Helping H.A.R.T. (Hit And Run Tragedies) Nonprofit : Personal Story
This is the series of events that led up to the creation of our nonprofit organization. Helping Hit-and-run Tragedies (a.k.a. HHART) and the family forever changed from the perspective of our founder Dawn Elliott.
July 22, 2020, began just like any other day. I did not know it would be the day everything changed. My mom Deborah Ann Geneau and I spoke on the phone like we had every day for as long as I can remember. A typical call between my mother and I could easily go on for an hour or more; we never had a shortage of things to talk about. However, our call that morning had to be cut short because I was busy helping my son pack for his trip to California.
The plan was that he would spend the rest of the summer with my mom and dad. Everyone was so excited and looking forward to the memories they would make during their visit. There was still so much to be done to prepare, so there wasn’t time for us to stay on the phone. We ended our call quickly, and we both continued with our daily activities.
My mom went about performing her usual household chores while also going out to stock the house with all of my son’s favorite foods. Like she always did when the grandkids would visit, she intended to spoil him rotten during his visit, as most grandparents do.
My mom had a love for her grandchildren that knew no end. My oldest daughter, Alyssa, also shared a special bond with her grandmother. Alyssa had called her grandmother that afternoon to see what she was up to, hoping to join her while running her errands. My mother assured Alyssa that she only had to make one more stop at the bank, then she would be done with her errands and would call her back within the hour after she got home.
Alyssa was unaware that would be the last time she would ever get to speak with her grandmother. Alyssa never received that promised phone call and would never again hear her grandma’s voice. Our family lost a piece of its foundation that day. A mother, a grandmother, a sister, a best friend, and a wife, had been ripped from our lives in a way that should have never been.
At 1:09 PM that afternoon, my mom’s life was stolen from her in a multi-car accident caused by a woman who didn’t even bother to stop. This woman stole my mom; she took her beautiful presence from all of us and didn’t even care to look back or give a second thought to the destruction she had caused. That moment irrevocably changed our family and our lives forever. After making an unsafe lane change, this woman’s actions caused this horrific multi-car accident. Then, without hesitation, care, or even a hint of compassion, drove away, leaving the scene of the accident. They officially labeled it as a hit-and-run.
That afternoon, I received a call from my dad with the worst possible news I could ever receive. Our entire world had been shattered. A family friend who happened to be a police officer / first responder had just informed my father that my mother was no longer with us. She was gone. I felt my heart drop into the pit of my stomach. Nothing I heard made sense. I felt like every ounce of life had been drained from me. I instantly began to sob as uncontrollable tears poured down my cheeks. The woman who I saw as invincible couldn’t be gone.
There had to be a mistake. My mother, the woman who raised me, who was my absolute best friend, the person I talked to daily for most of my life, was gone from this earth. I instantly thought of my children. They would no longer have the ability to make new memories or have life-altering experiences with their beloved grandmother. That opportunity had been stolen away in a single moment of careless selfishness. Just the thought of what happened truly wrecked me.
This atrocious realization, along with the actuality that the person who so carelessly caused my mother’s unexpected death, had fled the scene of the accident with absolutely no regard for the lives she had just undoubtedly changed. This was no longer an accident; it was now a crime. A tidal wave of emotions ripped through my body and flooded my mind completely. Anger, sorrow, fury, pain, sadness, and countless other emotions raged through me, setting off an explosive chain of events.
My parents were married for a remarkable 45 years, and being that I am their only child, I immediately knew I had to do everything within my power to find this person who caused my mother’s untimely death. Immediately following the news of my mother’s death, I drove the grueling 21-hour trip straight through from Oklahoma to California. We only stopped for food or gas and only when it was necessary. Getting home was the only thing on my mind. I just had to be there with my dad. The thought of him being alone was too much.
After finally arriving home, I had a moment to speak with my dad, and immediately we jumped into action. With no time to waste, I started printing flyers and hanging them everywhere that would allow me to. The flyers included information that described the vehicle belonging to the person who had caused the accident and irresponsibly fled from the scene. In the beginning, we were receiving tons of leads, hoping against the odds that one of them would lead us to this heartless person who had caused the death of such an amazing woman. To our great dismay, all the tips and potential clues all lead to dead ends. We refused to give up. We kept searching relentlessly.
Now almost a year after my mother’s life had been stolen away in this catastrophic accident, and our family finally has a small bit of peace knowing that this woman had been identified and was now behind bars. After being in constant contact with the police department, different news stations, the District Attorney’s office, private investigators, and holding multiple press conferences, I realized that this is a considerable problem in the world.
The amount of hit-and-runs that occur daily are astronomical. This senseless and cowardly act creates a sense of grief and despair that should never even exist, to begin with. I am proud to say my family and I never gave up hope we would find the person responsible for this horrific accident involving two other parties and causing my mother’s death. Eventually, they were found, serving justice to the people who need it most.
The determination and initiative to find who committed this crime against my very own mother is the driving force behind Helping Hit-and-run Tragedies (a.k.a. HHART), a nonprofit that I have explicitly created to help other desperate and grieving families. We wanted a way to give back and help prevent these senseless tragedies as much as we can. Through this nonprofit organization, I would like to assist law enforcement agencies in helping them in obtaining the critical resources they need to help find justice for families that also endured tragic loss because of senseless, irresponsible acts.
Even though not all hit-and-runs end in a fatality, many individuals involved in these types of accidents become disabled because of their accident, leading to unforeseen struggles and unexpected financial difficulties. Helping Hit-and-run Tragedies (HHART) would like to assist these individuals in many different ways. Our goal is to provide as many resources as possible to help lessen the burden of loss. Our nonprofit organization would also like to offer financial scholarships to children who have lost a parent because of a hit-and-run tragedy. We understand the financial hardships that children might have to endure after losing one or both of their parents, and HHART would love to assist them in any way possible.
My mother, Deborah Ann Geneau, is the inspiration behind Helping Hit-and-run Tragedies (a.k.a HHART). Her memory will live on through each successful assistance that HHART provides to other hit-and-run victims and their families. Our mission is to assist families that have been directly impacted by hit-and-run tragedies while making necessary resources available to those who have been left behind. We genuinely believe the added support police departments receive directly affects their ability to identify and apprehend these hit-and-run offenders successfully. That is why we feel it is crucial to make every resource available to support police departments and other law enforcement agencies. Let’s put a stop to hit-and-run accidents. Together we can make the world a safer place!