Grieving Dad Pays Teens Not to Drink
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Since losing his 14-year-old daughter Mariah in a drunk driving accident five years ago, Leo McCarthy has taken an unusual step to protect other Montana teens: paying them to stay safe. At his daughter's memorial service, he promised her peers: "If you stick with me for four years, don't use alcohol, don't use illicit drugs but give back to your community, work with your parents and talk to your parents, I'll be there with a bunch of other people to give you money." He's kept his word by setting up a scholarship fund called "Mariah's Challenge." To be eligible, teens must sign a pledge to not drink until they're 21, and never to get in a car with a drunk driver. "I wanted to give them encouragement and to tell them that...you can be better and always be greater in the situation," says McCarthy. So far, over 140 high-school grads have received $1,000 scholarships from private donations after signing up. About 8,000 teens in the community have accepted the challenge—as well as an increasing number of adults, who've taken the pledge as a show of support. Drinking and driving is a huge problem in Montana; the state regularly ranks in the top five per capita for drunk-driving deaths. "Montana finally has had enough," says the state's attorney general Steve Bullock. "We're addressing [the issue] both through law enforcement, through legislation and through awareness. One of the great things about Mariah's Challenge is changing people's behavior and the positive awareness of it."