U.S. Dressage Team Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover and trainer Tom Wright are among many who are mourning the deaths of two young people in a single-car crash in Wellington, Fla., last month, when the vehicle went across a median at a high rate of speed. Christian Kennedy, 21, and the driver, 19-year-old Dana McWilliams were killed; the back seat passenger, Elaine O’Halloran, 24, was critically injured.
The incident raised unwelcome memories of the 2016 accident that killed show jumper Andres Rodriguez, whose blood alcohol count was over the limit, and Sophie Walker. While both were in their 30s, that accident and others brought to the fore the issue of drinking and driving among young people in the self-proclaimed winter equestrian capital of the world.
Robert and Tom have mobilized in an effort to stop further tragedies. Last weekend was the kick-off of having celebrity “bouncers” at bars to help guide drivers who have had too much to drink to waiting limos. The “bouncers” the first night were TV star Carson Kressley and Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig, who were available to drive home the cars of those who opted for limo service. The second day, Canadian show jumper Tiffany Foster and hunter trainer Bob Crandall were the bouncers.
Tom had started the limo project in 2016, but following Robert pitched in to help expand it following the death of Christian, whom Robert had named as one of the Future Stars in a program that he is renaming in the promising dressage riders’s memory.
The original program was “quiet,” said Robert, who wanted to expand it and make it more visible. Now it’s called the Get Home Safe Project, and it’s highly visible.
“Kids are going to do what they’re going to do, even if you tell them to abstain,” said Robert. “What we can do is give them better choices in that moment and hope they avail themselves of that better choice.”
The cars will be at the Players Club and the Grille, both popular drinking spots.
Robert Dover and Robert Ross sponsored the car service on Saturday, while Juan Gando, the owner of the Grille, sponsored the cars on Sunday. The vehicles cost $650 per evening, so more sponsorship is needed. Those willing to make a contribution should contact Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tom at email@example.com. Bouncers are also needed. Those who are not celebrities are welcome to become bouncers because, “if you come out and want to be a bouncer, you become a celebrity in my mind,” Robert said.
“I am just glad that there is something, even if it’s not really enough, that could come from this tragedy that is even the slightest bit positive,” Robert said.
A funeral and celebration for Christian’s life will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 9 at Nan’s Cottage (the home of Maria Baber, 540 Ampthill Road, Cartersville, Va.) All are welcome. The best airports are either Richmond or Charlottesville. Those attending are advised to dress warmly and riding clothes are encouraged.
In lieu of flowers, donations are being sought that will be used for equestrian training scholarships and for action to change unsafe driving and behaviors, first in Palm Beach County, and then the nation. Donations may be made to the Christian Kennedy Foundation on GoFundMe.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set up for Elaine O’Halloran, who worked as a groom for show jumper David Blake. Elaine has undergone surgery, but has substantial rehab ahead of her. She did not have medical insurance. The goal of the page is to raise $500,000. Here is the link to donate: https://www.gofundme.com/elaine-ohalloran-medical-fund