Families First Rally Brings Awareness to Distracted Driving

Sharon Schuler Kreps/CullmanSense
Distracted driving is the easiest crime to prevent. All one needs to do is put down whatever distraction is at hand and pull to the side of the road if needed.”
Rebecca Koehler, Hands on the Wheel

CULLMAN – On Sunday, July 26th, the first annual Families First Rally was held on the steps of the Cullman County Courthouse. The rally is for the betterment of our community through love, education, and support. As part of the event, there was a candlelight vigil honoring victims of crime, a pledge drive against the use of cell phones while driving, and educational information on the hazards of distracted driving was given out. There were numerous community organizations there, banded together for a night to honor our most valuable resource, our families. Many enjoyed hot dogs, refreshments and giveaways as they came together to share in this important community event.

On May 21st, 2014, Jerry "Jay" Kendall, Jr. was struck and killed by a teen boy who was driving distracted. In July 2014, a special rally, Jay’s Last Ride, was held in his honor. Jay’s Last Ride was a free rally to raise awareness of texting and driving.

Many people joined the fight against distracted driving that night. This year the rally’s name changed to Families First. It has grown and taken on multiple causes. 

“Today we are here to bring awareness to distracted driving,” said Gloria Hutson from Hands on the Wheel. 

“We just wanted to bring the community together to help bring families together and to make it a better community. Last year, just a few months after Jay was killed, we wanted to get together to bring awareness, of course, but also in honor of him – to celebrate his life. This year we wanted to have more community involvement. We have had great sponsors, donations, and speakers.” 

Hands on the Wheel is a nonprofit organization founded to educate the community on the hazards of distracted driving as well as to advocate changes in Alabama state law, and eventually national law, to implant tougher penalties for distracted driving in the hopes of saving lives. 

“Distracted driving is the easiest crime to prevent,” explained Rebecca Koehler, of Hands on the Wheel.

“All one needs to do is put down whatever distraction is at hand and pull to the side of the road if needed. But most importantly, to keep your eyes and mind focused on the task at hand and to keep your Hands on the Wheel,” she smiled.

“This is our second rally, but our first Families First rally,” said Suzette Kendall, Jay Kendall’s widow.

“We decided to involve a lot more of the community this time and expand it. That’s our hope every year, to expand it to the communities to involve agencies such as the United Way, breast cancer awareness and all the different organizations so we can just blow these rallies out of the water – It’s what Jay would have wanted,” she smiled warmly.

To get involved with Hands on the Wheels, or for more information, call Suzette Kendall at 256-347-0267, Gloria Hutson at 256-962-8262 or Rebecca Koehler at 256-595-7718. Visit their website at handsonthewheel.co.