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Safe-driving campaign goes national after starting at Spotsylvania County's Riverbend High School
Date published: 5/21/2012
Project Yellow Light has grown a lot since its beginnings as a safe-driving campaign at Spotsylvania County's Riverbend High School.
The nonprofit awarded its first $2,000 scholarship in 2008 after judging 10 videos produced by Riverbend students.
This year, it received more than 400 videos from high school seniors nationwide on the dangers of text-messaging while driving.
The winning entry was submitted by Katherine Duffy, 18, who lives in Albuquerque, N.M.--some 1,800 miles from the Fredericksburg area.
"It's unbelievable to me," said Julie Garner, who founded Project Yellow Light with her husband, Lowell. "It's only been five years, and it has grown this big this quick."
The Garners started Project Yellow Light in 2007 after their son Hunter, a Riverbend student, died in a car crash at age 16. He was a passenger in a friend's car, and both were killed.
Project Yellow Light has received a lot of support from Julie Garner's employer, The Martin Agency, a prominent advertising firm in Richmond.
And the campaign went national late last year thanks to a partnership with the Ad Council and the National Organizations for Youth Safety.
But the Garners haven't forgotten the program's roots. They had a separate competition this year just for Riverbend seniors, with John Tate and Elliott Taylor winning $1,000 scholarships.
"That was Hunter's alma mater, and I do feel like there's that connection there," Julie Garner said. "There are so many kids impacted by car crashes in our hometown that I feel like we need to really drill that message home here in Fredericksburg."
Duffy's winning video will air soon as a public-service announcement on television stations nationwide. The Garners presented her with a scholarship at a National Organizations for Youth Safety event this month in Washington.
"I'm hoping that I can inspire other people to join in," Duffy said in a recent telephone interview.
Her 55-second animated video features friends on split screens text-messaging each other over the years.
One of them texts "Where are you?" while the other is driving, and the distraction is fatal. The surviving friend texts "Are you OK?" but the other screen is blank.
"It means a lot to me that I can do something with my animation," said Duffy, who will study that subject at the University of Southern California.
Interested in becoming a sponsor for Project Yellow Light? If so, you can email Julie Garner at firstname.lastname@example.org.