Smiles and laughter are what Laura DiSanto remembers most about her best friend, Leah Hall.
Fifteen years ago, Leah was killed when a drunk driver hit her family’s car.
“She had an infectious, insatiable laugh. I just remember always laughing with her,” said DiSanto, who grew up in Hamden with Hall.
Saturday marked the 10th annual “Skate for Leah” open skate at Louis Astorino Arena. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, has held “Skate for Leah” each year in order to raise awareness among teenagers of the dangers of drunk driving.
The turnout this year remained strong. Hamden residents and friends of the Hall family poured into the ice rink to support the cause and of course, have fun while ice-skating with friends.
“I think it’s a really good cause,” said North Haven High School student Kristen Fournier, who has attended the event several times. “It tells teenagers and everyone that things can happen when you’re drunk and it gets people to think about that stuff before they make a decision.”
For Leah’s friends and family, it also served as a time to remember and celebrate a life lost.
“I feel like as so much time passes I lose part of her and I come here and I am reminded. Everybody this many years later still talks about her, remembers her and is still here for the cause,” DiSanto said.
“I am just amazed and thankful of the people who have come for ten years,” said Leah's mother Helen Hall. “I see people here and I just say, “Wow.” In a negative situation, this is very positive. And it gives the message that we’re all here together.”
According to Cohen, MADD's mission is to support victims of drunk driving. They host events like this one to promote community awareness of the consequences of drunk driving in hopes of preventing an accident from happening at all.
“[The accident] was something really senseless and this event makes people stop and think so it won’t happen to other people,” DiSanto said. “It still brings the same people together because we know we don’t want other people to have to have an event like this for someone else.”
According to the MADD website, 10,839 people will die in drunk driving crashes this year, an averages of about one death every fifty minutes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, 32 percent of all fatal accidents in 2007 involved alcohol and 65 percent of crashes between midnight and 3 a.m. involved alcohol. In 2009, there were 300 Connecticut drivers involved in fatal crashes, and 99 of those involved alcohol. That means 33 percent of fatal accidents in Connecticut are due to drunk drivers.
MADD believes they can prevent these accidents with community events and educational programs. The money raised during “Skate for Leah” helps MADD fund this mission. Tickets were $5 per person and t-shirts and sweatshirts were available for purchase. On average the event raises about $5,000, according to Carole Cohen, senior office administrator of MADD in Connecticut.
“Leah was active in wanting to make things better. If she had that courage, then I want that to continue. So I do it for her,” Hall said.