts.org. For a voucher for a class at In Control Crash Prevention, contact Giordano through the website.
For more information about In Control Crash Prevention and Family Foundation, visit www.driveincontrol.org, or contact Dan Strollo directly at 617-826-9805.