Sheila Forsner Award
For Outstanding Volunteer Service
This award is given in memory of Sheila Forsner who rose above her own tragedy and triumphed in educating and inspiring others.
Sheila’s Unending Influence
My sister, Sheila Forsner, and nephew, Alex…each year, I begin with this phrase and struggle to find words to update Sheila’s and Alex’s page in the AAIM book. How do I convey in new, meaningful words the power of their presence and the everlasting effect of their absence? I have come to realize that their story is just that…their story. It is already written and, although I know their souls live on, the earthly portions of their life stories contain a “The End”. However, our love for and memories of them will never end or fade away. The power of the story of their lives, violently ended by a drunk and drug impaired driver, will never diminish. So, once again, I will write about Sheila and Alex. I know I can never hope to fully relay each and every cherished moment of the span of their lives and how they intertwined with ours. Instead, I will write of them and hope my words express the basic message of their story and our immense love for them.
My sister, Sheila Forsner, her husband, stepson and baby were traveling to our mom’s house when they were hit by a drunk driver. Three and half month old Alex, although strapped into his car seat, was killed instantly by the impact. Brian, Sheila’s stepson, remained in a coma for several days and recovered physically over the following several months. Sheila’s husband, Ed, remained conscious throughout, witnessing the unimaginable destruction caused by one man’s choice to drive while intoxicated by alcohol and drugs.
Sheila remained in a coma for several months and, over the next five years, faced not only the intense grief of losing her son, her independence and the life she had with her family, she also faced the myriad of challenges caused by the traumatic brain injury (TBI) she sustained in the crash. She endured countless hours of physical, occupational and speech therapies. She had to re-learn many of the things we take for granted: how to literally breathe again after being taken off of a ventilator, how to eat, how to talk and find the most effective way to be understood as a result of her speech impairment, how to use the very limited movement she fought to regain in order to be as independent as possible. This consisted mainly of using her right arm as the TBI affected all of her motor skills and left her a virtual quadriplegic. She faced so many trips to the hospital as a result of complications due to her injuries, went into kidney failure and had to go on dialysis. Sheila died before she could receive the kidney transplant that had been scheduled.
A drunk and drug impaired driver killed Alex, Sheila’s first child, our parent’s first grandchild and our first nephew (in a family of six girls!). Alex was with us for what seems like the blink of any eye but his smile and ability to make others smile and feel such overwhelming love spans the years since the crash and defies the passage of time. One man’s choice decimated so many lives but ultimately did not take away Sheila’s independent character, strength, humor and compassion. These are the memories we keep of Sheila and Alex. There have been many additions to our family, nieces and nephews Sheila never met and who never had the chance to know Sheila. Alex will never know his older brothers and his cousins; his cousins will never know him. We talk about Sheila and Alex so the children in our family who never met them will know their names, hear about their lives so they can have the opportunity to have a sense of who they were and to know they are an integral part of the tapestry of our family. Sheila’s work with AAIM and her work with Pat Larson, which was so important to and valued by Sheila, resonate to this day and her family is so honored every year with the presentation of the Sheila Forsner Award. Sheila often told me that if, through her work with AAIM, she could prevent just one person from going through what she and her family experienced, then she would feel she had contributed something very worthwhile.
I believe she succeeded in her mission.
Patrice Heelan (Sheila’s sister)
2014 Award Recipient
2014 - Lisa Lilly
Lisa’s parent were killed by a drunk driver…learn more
Past Award Recipients
2013 - Randy Lounds
2012 - Claudia Corrigan
2011 - Bob Cebrzynski
2010 - Joel Mains
A drunk driver killed Joel's stepdaughter, Caitlin Weese in 2003 at the age of seventeen, one week before she was to graduate from high school...Learn more
2009 - Lucy Romero
2008 - Chet Stanley
Chet's 23-year old daughter, Theresa (Peanut), and her boyfriend, David Brown, were killed by a drunk driver on March 3, 2001.....
2007 - Rita Kreslin
Rita's 19-year old son, John, was killed by a drunk driver on August 30, 2002.....
2006 - Charlene Wooley
Charlie's stepson, Aric Wooley, was killed by a drunk driver on June 16, 2000 in Wood Dale.....
2005 - Shelly Anderson
Shelly's daughter, Jenni Lynn, was killed by a drunk driver in 1997.....
2004 - Pam Kelleher
Pam has served on the benefit committee for five years and has raised funds by serving as chairman of the silent auction.....
2003 - Dave Perozzi
On July 26, 1998, a drunk driver killed Daren Perozzi. Two short months before, Daren graduated from the University of Illinois....
2002 - The Crowley Family
On August 25, 1988, 2 year-old Billy Crowley was hit by an impaired driver.....
2001 - Linda Irwin
In 1997, a drunk driver killed Linda's 17-year old daughter, Tiffany.....
2000 - Sally Hoffman
In 1991, Pat Larson enlisted the aid of her friends to help with starting a fundraiser to assist victims.....
1999 - Twyla Blakely
In 1991 Pat Larson enlisted the aid of her dear friend Twyla to help with starting a fundraiser.....
1998 - Nancy Foy
On March 18, 1993, Tom Foy was killed by a drunk driver.....
1997 - Cathy Grant Armstrong
For five years, Cathy had donated her time to AAIM.....