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AHH 24-Hr. News

Middletown Receives State Grant for Summer Recreation Inclusion Program
Thursday, 23 October 2014
MIDDLETOWN – Middletown’s Summer Recreation Inclusion Program will be bolstered next year thanks to a $20,000 award from the state Recreational... Read More...
“Israel in a Changing Middle East: An Intelligence Perspective” on October 30
Thursday, 23 October 2014
West Long Branch, N.J. Monmouth University’s Jewish Cultural Studies Program presents “Israel in a Changing Middle East: An Intelligence... Read More...
IMAGE Local Volunteer Fire Departments Hold Live Training Drill
Thursday, 23 October 2014
Keyport, NJ - On Saturday morning, October 18, 2014 several northern Monmouth County fire departments conducted a large scale training exercise at... Read More...
Nominations Sought for 2015 BCC Honors
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
LINCROFT, NJ  – The Brookdale Community College Alumni Association is seeking nominations for the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award, which... Read More...
IMAGE RBR Vocal Majors to Attend All State Chorus 2104
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Pictured are the eight Red Bank Regional (RBR) Visual & Performing Arts Vocal majors who will represent their high school in the prestigious... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE The Fountain of Youth
by Anne Mikolay
Thursday, 23 October 2014
On October 20th, actress Renee Zellweger arrived at the 2014 Elle Women in Hollywood awards with a new face. As a result of very obvious plastic... Read More...
IMAGE Review - The Skeleton Twins
by David Prown
Sunday, 19 October 2014
Recently a good friend shared that she was very amped up to see the new movie "The Skeleton Twins" playing at the Bow Tie in Red Bank. She is a big... Read More...
IMAGE Halloween Special Feature: Remembering Hans Holzer’s Paranormal Investigations in NJ (Part I)
by Dennis
Sunday, 19 October 2014
When it came to ghosts, ghouls, and stories from beyond the grave, few spoke as authoritatively as the late Dr. Hans Holzer. The Austrian-born... Read More...
IMAGE Who Put a Silver Bracelet on a Bird?
by Joe Reynolds
Saturday, 18 October 2014
As autumn progresses around New York Harbor (including the lower reaches of Sandy Hook Bay and Raritan Bay), royalty has returned to our sandy... Read More...
IMAGE Individualism and Group Activities Reconsidered
by George Hancock-Stefan
Friday, 17 October 2014
A short while ago, one of the high school students in my church told me that she hates group projects.  She finished her part already, but... Read More...

Upcoming Events

Sat Oct 25 @ 5:00AM - 08:00PM
Halloween Hullabaloo - Middletown
Sat Oct 25 @10:00AM - 11:30AM
Chess Club Meets - AH Library
Tue Oct 28 @ 7:00PM -
MT Town Hall Meeting - Economic Development
Wed Oct 29 @ 9:30AM - 10:00AM
Baby Story Time Ages 10 – 24 months
Wed Oct 29 @10:30AM - 10:50AM
Toddler Story Time Ages 2 & 3

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.”