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 Columns & Editorials

June 1, 2001

A ROLE MODEL FOR GOOD DECISIONS

By Robin Smith Meiser

Last week, I lost someone very important in my life in a most tragic way. I don't have a son so several of us "son-less" girlfriends kind of adopted a very special young man. His name was Daniel Miller and he was just 16 years old.

PICTURE

He was our only boy between at least four women who are closer than blood relatives. Between us, we have eight girls and "our boy", Daniel. He was the apple of his mother, Sara's eye but she was kind enough to let him call us "mom" too. He was adored by all of us, as befits the only son and brother of so many females. He in turn, always made sure to tell us how nice that dress made us look or how good that particular food you made was.

Daniel was also a surrogate son to at least three men who didn't have a son nearby or didn't have a son period. His dad, Dan, gladly shared the glory of Daniel with them. Daniel played pool and horse shoes with them, went hunting and fishing with them and learned all the manly things young men learn from their fathers. Racing was his favorite activity in life.

It was always a joy to do things with Daniel because he loved life so much. All six of his surrogate parents took him to his first NASCAR Winston Cup race at Homestead last November. He was so in awe of it and couldn't believe he was in the presence of his hero, Dale Earnhardt, Senior. Daniel's room was covered with racing memorabilia and just a month ago my family had taken him a picture of Earnhardt's car after he qualified at this year's Daytona 500, along with a special limited edition die cast Earnhardt car. We gave it to him because we loved him and he had always done so much for us. He fed the dog when we were at the race and checked on the house. That was what Daniel did, he took care of things.

That's what Daniel was doing on the afternoon of May 21. He and best friend were putting a stereo in a friend's car. They needed parts for the stereo so they needed to "head to town". Daniel made sure that they went by his house to tell his mom he where he was going. His mother needed to drive into town too so she told him she would see him soon. An hour or so later, her car was rerouted around her usual turn where the Miller family lives. There had been a horrific accident about a block east of their street, past where Daniel and his friend would have turned to take Daniel home. Sara Miller looked at the crash scene as she drove by and thought fleetingly of Daniel but didn't see Brandon's Jeep plus it was PAST their house, they wouldn't be heading in that direction.

Her husband, Dan, was watching the hockey game in Fort Myers with friends that evening. Daniel had a 10 p.m. curfew so Sara didn't start worrying until that time. Daniel was never late or would have at least called. Around 11 p.m. a law enforcement officer came to her door and she was told the terrible news. Her only boy had been killed in that accident she had seen earlier that evening. She had to identify him by a picture the medical examiner had taken. A call was made to his father and all the law enforcement officer would say was there was an accident and that Dan needed to drive home carefully.
PICTURE

Once home, he received the awful news. He went to the crash site and spent the night, pacing back and forth on SR 82 mourning the loss of "his boy" and asking "why"? The next morning, as his real parents called each of us surrogate parents, we all asked the same questions. Their house was full of people for the next four days, continually asking "why"? I am sure the family of the boy who was driving and lay in coma in the hospital was asking the same question

Unfortunately, the reason "why" was quite simple, neither young man was wearing their seatbelt and both were thrown out of the Jeep they were in. Daniel was thrown more than 25 feet headfirst unto the asphalt road, he never stood a chance. It is ironic that this the month where seat belt use is recognized. All of us would have given anything, however, if "our boy" Daniel was not this year's poster child for seat belt use. I have always worn my seatbelt. Lots of people don't. Daniel always wore his seatbelt when he was with one of us but you know when kids get around their peers, they forget things like wearing a seatbelt.

Over a week since the accident has passed and today I got an email message that finally brought a bit of sunshine to my broken heart. My dear friend, Kim Scheffler-Hays has been named the national spokeperson for Students Against Destructive Decisions, better known as Team SADD Racing in the stock car world. To add to her well-deserved honor, she gets to get in a race truck and drive again. She will be driving the #92 purple Firestine Motorsports Chevrolet truck in the FASTRUCK race at USA International Speedway in Lakeland on Saturday, June 2. Kim has not had a good year in racing or life in general but as I always say when you do good, good things happen and no one does better than Kim!
Kim Sheffler-Hays

She will be having her traditional autograph session for her fans at 5:45 p.m. Kim lives for the children. You could not begin to name all of the wonderful things she has done for kids since becoming a racer. That is one of the reasons in 1999 she was given the elite Eckerd 100 Salute to Women Award. She was selected out of 2,800 nominations.

Kim has no children of her own but has more adopted children than anyone could count. Just last November, I competed with Kim in the 12th Annual Central Florida Children's Home NASCAR Nana Memorial go kart race where Kim brought home the championship trophy. That was not enough for her though; she also made several visits to the home and donated all her 2000 PARTS Pro Truck Rookie of the Year winnings to the children at the home.

Another young lady to benefit greatly from Kim's philanthropy was young cancer patient, Courtney Surrency. Kim went from track to track throughout Southwest Florida to attempt to raise money for Courtney. When she was done over $1,400 was raised and Courtney received stuffed animals, a computer, desk and chair, as well VIP treatment at tracks and programs.

Whatever track Kim competes at, there is always a throng of children around her when she comes to the grandstands. It is difficult to say whether she loves them more or they love her more. My own 15 year old daughter adores Kim and has pictures of her and her race vehicles all over her room. Kim in turn always takes the time to email her whenever she hears of something good Brittany has done. I am sure she does this with many other young people. She has a fan club that costs nothing to join and a Website that lists her many accomplishments on and off the race track. Just type in www.kimschefflerhays.com and you will see for yourself just how special she is.

Kim never stops giving to young people. It is so appropriate that she be given this wonderful opportunity that she will make optimum use of to help young people make "good decisions". I personally will be campaigning for her to get the word out to our young people about the "good decision" to take three seconds to put on a seatbelt so they don't break the hearts of their friends and families when a tragic accident happens such as happened to Daniel Miller on May 21.

-Robin Smith Meiser


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