After losing her own daughter to a distracted driver in 2019, Deanna Irwin is on a mission to educate drivers of all ages while giving back to local students.
19 year-old Peyton Irwin had been riding with a friend’s family to cheer on the Huntsville High School Drill Team at their national competition in San Antonio, when a distracted driver collided with the vehicle, killing all four children in the car.
It was a loss met with an outpouring of support from the community, inspiring the Peyton Irwin Memorial Scholarship Fund, in order to let something good blossom from such a tragedy.
“To fund that, we had an idea to do this Fun Run, because everybody likes to do them, it draws a good crowd and it gives us an opportunity to educate people on the dangers of distracted driving,” Deanna said.
The second annual Pineapple Run will include a 5K, one-mile or virtual 5K options and a costume party contest. The $35 race fee for the 5K or $25 fee for the one-mile course includes a t-shirt, swag-bag and a breakfast served right after the race. Virtual 5K participants are asked to register by April 6 at 10 a.m. with a $40 race fee.
With 354 runners participating, last year’s inaugural race raised just over $13,000 for the Peyton Irwin Memorial Scholarship Fund, benefitting four Huntsville High School students who were each awarded $1,000 scholarships. Depending on the amount of applications received this year, the fund will award at least one $1,000 scholarship to a student, and may award up to four more. The remainder of the funds will go towards educational opportunities arranged by the foundation throughout the year, including a partnership with Driver’s Education.
“It’s just one more way to reach the kids about distracted driving, because it’s not a huge part of the curriculum. We need to educate them as young as we can, because it’s not just kids that do it, adults are just as guilty, if not more so, sometimes,” Deanna said.
In an effort to increase awareness and education, this year’s Fun Run will also include its first Driving Safety Expo that will follow the race from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Events and activities will be available throughout the morning with local first responders, including a live Jaws of Life demonstration at 10 a.m.
Texas A&M University will also be on-site to host a roll-over convincer that will show the importance of wearing a seat belt, while a “Crash Truck” that two teenagers survived from because they were wearing their seatbelt, will be shown.
Huntsville High School Criminal Justice will offer an obstacle course to be navigated by tricycles while wearing goggles that simulate drunk driving, and another course will have individuals wear goggles simulating the lagging reaction time from distracted driving.
A Kids Korner will provide fun activities for young ones to enjoy, while food will be available from Two Blondes and a Bakery and Sausage on a Stick. All participants are encouraged to stop by the MVP event sponsor booth from State Farm, to make their pledge against distracted driving and save lives.
“I encourage people to put their phones down, first and foremost, just drive, keep your hands on the steering wheel, your eyes on the road and get where you’re going. I don’t want anyone’s loved ones to ever have to go through what we’re going through,” Deanna said. “Somebody thought it was way more important to check their phone or be on their phone than to pay attention to the road. It’s heartbreaking for Peyton’s family, it’s just crushing to see her friends and what they’re going through still because of the loss of Peyton.”
The Pineapple Run will meet Saturday, April 10, at Physical Therapy Associates, located at 127 Medical Park Lane in Huntsville. On-site registration will begin at 7 a.m., followed by the opening ceremonies at 7:30 a.m. and the beginning of the race at 8 a.m. Packet pick up and race day registration will be available Friday, April 9 at the Kate Barr Ross parking lot next to the City Service Center from 5 to 7 p.m.
To register for the Pineapple Run or register, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/TX/Huntsville/STOPDistractedDrivingFunRun