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AHH 24-Hr. News

IMAGE Students to Provide a Meal for Employees of King James Care Center on Christmas Day
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
PHOTO: MTRS 8th Grade Leadership Program Students with MTRS Teacher, Mrs. Baeder.  Sign reads "A Dinner Fit for a King"   (Photo Courtesy of Kelly Condon)   Atlantic Highlands, NJ - Leadership development and giving back to the community is... Read More...
Monmouth County Freeholders Organization Meeting Jan 6
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Sine Die, organization meeting will be held Jan. 6 FREEHOLD – The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders will organize for 2015 at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 6 at the MonmouthCountyBiotechnologyHigh School at 5000 Kozloski Rd. On the agenda will... Read More...
IMAGE Red Bank Police Report - December 11, 2014
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Red Bank, NJ - The following police report is provided by the Red Bank Police Department.  All subjects are presumed innocent; unless, and until, proven guilty in a court of law. December 04, 2014 – December 11, 2014 CRIMES: Burglary, Theft... Read More...
IMAGE RBR Tradition Continues in Making Holidays Brighter for the Residents at Linkages
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
PHOTO: RBR English teacher Cassandra Dorn displays just a fraction of the donated gifts collected by the staff and students of Red Bank Regional High School to benefit Linkages, an organization that houses homeless mothers and their children.  Ms... Read More...
Chairman Menendez’s Statement on U.S. – Cuba Relationship
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Newark, N.J. – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), issued this statement regarding the U.S. – Cuba relationship. “Today’s policy announcement is misguided and fails to understand the nature of the regime in... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE Our Forefathers Knew Better
by George Hancock-Stefan
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
When one does a comparison between the 17th and 20th centuries in regards to the goodness of humanity, one comes with two different views.  The... Read More...
IMAGE Review - Top Five
by David Prown
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
The other day I was scanning moviefone.com to get a sense of new releases for this weekend. Never heard of Chris Rock's "Top Five" and tried to get a... Read More...
IMAGE Skewed View - December 16, 2014
by Tom Brennan
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Got 60 grand?  Well, you can use it to pay down your debt or buy Burt Reynold's Smokey & The Bandit TransAm: http://usat.ly/1G9j9n6 Parenting... Read More...
IMAGE Stupid Christmas Gifts
by Anne Mikolay
Monday, 15 December 2014
Yes, I know. Tis the thought that counts...blah, blah, blah. But let's be honest. Shall we? Whether it's a collectible you don't collect, or a... Read More...
IMAGE The Normal Culture, and Why Liberals Abandoned It
by Woody Zimmerman
Monday, 15 December 2014
When I was a boy, most people lived in a way we considered a “normal” – although we didn’t really call it that. The country simply accepted... Read More...

Upcoming Events

Thu Dec 18 @ 3:15PM - 03:45PM
School Age Programs Grades K and up
Thu Dec 18 @ 4:00PM - 04:30PM
Preschool Story Time Ages 3 – 5
Thu Dec 18 @ 7:00PM -
Wordsworth and Cake
Sat Dec 20 @ 2:00PM - 04:00PM
Brothers in Harmony Holiday Show
Sat Dec 20 @ 2:30PM -
Band of the Two Rivers Holiday Concert

rbr_drunk_driving_1Alison Wheeler calls it “DJ’s tree” the nearly ten-year old makeshift memorial that marks the spot D. J. Wheeler of Middletown lost his life at 18 years old, flung from the back seat of a car driven by a drunken driver. Alison, D.J.’s oldest sister and a Red Bank Charter School teacher, spoke to RBR students during the kick-off to Project Prom, which promotes wise choices.  Project prom has been conducted for the past nine years to try to prevent tragedies that befell the Wheeler family.

Little Silver, NJ -  Alison Wheeler is a third grade teacher at the Red Bank Charter School.  She may have been addressing the older brothers and sisters of some of her students when she spoke to Red Bank Regional’s (RBR) graduating class during Project Prom week.  But it was a sister who talked and wept to the brothers and sisters of others on how her family’s life was forever changed when a drunken driver took her beloved brother DJ’s life nearly 10 years ago. 

On the giant screen behind her, video was reliving the 2003 Middletown High School South pre- prom pictures. A very handsome, tall, and dimple faced D.J. was seen beaming as he boarded the bus to the prom with his date. His mom could be seen whispering something in his ear.  Alison revealed that her mother was muttering yet another futile plea for him not to acquire his threatened tattoo during prom weekend.  DJ would return home safe from prom weekend with a Celtic cross tattooed on his leg. 

The family was proudly Irish-American with all its rich cultural and religious traditions.  Christmas was their favorite holiday, but no one loved it more than DJ.  The Wheeler kids, Alison, her younger sister Erin and DJ, would make homemade decorations each year and decorate their family Christmas tree. DJ even got a part-time job helping other families pick out their trees at a local tree farm. 

Then one fatal November night, six months after prom and high school graduation, DJ, who wasn’t drinking, got into the car of teenager who was.  Three boys were ejected from the car, which had to be traveling at very high speed on Middletown-Lincroft Road. Only DJ was killed.  Now a Celtic cross tombstone from Ireland adorns his grave, and the Wheelers do not put up Christmas trees anymore-- not yet.  The drunk driver was given a three-year sentence for killing her little brother, who played high school football and hockey and was attending college to maybe become a harbor pilot as his dad.  Instead, he is forever 18, and the Wheeler family is left to live a life sentence of regret. This was the powerful message that Allison hoped would resonate with other 18 year-olds during the week of happy prom preparation-- that one mistake could alter your life forever.

For nine years RBR has held a week of programs to prevent similar tragedies which, according to RBR school resource officer Robert Chenoweth, spike around prom time. A mock crash is usually held with the participation of local first responders. This year’s event was cancelled for inclement weather, but several compelling videos were shown to the senior class followed by poignant speakers, including Alison, who were very potent in delivering their message.  Area defense attorney Mitch Ansell detailed the penalties for drinking and driving in the state of New Jersey.  He punctuated his remarks with the sad tales of clients currently serving prison time for such offenses, their lives in shambles. Funeral Director Jerry Tilden whose own son graduated from RBR, has been involved in similar prom presentations in several states since the day he responded to a horrific crash in Connecticut, which took lives of three young ladies. (He explained that funeral personnel are often asked to respond to such tragedies acting as the representative of the coroner’s office.)

“Just think,” he told the students, “Who is going to answer the door at two or three in the morning when the police come to tell your family that you are dead?”

Programs continue throughout the week with police officers from Little Silver visiting all senior classes during gym and or health class and detailing the fines and penalties for drunk driving and sharing national statistics with the students. Little Silver Officers Chenoweth and Pete Gibson also orchestrate a simulated drunk driving course using golf carts and fatal-vision goggles. Students perform exercises while wearing the goggles which simulate a vision handicap similar to intoxication.

Officer Chenoweth states, “We conduct this program every year around this time to reinforce the importance of making the right decisions so as not to become part of the national statistics.”

Sadly, the RBR Class of 2013 is less immune to such personal tragedy.  Their immortal teenage armor has been tarnished this school year after losing two of their own to sudden death from natural causes. Still, as Little Silver Officer Pete Gibson told them, “In a perfect world no one would drink under 21 years of age, but this isn’t a perfect world. And if you do, you just can’t get behind the wheel of a car or in anyone’s car who is drinking.”