When BADD things happen, biker group makes good By KELLY CUCULIANSKY Staff Writer Tim Hiatt was sober and trying to do the right thing when he offered to pick up food for friends who had been drinking. Five minutes into the ride, a drunken driver knocked him off his motorcycle, leaving him lying in the street in front of oncoming traffic. Feb. 15, 2009, is a night Hiatt thinks about daily. The slender 55-year-old with long brown hair doesn’t want to smile since he lost three teeth in the hit-and-run crash. He can no longer bend his right leg, which swelled three times in size and looked “like someone had taken a sledgehammer to it.” “Being left — that was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my entire life,” he said Friday as he leaned on a cane outside his camper. When everything felt like it was crashing down on him — foreclosure, hospital and medication bills, and a torrent of physical and mental pain — the people of Bikers Against Drunk Drivers were there for Hiatt and his wife. BADD could not fix all his mounting problems, but the minor financial and emotional support was a small beam of light during the darkest of times. During a 13-day stay at Halifax Health Medical Center, BADD visited his bedside, brought flowers and just talked. “If it wasn’t for BADD, I wouldn’t have had any meds,” said Hiatt, who is unemployed and doesn’t have insurance. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.” The group also connected him with a local attorney. Hiatt said he filed suit against 26-year-old driver Thomas Conway, who was charged with driving under the influence, property damage, hit and run with great bodily harm, and driving under the influence with injury. The small nonprofit has its headquarters in Destination Daytona and was founded in Canada 23 years ago. It helps about two dozen victims of drunken driving crashes each year, said President Lynn Ricks. Victims must meet a list of criteria, including being sober, and need to provide a police report of the accident. BADD evaluates the amount of assistance on a case by case basis. Rather than giving cash to victims directly, the group helps by paying bills, such as mortgage and insurance, or in Hiatt’s case, by purchasing more than $1,000 in pharmacy gift cards for medication. Like many of the volunteers and workers with BADD, drunken drivers changed Ricks’ life. He lost a brother in 1973 when a truck hit him head on in Montreal and five years later, Ricks had just finished rebuilding his 1970 BSA 650 Lightning when a drunken taxi driver hit him at about 60 mph. He knows how Hiatt feels to be alone during the recovery. “It took me five years to get over the whole thing,” Ricks said. “I used to break out in tears uncontrollably.” In a strange twist, Hiatt and his wife, Debra, were on the other side of BADD’s operations several years ago. His wife worked and Hiatt occasionally volunteered for the group, which works at biker events throughout Canada and America to spread the word against drinking and driving. Asked about the coincidence, Ricks said “that just goes to show you how many people are being hurt.” According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an organization not affiliated with BADD, on average someone is killed by a drunken driver every 45 minutes. Biker rallies, such as Biketoberfest, are BADD’s bread and butter because most fundraising is done through yearlong raffle ticket sales for collector cars and motorcycles. The economy has donations down by about one-third. Car displays, such as a 1965 Ford Cobra replica at Destination Daytona, draw folks in and from there it’s a matter of spreading the message. Lynn Ricks, BADD president, said people don’t often comprehend the damage of drunken driving until they go through it or lose a loved one. “We want to remind them of what the consequences are,” he said. In Roger Marchand’s case, the rare Cobra caught his eye and the cause was enough to donate $20 for 20 tickets Thursday. “That’s the turn on. I’m an old Ford guy. . . . I was a teenager when this thing came out and I’ve adored it since its inception,” said Marchand, a “motorhead” from Spring Hill. “But even if I don’t win, this is a great cause.” HOW TO HELP For more information about B.A.D.D. or to learn how to help, visit baddcentral.com or call 844-529-BADD.