By Sarah B Lange under Philanthropy Stories on August 10, 2021

Did you know that our attitudes and the laws around driving while intoxicated are a result of PHILANTHROPY? It’s true!

In 1970, the idea of a designated driver didn’t exist. Drunk driving was not an actionable offense, even though it was killing tens of thousands of people each year!

Two broken-hearted Moms from opposite sides of the country decided to change that.

Cindi Lambe’s car was hit by a drunk driver. The accident turned her healthy 5 month old daughter into a quadrapalegic. A year later, across the country, Candy Lightener’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Both drivers had numerous previous arrests for driving drunk. One was driving illegally; the other had a valid driver’s license.

Each Mom had formed a local group in an effort to address the problem that had devastated their families. In 1980, they joined forces to create MADD: Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The mission of MADD is to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking.

By enlisting the help of legislators and fellow broken-hearted survivors, they were able to establish 11 chapters in 4 states with lightning speed. Their collective heartbreak lead to a transformation of attitudes and policies, catalyzing change on a national level on a scale and pace that far surpassed the usual business of legislation. MADD attracted donations of all sizes, including some considerable contributions from two leaders from major insurance companies, both of whom had lost loved ones to drunk drivers.

To put things in perspective, in 1983, highway accidents involving alcohol resulted in economic losses of more than $20 BILLION, along with an incalculable toll in human suffering, lost potential, permanent injuries and death. Each year, 25,000 people died each year in alcohol-related traffic incidents – and the victims were disproportionately young. From 1980-1994, there was a 41% decrease in alcohol-related traffic deaths!

Today, there are more than 600 MADD chapters, in all 50 states and in countries around the world. About 1/3 of their funding comes from memberships and special events – true to their roots, they continue to enlist the help of tens of thousands of people who have been impacted by this widespread problem.

MADD is responsible for the enactment of more than 2,300 laws relating to impaired driving. They were the driving force behind the national drinking age of 21, and the concept of a Designated Driver.

While MADD has transformed how we think and respond to drunk/drugged driving, there is still much work to be done. Every day, there are 300,000 drivers on the road who admit to being drunk. Devastation can happen in the blink of an eye.

In 2019, 10,142 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents. That’s 29 people per day. Each death was 100% preventable. Each year, there are more than 300,000 injuries – some permanent – that result from alcohol-related accidents. Family, friends, loved ones and entire communities are impacted by these losses. Two out of three people will be impacted by a drunk driving incident in their lifetime. Despite their significant accomplishments, MADD has pledged to continue its work to ensure there are no more victims.

Two broken-hearted Moms decided the government wasn’t doing enough and transformed our nation’s mindset and response to drunk driving.

Now that’s some major philanthropic impact!

What’s making YOU “MADD”? What might be possible if you gathered other heart-broken folks and used that as fuel for the transformation of the problem at hand?

And how can I help you get there?

If you’ve got a question, I’m here to help!

Stay tuned for more stories of innovations that have been Powered by Philantropy!

Yours in service,



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