La Grange Teens Against Drunk Driving aids victims
LA GRANGE – A La Grange-based charitable group is doing more than raising awareness to fight drunken and distracted driving.
Teens Against Drunk Driving is providing victims with replacement cars and financial assistance, in addition to educational outreach, “The genesis for our program was the amount of calls and emails we were getting to see if we had anything to help victims,” said founder and president William Piecuch, Jr. of Burr Ridge.
“The common thread in every situation is vehicle loss, which means loss of lifestyle and income,” Piecuch said. “We hope they’re not seriously hurt. If they’re in a recovery situation with an insurance company, the litigation does not allow these things to be settled overnight.”
Piecuch said he decided to reach out to like-minded donors to provide a car that runs, as well as bridge grants to help with rent or other expenses due to loss of income.
“Our hope is that when these people are back on their feet and able to settle their case, they would perhaps return the favor by giving us a donation,” he said.
Piecuch said the organization has helped 38 families from the western suburbs and other states. Another 12 cars have been donated, ready to be matched to a family in need.
He admits he’s only scratched the surface in terms of getting the word out about the group’s mission.
Piecuch is hoping to gain more exposure through a new affiliation with Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who has endorsed his program.
Lightner is now chief executive officer of We Save Lives, which works to eliminate drunken, drugged and distracted driving.
“It’s not an accident when you decide to get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking,” Piecuch said. “It’s a crime, not an accident.”
Not all of the victims the group helps were struck by drunken drivers. Piecuch features the testimony of one woman on the Teens Against Drunk Driving website whose husband went to prison for five years after killing a man in a drunken driving accident. The woman needed help getting a job to raise two children and rebuild their lives, she said in the video.
In 2003, Piecuch invested in a business opportunity, Turn to Safe Driver, a student planner distributed to driver education classes, funded through local advertising. A bad investment in 2012 forced Piecuch to restructure the operation as a charitable organization to continue its mission, he said. He lost two relatives in drunken driving accidents.
In addition to helping victims, Piecuch said he hopes to resume educational outreach by tailoring the student planner to eighth-graders with tips to avoid drunken and distracted driving.
“There are fewer distractions for eighth-graders, less sports and everything else they could get involved with, so we can reach them quicker with the message than kids in high school,” he said.
Piecuch said he also hopes to develop a management team for a new office in Oak Brook and eventually expand with offices in Los Angeles and New York.
“We’re not always writing checks, but many times, it’s just someone who needs to talk,” he said.