The Mountain Times

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The Southern Vermont Red Ribbon Tree memorializes victims of drunk or drugged driving

Photos submitted
group photo of participants at the dedication ceremony

This year Vermont has had a significant increase in fatalities in drunken driving crashes. December is "Drunk or Drugged Driving Prevention" Month and one of the activities that happens during this month is the Southern Vermont Red Ribbon Tree, which is placed in the Diamond Run Mall in Rutland. The tree is a way of remembering the victims, those who have been killed or injured, in crashes involving drivers who were under the influence or alcohol or drugs.

The Red Ribbon Tree brings together all the stakeholders in the fight against this serious problem- police, fire, youth, victims, emergency medical services, hospitals, community anti-drug coalitions, court and court alternative programs, and legislators and other political leaders. The tree is dedicated at a ceremony and people attending the ceremony have an opportunity to remember friends or loved ones (or themselves) who were victimized by placing a red ribbon with the person's name on it on the tree. Each organization can demonstrate their dedication to the cause by placing an ornament with the organization's name on it on the tree.
The event was hosted by the Stafford Technical Center SADD Chapter, along with Rutland County START (Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team), a community-law enforcement collaboration dedicated to eradicating underage drinking. The Stafford Health Careers Academy also assisted in the dedication ceremony. There were over 120 people at the ceremony, which was made more poignant by the recent loss of Rutland High School senior Carly Ferro, who was allegedly killed by a driver who was under the influence of Dust-Off.

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Photos submitted
Master of Ceremonies Brandi Heath, a Stafford SADD member from Brandon, addresses the group.

SADD members from Fair Haven Union High School and Proctor High School Chapters and their advisors represented their schools, as did contingents from Otter Valley Union High School and their school resource officer, Anne Bandy. Rutland High School's Key Club, Club Giving, Senior Class and Green Mountain Teen Institute all sent groups. The areas law enforcement communities were well represented.

Jay Morel, the Diamond Run Mall manager, welcomed the group, as did Selectman Hall from the Rutland Town Select board. Tom Terenzini, the newly elected VT House representative from Rutland Town spoke eloquently of his experiences working as a Correctional Officer, and the effects of the use of alcohol and other drugs on the lives of inmates. Other speakers included VT. Attorney General William Sorrell, Rutland City Police Chief Jim Baker, Tom Fields from the Governor's Highway Safety Program, Rutland County State's Attorney Marc Brierre and Bill Goggins, Director of Licensing and Enforcement for the  Vermont Department of Liquor Control.

Rutland High students Cheyenne Olson and Ian Sargeant shared how deeply the loss of their friend and class mate, Carly Ferro, has affected them.

This event was planned and executed by members of the Stafford Technical Center SADD Chapter; student Logan Clark, a senior from Rutland High School, was the overall Project Director. He was assisted by Gabrielle Guastamachio, a senior from Proctor High School, who supervised her fellow Health Careers students, and Otter Valley Union High School's Brandi Heath, who super.

The tree will remain on display at the Diamond Run Mall during the holiday season so that others can remember those who have been lost to these crashes. While each year more red ribbons are placed on the tree, the good news is that every year more silver ornaments, representing groups who will be working to stop these tragedies, are also placed on the tree.