WARSAW — Hunter Haines, a participant in Kosciusko Youth Leadership Academy, used the opportunity with Kosciusko Youth Leadership Academy to get a message out to others and create a program in an attempt to keep what happened to him and his family from happening to others.
Haines was chosen to present his Project Proud project “Designate and Dine” during the annual KYLA graduation program Wednesday evening, May 4. His project is an initiative to eradicate drinking and driving and that plagues the county.
“I chose this project because I was personally effected from a drinking and driving accident. My family and I … were hit head on by a drunk driver. It has caused a lot of pain in our family and a lot of suffering and has impacted us and continues to impact us for the rest of our lives,” said Haines. “I chose this project to make sure no one else has to go through the same kind of suffering that we have.”
“Designate and Dine” is a membership based program for restaurants and bars desiring to make the community safer. The goal is to reduce the number of drinking and driving accidents. Haines stated the program rewards customers for being responsible and bringing designated drivers. Those drivers receive incentives — discounts on meals, free appetizers, free fountain drinks or other incentives.
Haines admitted knew he wanted to do this project several months after the accident. He also knew through KYLA he would have the opportunity to do such a project. “My goal was to be admitted so I could do this.”
Haines shared aspects involved in getting the program started, time, funding, implementation and goals. He also shared the setbacks.
“I learned that the community is really satisfied with this idea,” he said. He has been inspired through the support he has received. “It is incredible to see how badly this community wants to help with the safety of everyone. It gave me a chance to share my story.” The experience has made it easier for him to talk of the accident and learn about the dangers of drinking and driving through statistics. He also learned to speak “with community leaders about the issues.”
Haines plans to continue the program and spread it as far as possible including outside the county. He also sees the possibility of it being a non-profit organization. “It is one of the best ideas I ever had. The fact I’m making an impact on the community makes it so much better.”
He shared the personal gains he received — communication skills, learning it is OK to ask for help and to need support, and getting out of his comfort zone. Haines added what he learned through KYLA including networking with community leaders, which will help “in the future as I look to aspire whatever I’ll be in life. It gave me an outlet to speak out about something I’m very passionate about.”
Individuals can learn more about the program by visiting designateanddine.org.