Be safe for the Holidays! Heather's Story!
Fueled by the personal and tragic loss of her father to a car on pedestrian hit and run DUI Heather Geronemus is a woman on a mission to end drunk driving in Broward County. Heather is spearheading efforts locally to increase awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving while raising much needed funds for MADD to support the completely free educational programming MADD provides to prevent drunk driving. As we look forward to celebrating the holidays with family and friends, Heather is helping MADD to raise awareness locally about the importance of planning ahead and designating a non-drinking driver, especially since the holidays are some of the most dangerous times on our roads. While nobody ever thinks they’ll be a victim of drunk driving, the reality is that two in three people will be impacted by a drunk driving crash in their lifetime. Drunk driving deaths typically spike over the holidays. In fact, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in 2012 1,091 people were killed in drunk driving crashes nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. On average someone is injured in a drunk driving crash every two minutes. In addition, New Year’s Day is the deadliest day of the year for drunk driving on our roadways.
Heather Geronemus working in our community every day to change those numbers. Whether it’s on radio, tv, social media, her blog, or running a 5K, Heather is passionate that no one she comes in to contact with her ever becomes one of these shocking statistics. Heather established and chaired the Annual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale in 2011. Under Heather’s leadership, MADD Broward has raised nearly $400,000 through Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale. Along the way this event has become one of the fastest growing MADD events in the country. Heather looks forward to chairing the fifth annual event on April 26, 2015 with Colonel Alvin Pollock of the Broward Sheriff's Office as Honorary Chair. Heather firmly believes in the positive power of community and that through high visibility events like Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale she can reach people and help them change a behavior that is 100 percent preventable. This year Heather was named a finalist for 211 Broward’s Non Profit Academy Awards & Lifestyle Media Group’s Up & Comer Award. Heather was recently honored to be named one of South Florida Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in its 2014 Class. Last month Heather accepted the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year award from AFP Broward at National Philanthropy Day with gratitude but driving home the point that our community still has more work to be done in the fight against drunk driving.
Heather invites you to plan to participate in Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale 2015 on April 26, 2015 as a walker, runner, donor or sponsor. She is passionate about driving home the message that MADD is for everyone not just victims.
How did you determine which charitable organizations you would support? There is a different story for each organization. For example, I have been volunteering for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society South Florida Chapter with my mother, who has sat on the Board of Directors since I was very young, and I continue my involvement today. I became involved with MADD after my father was struck and killed by a drunk driver almost five years ago. At that point I knew there was a need for awareness-generating programs in our county to try to stop this senseless act, and decrease the number of people losing their loved ones due to drunk driving. Other organizations I support, such as ARC Broward, Cystic Fibrosis and Jack & Jill Children’s Center, have spoken to me in different ways through the amazing work that they do. I am proud to support them and represent them in the community.
Is there a charitable event(s) you really look forward to attending each year? There are so many amazing charitable events in our community and I love attending them all, but I have to say Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale is my favorite event of the year. It amazes me to see the continued growth and support from the community for an issue that has impacted my life so greatly. I am humbled by the support of the sponsors, participants, members of law enforcement and government for this often tragic issue that wasn’t getting the attention it needed for a long time. Every year I leave the event confident that we are making a change in the perception of the drinking and driving issue in South Florida. Since its inception in 2011, the event has raised more than $250, 000 to date for MADD Broward, and has greatly enhanced MADD Broward’s mission/visibility.
Is there a saying, motto, or “words to live by” that is your favorite? Don’t give back … just give. – Nido Qubein
How do you stay so motivated and committed? I have an overwhelming sense of how fortunate I am, and a passion to help others. I know there’s always more work to be done so I set achievable goals, complete them, and set bigger ones. I often recall this Margaret Mead quote when I get tired: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
How do we get our young people more interested in charitable giving and community volunteering? Lead by example. By volunteering and giving ourselves, we set the tone for the next generation to follow.
What magazine do you look forward to reading each week/month? Harvard Business Review and Vogue … equally.
Is there a fond childhood memory you can share with us? The National Multiple Sclerosis Society used tohave an annual fundraiser called the Ugliest Bartender Contest. U.G.L.Y. stood for “Understanding. Giving. Loving. You.” When I was about five years old I was walking through the mall with my mother wearing a shirt that said “Hug Me, I’m U.G.L.Y.” When a horrified woman stopped me in the mall to tell me I wasn’t ugly, I proudly explained to her what the acronym stood for and what the benefitting charity was all about.
How do you want to be remembered by future generations? I’m not sure future generations outside of my family will remember me, but if they do, I would like to be remembered as someone who stood up for what was important to her.
You are evidently a very capable and talented woman, what other talent do you wish you had been born with? I wish I could sing!
What charitable organizations are you involved with at this time?
American Heart Association – Pulse Committee Member
ARC Broward – Delish 2014 Co-Chair; Miss ARC Broward Committee Member
Broward Center for the Performing Arts - Ghost Light Society – Steering Committee Co-Chair, Broward Performing Arts Foundation Board Ex- Officio Member
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – Broward Advisory Board Member
Jack & Jill Children’s Center – Friends Board Member
Leadership Broward – Class XXX Alumna, Program Day Co-Chair
MADD Broward – Board Member; Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale Steering Committee Chair
National MS Society – Annual Gala Committee Member
Do you have a mentor; someone who has been there to guide you or consult with you when you needed their input? Yes, mentors are essential to both personal and professional life. It’s important to not only have mentors but to also pay it forward and be a mentor to others.
Do you have a fashion addiction? Yes, Rene Ruiz!