GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - With all those eyes watching the vibrant floats go, a parade could be the perfect opportunity to spread a message. That's exactly what members of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, did.
As revelers everywhere geared up for a night of fun in Gulfport, this year's festivities offered something new.
For the first time ever MADD was featured in the Gemini Night Parade. But this group wasn't just interested in throwing beads. They wanted to save lives.
"We're not prohibitionist, we believe in fun. We believe you can have fun without making a spectacle of yourself, without endangering other peoples lives. So the main thing is to keep the message out there. That we live here too, and we are the voice of the victims," Harrison County Community Action Site Leader, Bill Downs, said.
Bill Downs and his wife Julie both want that message to be heard loud and clear. In October of 2007 their son, daughter-in-law and one of their friends were killed at the hands of a drunk driver.
"Everyday I wake up to my son being dead because he was killed by a drunk driver. We have put this float together for MADD to bring awareness to the fact that drunk driving does kill. If you want to drink, do it, but do it responsibly. And don't get behind the wheel of a car because the life you save might be your own," Julie said.
Without second guessing, they geared up on a Grease theme float, celebrating the occasion, but also spreading a powerful message. While thousands of partiers, full of life, watched the float go by, they were first hit by the site of a wrecked car. The car symbolized what could happen when the wrong decisions are made.
"This float is going to be seen by 15,000 to 25,000 people. The message will be put out there, and if I have reached one person in a thousand, I'm happy," Bill said.
So the message is simple, let the good times roll, but also drink responsibly. The float and all the goodies thrown from it were sponsored by MADD.
Bill Downs says getting that support wasn't an easy process, But he's thankful that the organization decided to trust his judgement and approve the idea.