After 10TV sports anchor Dom Tiberi lost his daughter, Maria, in a distracted driving accident, he's been warning high school and college students about the dangers it brings.
But this week, some Dublin kids who are years away from driving have been getting the message as well.
At Thomas Elementary School in Dublin, student teacher Allie Schlemitz reads a story to a first-grade class. It’s part of an introduction to literature, but she doesn’t limit lessons to standard subjects.
“I always think if you’re going to teach something, you might as well start early,” Schlemitz said.
As part of her senior project at Otterbein University, she decided to teach the kids about Maria’s Message – which aims to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving – even though it will be years before they get behind a wheel.
“We get into habits,” she said. “We get into habits of texting, we get into habits of, you know, any type of technology and it’s hard to break that habit. So I figured, break it before it starts.”
Each morning one week during school announcements, her students shared thoughts about Maria’s Message. Then, teachers in each class added a five-minute lesson. The kids learned how drivers get distracted.
First-grader John Hereth described it as "looking back at your kids and like 'stop this, stop that' and you're just like that, and you're texting, and putting makeup on.”
Fellow first-grader Jace Proper said it’s good to speak up when someone’s distracted. "You can tell them, 'Hey, you shouldn't text and drive. That's really dangerous.’”
"I'm not going to do dangerous stuff. I'm just going to be safe," added first-grader Megha Sivakumar.
The kids raised money for Maria's Message Foundation and enjoyed a visit from pro-football player Mike Adams. Brutus Buckeye dropped in to classrooms, too.
Schlemitz now hopes surprise endings only come in books, not from behind the wheel.
The students at Thomas Elementary have raised almost $1,000 for the Maria’s Message Foundation.
VIDEO: Maria's Message
The Tiberi family talks about the loss of their daughter and the mission of Maria's Message
Register for the Maria's Message Presentation at Otterbein University
Please join 10TV’s Dom Tiberi,Jerry Revish and Kristyn Hartman, along with special guests for this interactive presentation which focuses on the prevention of distracted driving.
Take the Maria’s Message Pledge:
I pledge to: keep my hands on the wheel, keep my eyes on the road, keep my mind on my driving.
If I keep my hands, eyes, and mind where they should be, I can keep myself safe and keep Maria’s Message alive.