The lives of two women were changed forever by drivers who chose to drink and drive.
More than a decade ago Leeslyee Huerta was just 18, planning her prom and getting ready for college, when a drunk wrong-way driver hit the car she was riding in head-on.
“Doctors gave me the news that I was never going to be able to walk again,” Huerta said. “I had to leave with a colostomy due to the damage in my intestines… it’s been a struggle every single day.”
For Margaret Borcia, it was a drunk boater on the Chain-o-Lakes who killed her 10-year-old son Tony while he was tubing with his father and three siblings seven years ago.
While their losses have devastated them, Borcia’s family has held an annual Wiffle Ball tournament with her organization Y-noT Project, hoping to honor Tony’s memory by encouraging others to stop boating and drinking.
“Even though he was only 10, how much his spirit is still touching everyone… it’s a really wonderful thing to see every year,” Borcia said.
The fundraiser also helps the agencies which patrol the Chain-o-Lakes, raising over $400,000 to date. This past Sunday, it raised more than $50,000 alone, raising money that’s used to buy everything from a new boat to a place to store it.
“We’ve been able to get the DNR a new state-of-the-art boat, all the equipment for it: video, breathalyzers, a special vest they wear, a special light flash light they use,” Borcia said.
This year it will also help Leeslyee Huerta, who has used her tragedy to try and stop others from making a similar mistake by speaking to kids and adults about the dangers of drinking and driving.
“It’s beautiful when you hear someone really got the message and they promise to me, ‘I’m never going to drink and drive again,’ and ‘your story really helped me,'” Huerta said. “That’s why I think it’s really important for me to keep using my tragedy to try and save lives.”
That effort right now is a struggle, as troubles with Huerta’s modified van have limited her mobility.
“The van started wobbling and shaking so bad that I had to get out of the road,” Huerta said. “I was with my daughter that day too, and we were so scared cause just the thought of me having another crash.”
With the help of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM) and fellow survivor Margaret Borcia, Huerta will soon be on the move again.
“She does so much wonderful work for AAIM, and she wouldn’t be able to do that if she doesn’t have a van,” Borcia said. “So I said, ‘how much do you need?'”
Huerta hopes to be in her new van in about a month, getting to her therapy appointments and speaking engagements with ease — thanks in large part to Margaret, and Tony.
“I don’t think there are enough words to express how much this means to me,” Huerta said. “‘Cause it’s just, it’s part of my independence. It’s just amazing.”