EAST COUNTY — Ten years have passed since Melissa Wandall’s love was stolen from her.
Nearly 10 years have passed since she gave birth to her daughter, Madisyn, alone, after her husband, Mark, died in a car accident caused by a red-light runner, less than two miles from their Whisper Bend home.
“You learn how to manage it,” Wandall says of the grief. “For me, it’s gotten more real (over time).”
On the anniversary of Mark Wandall’s death, Oct. 24, Wandall visits markers in his honor, but the tears she sheds are no more, no less, than on other days. It could be at 2 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, or breakfast time on a Wednesday morning when the moment of grief still overtakes her.
“It’s emotional,” she says, tearing up. “The realization has always been that he’s not walking back through the door. But, (now I’m realizing) the day-to-day grand love (isn’t something I get to experience with him).”
Wandall could grieve over the what-could-have-been but, instead, she focuses her thoughts and attention to Mark’s legacy of love for her and her family.
After his death, Wandall used insurance money from the accident to advocate legislators for the passage of the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, which allows the use of cameras to catch drivers who run red lights.
“It’s a real love story, and I think that’s why it’s such a gift to be able to do this in his name,” Wandall says, noting the law is meant to make roads safer and prevent others from losing loved ones due to red-light running. “It shows Madisyn how love can go on, and there are different types of love. It shows her how big and bright (Mark was).”
The not-for-profit set up in Mark Wandall’s honor, The Mark Wandall Foundation, will hold its 10th annual golf tournament fundraiser Nov. 2.
Wandall says the milestone is one she doesn’t often contemplate. Instead, she thinks about things she wants to accomplish.
The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act helps with her initial goal — to inspire people to make better driving decisions and make roadways safer. But as Wandall continues to educate and advocate for traffic safety, she also is focusing her attention on providing children, who have lost a parent, guardian or sibling due to a vehicle-related accident, the support they need.
Funds the foundation raises currently are going toward bringing Comfort Zone Camp, a bereavement camp specifically designed for children, to the Sarasota area. Wandall hopes to have the program in place by the end of 2014. After that, she hopes to expand the camp to other locations in Florida, including Orlando.
“We were going to give scholarships for (children to go to) the camp, but Madisyn was on a one-year waiting list,” Wandall says, noting the camp should be available as soon as possible to grieving children.
Wandall’s foundation is seeking to raise $55,000 for the cause, which will pay for Comfort Zone Camp to find a weekend facility and pay for accommodations for the children, ages 7 to 17, to attend camp. She also will need about 75 volunteers to help at the camp, once it is ready to open.
For more information on The Mark Wandall Foundation or to make a donation, visit themarkwandallfoundation.com.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].