Belen

Families and friends of those killed or injured in drunk driving crashes will soon have an opportunity to gather together to remember and honor their loved ones.

The Valencia County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) will host its third annual Candlelight Vigil of Remembrance and Hope on Saturday, April 28. The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. at Anna Becker Park in Belen and will be followed by a candlelight march to the Belen Recreation Center.

“It’s just a place for victims to gather together,” said Cindy Valenzuela, coordinator of the Valencia County MADD Chapter. “Unless you’ve lost a loved one from a violent crime, when you’re in the company of others that have that same loss, somehow you can associate the pain with one another.”

The local vigil and march coincides with the MADD National Office Candlelight Vigil which will be held in Toronto, Canada. Hundreds of other vigils will be held throughout the nation.

“We welcome anyone who feels a loss and would like to participate or who would want to come and support families and the community in their loss,” Valenzuela said.

Belen Police Chief Paul Scotchdopole, who will be the guest speaker at the vigil, said he wants New Mexico to start getting serious about its DWI problem. “The bottom line is that it’s costing innocent people their lives,” he said.

Valenzuela said the vigil will also include music by her son, John, and Chelsea Thomas. About 75 names of victims who have died or who have been injured as a result of drunk driving crashes will be read Saturday night.

“Please join us as we remember the victims of drunk driving crashes, while expressing a hope for a less violent future for all of us,” Valenzuela said. “MADD is not just about mothers; we are also fathers, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends, and it is imperative that we alert the public to the very serious, and often deadly, consequences of drinking and driving.”

All march participants will be given a candle and a carnation, donated by Sunshine Flowers, and refreshments will be served at the recreation center at the conclusion of the march. Participants in the march will also make a brief stop at the Premia Vance Memorial on the corner of Main and Church Street. Participants are invited to bring a picture of their loved one or a sign to leave at the memorial.

“This gives us a chance to gather together as a community in support of our neighbors, friends and families who have lost loved ones to this much-too-frequently committed violent crime of drunk driving,” Valenzuela said. “What is truly important is that we gather, remember and share — then we will recognize the advent of healing within our lives.”

Parking will be available for participants at the Belen Recreation Center on South Main Street. Transportation will be provided, beginning at 6 p.m., to Anna Becker Park, where the vigil and march will begin.

For further information about the Candlelight Vigil of Remembrance and Hope, contact Cindy Valenzuela at 861-0400.

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.