In photo left to right: Acacia Houck (daughter), Ashley Iwaniec (daughter), Debby Iwaniec, Ken Iwaniec (husband), Sashonna Zacour (daughter), Theron Zacour (son-in-law), and Madeline Zacour (granddaughter)
Survivor Activist Award
Nominator: Linda OKeefe, Victim Advocate for DUI Victim Impact Panel Fayette County, Crime Victims Center of Fayette County
Award Recipient: Debra Iwaniec, School teach at Yough High School & Member of the PA DUI Association
On March 27, 2008, Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec finished his shift and began his drive home. Just two miles away from his station, an impaired driver crossed the centerline, hit Kenton's vehicle head-on, and another beautiful life was added to the DUI victim death toll. Kenton's heart was compassionate, his mind was quick, and his sense of humor was one of a kind. Kenton was dedicated to his family, friends, God, and Country. He lived to serve.
The aftermath of Kenton's death changed the Iwaniec family forever. In order to find meaning in his death, honor his life, and most importantly, prevent other families from going through what they experienced, Debby stresses the importance of responsible choices as an effective and simple way to help reduce DUIs. Debby, Kenton's father Ken, and his sisters, tirelessly encompass the state, telling their story to various DUI Victim Impact Panels, schools, and other organizations. Debby’s vigorous efforts to establish awareness of impaired driving are beyond commendable.
This heart-strong mother, with the support of her entire family, established the Trooper Kenton Iwaniec Foundation and web site. It was developed as a tool in their fight to bring justice to innocent victims of impaired driving crashes, and to keep Kenton’s memory alive. In addition, Debby oversees the annual Trooper Iwaniec Memorial TakeOff Race. The 7th Annual Race was held at St. Vincent College on Saturday, April 23rd. Events included a 10K Race, 5K Race, 1 mile Fun Walk, and 5K Fun Walk. The TakeOff is a race to honor DUI victims, raise awareness about the seriousness of impaired driving, and encourage the community to have a positive influence in the reduction of impaired driving. Because Kenton loved fishing, hunting, and the outdoors, Debby and her family also sponsor an annual Sporting Clay Shoot fundraising event at the Shooting Academy at the Nemacolin Woodlands. September 19, 2015 marked the 4th annual event. It welcomes participants of all skills. all proceeds go to purchasing PBTs.
All profits are used to purchase Portable Breath Alcohol Testers (PBTs) for the Pennsylvania State Police and other local law enforcement agencies throughout the Commonwealth. Since 2009, over 850 PBTs have been purchased. "The family is proud to say every state police barracks in the state has at least one PBT unit,” Debby was quoted in an interview with the Trib Live. "Our goal was to see that every state police barracks had a PBT unit. We accomplished that goal in 2012. Now we are calling them to offer five units to each state police station in the Commonwealth."
Debby's mission is never ending. More recently, she is a relentless advocate working to garner support for Senate Bill 1036, which would extend the "Ignition Interlock" program to include first-time offenders.
More than 30% of traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania are alcohol related. Debby Iwaniec is a mother who tragically lost her beloved son, a heartache no mother or family should ever endure. She has gathered the strength and commitment to keep Kenton’s memory alive. She and her family were forced to start a new life without Kenton. As she states on the Foundation site, “It is a life that will always be filled with a strange sense of loneliness; it is a life that will never be as good as the one we once knew. There will be an empty place at the dinner table and in our hearts. To an outsider, the Iwaniec family will now appear as five, but we know that isn't right; we should be six."
Ms. Iwaniec was presented the award on August 9th during an Award presentation by Ann Emmerling, VSAC member and Executive Director for Blackburn Center.
On behalf of victims of crime and the victim services field, we thank you, Ms. Iwaniec, for your innovation, collaboration, and unfailing commitment to victims of crime.