Mannequin Challenge

It’s a powerful video with a message which can not be stated enough.

Don’t drink and drive.

The Itasca County Towards Zero Deaths (TZD) Coalition recently completed and uploaded a YouTube video, Itasca County Towards Zero Deaths Mannequin Challenge. The video, a little more than four minutes in length, depicts moments, frozen in time, which occurred in a fictional drunk driving death, from the crash scene to the cemetery.

While the mannequin challenge, in which people make videos of a scenario with the participants standing as still as mannequins, has slowed in popularity, the idea for the video came a couple months ago, during the height of the mannequin challenge craze, according to Kimberly Johnson, Itasca County TZD Coalition coordinator.

Johnson explained that the idea to do a video came to her during a review of two fatal, alcohol-related crashes in late 2016.

“I sat back and thought, ‘This is ridiculous, we have to try something new,’” Johnson recalled, expressing her frustration over two more deaths due to a completely avoidable combination, drinking and driving.

She pitched the idea at the following TZD meeting, adding that she knew one had previously been done on the dangers of heroin.

After the initial reaction of “what are you thinking?” the group said go for it, Johnson said. It took more than two months to coordinate schedules as well as plan the video.

Filming for the video was done on Feb. 1, the coldest day in weeks, she said.

It was 20 below that day, recalled Grand Rapids Assistant Police Chief Steve Schaar, who stood by one of the victims in the crash scene, filmed on the Harris Town Road.

“You couldn’t breathe when the camera was approaching, or your breath would show,” he said, adding that it was probably three minutes he stood perfectly still as the camera passed through the scene.

The video was filmed and produced by a group of Grand Rapids High School students, who “did a phenomenal job,” Johnson said.

The video is geared towards adults, she continued. Most people killed in drunk driving crashes are adults, so the coalition wanted to make sure that group was targeted.

From 2015 to April 20, 2017, there have been 13 fatal crashes in Itasca County, Johnson said. Of those, eight were alcohol-related. Three years ago, Itasca County was the ninth deadliest county in the state, today the county ranks No. 21.

However, Johnson noted, the statistics for Itasca County haven’t moved downward, the other counties are recording more fatal crashes.

Schaar said the feedback he has heard from the video so far has all been positive.

Johnson said that the coalition knows that people will be struck by different parts of the video.

“When my mother-in-law watched the video, it was the death notification scene which hit her hard,” Johnson said. “That scene was filmed in my living room.”

Other coalition members were very proud to take part in the video.

“Rowe Funeral Home staff was so proud and honored to be asked to participate in the challenge,” said Leah Huso of Rowe Funeral Home. “Raising awareness to the consequences of drinking and driving is very timely for our community.”

Rachel Metelak, a county engineer who is in the video, said that not only has being part of the coalition had a lot of impact on her and her family, she used being in the video as a learning experience for her family.

“I also used it as a learning experience for my family by recruiting my husband, Nate, and six- year-old daughter, Cora to be in it too,” Metelak said. “We had talks with her about what was happening, what drunk, impaired driving means, and why it is so dangerous. She asked a lot of questions, learned a lot, and had fun with the filming.”

Huso believes the video will bring needed attention to drinking and driving.

“Even in light of our communities’ recent tragedies, the mannequin challenge will bring attention to the all resources needed [to respond to a crash], and how many people could be affected at each stage,” she said. “I think what the TZD group did to show how each scene could play out from the crash scene, to the hospital, to the funeral home, and eventually to the graveside were portrayed so accurately it brought me to tears.

“Hopefully, people will think back on those images, and think twice about drinking and driving.

Agencies taking part in the video were Itasca County Public Health, Itasca County Sheriff’s Department, Grand Rapids Police Department, Grand Rapids Fire Department, TJ Towing, Rowe Funeral Home, Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital, Itasca County Probation, Meds-1 EMS, Itasca County Road and Bridge, and Grand Rapids High School.

The video may be viewed at www.youtube.com by searching for Itasca County Toward Zero Deaths Mannequin Challenge.

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