The Yates County STOP DWI Program sponsored its annual spring Yates County Drunk/Impaired Driving Victim Impact Panel (VIP), Wednesday, April 26 at 7 p.m. at the County Office Building auditorium. Yates County does two panels a year and this was recognized as the 18th one done.

Sheriff Ron Spike, who chairs the Task Force VIP said, “Our mission is to have driving under the influence by alcohol or drugs offenders understand the human factor of victimization that impaired driving can cause others affected by a related crash and how lives, families and friends are forever altered by a bad choice to drink or take illegal drugs and then drive a motor vehicle.” All courts in the county in sentencing offenders make attending the panel a condition of the sentence as required by the state Vehicle and Traffic law.

54 court ordered offenders and some guests appeared for check-in, magnetometer screening, and breath testing by Sheriff’s Deputies, Court Security, and Penn Yan Police Dept. before the panel commenced. Yates County Probation Officers were also present for registration and assistance including Director Sharon Dawes at reception. Court Officer Derek Christensen assisted with audio visual equipment. Penn Yan Police Chief Mark Hulse issued the rules for the session and security. The STOP programs VIP Coordinator Jenna Owen organized the event. Opening remarks were from Sheriff Spike and the Yates County District Attorney Valerie Gardner. Others in attendance included Hon. Jason Cook, County Judge, Legislator Terry Button, and several patrol deputy sheriffs attending for in-service training on victimization. The evening’s panel speaker was Marianne Angelillo, the married mother of four children from Skaneateles. She presented a heart breaking story she called “Sharing My Stones,” as she lost her 17-year-old son Matthew, who was a passenger in a tragic DWI-speeding car crash in 2004, and since then has turned her grief into a campaign of awareness for parents and teens in a courageous effort to prevent similar tragedies. She was recognized in 2013 with the New York State STOP-DWI Community Involvement Award.

The attendees then completed an evaluation form and received a certificate of attendance for their submission to the courts for verification that they attended as ordered. The event lasted about 70 minutes. Sheriff Spike thanked the members of the county task force and Marianne Angelillo for all her synergy in making this VIP a success noting that Marianne was also scheduled to speak to Dundee Central School students today. “If we can change behaviors and attitudes then good choices will prevail as the consequences otherwise can be deadly,” said the VIP Coordinator Jenna Owen in concluding the event.