Laurel Middelaer can’t bear to part with a tiny pair of red sandals.
The little shoes represent her four-year-old daughter Alexa’s fierce spirit, as she refused to wear anything else. They represent her individuality, as she determinedly wore them on the wrong feet And they give Laurel a reason to put an end to drunk driving.
Laurel held tightly to the sandals as she spoke about her bright, fair-haired daughter who was killed by a drunk driver in 2008.
More than 40 Vancouver Island police officers, including members from Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria departments, were honoured and welcomed to Alexa’s Team on April 11 for their work in charging intoxicated drivers.
Laurel and her husband, Michael Middelaer, were on hand to thank the officers for helping to take drunk drivers off the roads. In their daughter’s memory, her parents founded Alexa’s Team in 2008, a program that recognizes police officers who charge 12 or more intoxicated drivers in a year.
Organizers estimate that, statistically, the officers’ work saves hundreds of lives a year.
“I want you to know what kind of difference you are making,” she said. “I speak for the voices that do not know who they are, and I want to thank you.”
The honours were given out at Glenlyon Norfolk school in Oak Bay, with minister of Aboriginal relations and reconciliation Ida Chong in attendance, along with Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.
Jensen, a former Crown prosecutor, spoke of seeing first hand the hard, often thankless work police officers do to charge drunk drivers. He has also seen the results of drinking and driving.
“The hardest part of that job was not going into the courthouse,” said Jensen. “The hardest part was, in fact, meeting the families of the victims, the families whose lives had been devastated.”
Oak Bay officer, Const. Mike Klein-Beekman, was among the honourees. Klein-Beekman is currently working with the Integrated Road Safety Unit.