Clarion Man Continues Battle Against Drunk Driving Seven Years After Son’s Death
The following letter was submitted by Vernon Hilyer of Clarion:
As many of you reading this know, I lost my son Brandon in a DUI crash in Sept 2008.
Very soon after I decided to take on this killer myself and try to make a difference with one person. After realizing that just 5 months later in Feb 2009, goal was met with my first program thru the MADD organization, I set my goal a little higher. Today I am hoping to save one person every day. As Brandon’s Dad I share his true life story on how he went form the All-American kid to a college student fighting the alcohol pull, then losing his life and my dreams to a wreck while he was Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol.
I started to speak at high schools here in Clarion County in 2009 and was asked by the Forest County State Police to also share it at the 2 Forest High Schools. I quickly saw this program changing the way many students looked at the effects DUI had on their friends and families. I soon made contact with the SADD organization and my program grew into the Pittsburgh area. I have spoken at High Schools from Erie to Somerset County and from New Castle to Harrisburg. I have spoken at Youth Detention Centers, Universities in three states, Adult Probation DUI Classes in three counties, and three PA State Correctional Institutions. I have also shared my story with Scout groups, Church groups, and civic organizations.
In the spring of 2009 I remembered seeing billboards that said students in this or that school didn’t do drugs. I thought I would give that a try and it turned out to be a great program also with 13 up at one time. Today I am working to get a billboard on I-80 and I hope to see it placed soon.
Over the last 7 years my life has changed in many ways. After losing Brandon in 2008, the Clarion Owens-Illinois glass plant where I had worked for 21 years closed its doors in 2010. I was offered a move with the factory but I felt pulled to concentrate on saving lives and to stay right here in Clarion where Brandon is buried. I opened a mattress store, Rest Assured in New Bethlehem in 2001, on the hopes of not having to worry about my factory job if it ever went away. Actually when the plant closed I felt that with this small business and my hopes to make it in the prevention world, I could eventually pay my bills by sharing my passion with others to help many make the better choice by Not Drinking and Driving.
In 2013, I organized a board of directors and in Sept 2014 was granted a 501c3, charitable Non-profit status by the IRS. Because of this status, any donation made to the Brandons’ Dad organization is 100% tax deductible. At the last Board meeting it was suggested to help raise funds that we should ask the local funeral homes if we could leave memorial donation cards with them. Today we have these memorial cards in every funeral home from Brookville to Franklin. If you want to make a lasting memorial to a family for their loved one, ask for the Brandon’s Dad memorial card and we will send that family a notice immediately upon receipt of it.
Those who chose to donate can also do so at DUIawareness.com or postal mail to Brandon’s Dad, 204 W. Tar Kiln Rd, Clarion, Pa 16214.
Thanks for your support as I help others make better choices.
– Vernon Hilyer
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