Leo McCarthy tragically lost his 14 year-old daughter, Mariah, five years ago when a drunk driver hit her and her two friends as they walked down a sidewalk near her home. McCarthy could have done as most parents do, grieve endlessly for the loss of their child and encourage others to not drink and drive, but he decided to take it one step further. McCarthy set up a non-profit group called Mariah’s Challenge.
The challenge is simple: teens can go online as high school freshman and pledge to not drink until they are 21, and to not get into a car with anyone that has been drinking. If they have not been convicted of underage possession of alcohol, they are eligible to submit a scholarship application, which includes a 300-word essay explaining how Mariah’s Challenge has affected their life. So far, McCarthy has awarded $1,000 scholarships to more than 140 high-school graduates who have completed the challenge.
In Butte, Montana, where McCarthy lives, not only can people drink legally in public, but given the history of the town as a mining town in the late 1800s, drinking has always been a deep part of their culture. That is something McCarthy hopes to change. Aside from students, McCarthy is delighted to say that parents and grandparents are now taking the challenge as well because they understand what it’s about. For McCarthy, he hopes this challenge helps kids make responsible choices, and helps Mariah’s memory to live on.
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