Teen warns peers about drunk driving dangers
By John Joyce
Published in News on March 28, 2013 1:46 PM
Rosewood High School student Danielle Peedin tells the story of her late brother, Jonathan, who lost his life in 2008 in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, to a packed auditorium of her peers during a special assembly Wednesday.
Danielle Peedin was in seventh grade when it happened.
By 10th grade she was being asked her to speak to her peers about it, but she wasn't ready.
On Wednesday, though, with students at Rosewood High School and the rest of Wayne County heading into the season of spring break, prom and graduation, she was finally ready.
Miss Peedin, an 18-year-old senior at Rosewood High School, stepped to center of the school's gym, faced more than 400 of her classmates and teachers, and told them about the night her brother died.
"Hopefully it hits home," Ms. Peedin said.
He played football and baseball at Rosewood.
He was an honor student.
He was only 18.
A series of still photographs of Jonathan Peedin scrolled across the screen behind her as she told the students, freshmen through seniors, how a drunk driver killed her hero.
She said that she and her father had gone to see Jonathan at work before grabbing some Subway sandwiches and heading home. Jonathan was originally going to go straight home, too, but decided to meet up with friends at the last minute.
One of those friends, the one Jonathan decided to ride with, had been drinking.
She said she hadn't been home more than 20 minutes when the phone rang. She heard the panic in her father's voice instantly.
Her tears came faster now.
She said they didn't go to the hospital.
They went to the scene.
She said she'll never forget what she saw -- a burning car, people crying, red and blue lights washing over them -- and then she heard a voice telling her mother that Jonathan's body was being taken to the morgue.
But if the students assembled didn't get the message from Ms. Peedin, they heard it again from the next speaker.
Lizard Lick Towing stars and celebrity couple Ron and Amy Shirley brought a little bit of country humor and a satchel full of life lessons to the Rosewood gymnasium.
The former bodybuilder and bouncer, and one-time high school athlete, told the students how he narrowly escaped a life of self-destruction, only to find redemption in a small town restaurant thanks to a plucky waitress whom he'd been trying to win a date with for a year.
Until then, he had done drugs. He had taken risks. He had fought the world, thinking he was invincible.
Then one day, after years of bad choices and self-destructive behavior, the kid who scored above 1000 on the SATs in the eighth grade but who'd gone on to get kicked out of four high schools for fighting, got a wake-up call. His friend and weightlifting buddy and fellow "Mr. Invincible" had died from an overdose.
Ron Shirley's world collapsed along with the body of his best friend. He was only 24.
He said he told his mother he'd thrown his life away, but she said it was never too late to become what he wanted. Although he had no job and no education, a child he was not being a father to and a history of arrests, he decided to turn his life around.
Soon he met Amy, the waitress. What he didn't yet know was the poor girl he saw before him was working her way through college and would become a world-class power lifter, mom and entrepreneur. She'd also become his compass, sticking by his side and pointing him in the right direction.
At the beginning of his talk he had handed out pennies to the everyone in the crowd but he had not said why.
He closed with a story. One of his most famous friends -- he meets all kinds of stars and successful people since he's on TV now -- was a very wealthy man, he said.
He told how this multi-millionaire friend had a vase, his most prized possession aside from his daughter. But one day his daughter's hand was caught in the vase, and he could not get it free no matter who he called or what he tried. To the shock of his wife and everyone else in the house, the man smashed the centuries-old vase and freed his daughters hand, still clutched into a white-knuckled fist. She cried and he cried and he begged her to open her hand, telling her she could have avoided all of this calamity if she'd just let go of ... a penny.
She'd been clinging to something she valued so dearly, but to the rest of the world held so little value.
Shirley asked the crowd to think about what their penny represented in their own lives. What was it they had to let go of?
He told them to hold out their hands, turn over their palms and to let go. The rain of pennies cascaded down onto the metal bleachers with a crash.
Ron Shirley put his notes back in his satchel and, with a nod from the principal and coaching staff, opened up the floor to questions.