This Mom Asked a Favor to Help Remember Her Son but Received Much More

On November 15, 2017 Annette Newell experienced every parent’s nightmare. At the age of 22, her son David was struck and killed by a young man driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. At the time, David was a senior at the University of South Carolina studying at the Darla Moore School of Business. He was also a member of the Alpha Beta chapter of Chi Psi Fraternity.

Last month, with her son’s 25th birthday approaching, Annette reached out to the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook group and asked if  someone would be willing to drop flowers at the site of the accident. She has been a member of the group for three years and has often seen parents jump in to help each other.

Flowers at the scene of David Newell’s accident (via Annette)

After David’s death, Annette had moved to get a new start and without a physical community she told us how great it was to have the Grown and Flown Parents group which she called “an amazing community, literally at her fingertips.” She said that the Grown and Flown Parents group helped her get through the loneliness of the transitions to both a new town and to becoming an empty nester. 

So with her son’s birthday approaching, she reached out to the group:

I noticed some people are from Columbia, SC. Would you please do me a huge favor? My son was a student at UofSC, a senior. He was killed by a drunk driver on November 15, 2017.

His birthday is next Monday…I’d love for someone to leave flowers at the spot where he was hit on Rosewood. Please let me know if you might be able to do this. I’ll be happy to Venmo you for the cost of the bouquet.

Annette Newell

The group’s response was overwhelming. Not only did people drop flowers at the site, Annette also got many messages from people asking if they could contact her. Those messages came from  parents who had also lost children, organ donation recipients, friends of friends of friends and strangers.

Someone suggested that she cross post to the UofSC parents page, and she got a great response there as well. To express her gratitude to Grown and Flown, Annette posted:

Thank you to all who have reached out in one way or another to support me in my grief…Keep your babies safe. If you are so moved, please donate $25 in honor of David’s 25th birthday to the scholarship fund so others may graduate in his place…

Many thanks. Please register to be an organ donor. Please have your kids register. Donate blood as well. And DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE.

Then a few days later she posted: 

I would like to extend my deepest thanks to everyone who responded in one way or another to my post about leaving flowers for my son’s birthday at the collision site…

So many of you took time to contact me, to leave flowers, to speak with their kids about the perils of drinking and driving, and to donate to my son’s memorial scholarship. I was truly overwhelmed by the outreach.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to support parenting. The G&F village is amazing. Although I spent the day in tears, the tears were not just of grief. They were also of gratitude. Thank you all so very much.

Annette told us that donating her son’s organs and knowing that her tragedy helped someone else was one of the things that kept her going. She also wanted us to stress that when you drink and drive it’s not just your own life that you might destroy. 

Finally, after David’s death his fraternity brothers collected funds to defray his burial expenses. With the money that was left over, Annette established the David Newell Memorial Scholarship Fund with the UofSC Darla Moore School of Business. They have been able to give the scholarship three or four times but would love to grow the fund.

We can’t say it any better than Annette did; we are so thankful for the kindness of this village.

About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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