The 5th annual Ian Dawson Memorial Walk, which seeks to raise awareness about the hazards of drunk driving, will be held Saturday, September 25.
The walk, which will begin at 11 a.m. at Pelham Parkway between Wallace and Barnes avenues, honors former Pelham Parkway resident Ian Dawson, a 19-year-old who died in a horrific crash when his friend Robert Polidore, who was intoxicated and driving, hit a tree at the eastern end of the parkway near the Pelham Bay Bridge. Another friend, John Occino, was paralyzed in the crash.
Seeking to bring some good out of an otherwise horrific tragedy that ended her son’s life, Ian’s mother Nancy Dawson has organized the walk for the past five years. Literature related to preventing drunk driving is distributed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, of which Dawson is an active member, and every year the walk becomes bigger and bigger, she said.
“The goal of the walk is to raise awareness about the horrors of drunk driving and to learn from what happened five years ago,” Dawson said. “If the walk saves the life of one person who decides not to get into a car with a drunk driver, and parents pay more attention to what their teenagers are doing, then the walk will be a success.”
Dawson said that she hopes to encourage small victories, such as a sober person taking the keys from someone who is too drunk to drive or a parent forbidding their child from hanging out with friends who drink and act irresponsibly.
“We hand out literature and at the end of the walk people speak about their own experiences,” Dawson said. “The walkers all have the chance to speak and if you have lost a loved one, you can say a few words.”
Dawson currently holds Mother Against Drunk Driving workshops at Bronx schools, which have included P.S. 43 and Lehman High School. She is authorized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to present workshops all over the borough.
“I give presentations about the dangers of alcohol, and drinking and driving to students 9 years old and up,” Dawson said. “I have been doing this for four years. I have also worked with the 49th Precinct Explorers.”
Dawson eventually hopes to have a tree planted in honor of Ian at the accident site where her son lost his life.
The driver, Polidore, was charged on May 16, 2008 with manslaughter in the second degree, assault in the second degree, criminal negligent homicide, and operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
He was sentenced to a minimum of 18 months with a maximum of 54 months in jail.