Sheila, 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. Sheila’s stepson remained in a
coma for several days and recovered physically over the following several months.
Sheila’s husband remained conscious throughout, witnessing the unimaginable
destruction of his family caused by one man’s choice to drive while intoxicated
and impaired 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 virtually a 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)
Cathy Armstrong 1997
Nancy Foy 1998
Twyla Blakely 1999
Sally Hoffman 2000
Linda Irwin 2001
Bill Crowley 2002
Dave Perozzi 2003
Pam Kelleher 2004
Shelly Anderson 2005
Charlie Wooley 2006
Rita Kreslin 2007
Chet Stanley 2008
Lucy Romero 2009
Joel Mains 2010
Bob Cebrzynski 2011
Claudia Corrigan 2012
Randy Lounds 2013
Lisa Lilly 2014
The Olmsted Family 2015
Margaret Borcia 2016
Heather Lopez 2017
Leeslyee Huerta 2018
Doug Petit 2019
Meg Garcia 2020
Gary “Bogie” Bogolin 2021
From left: Shelly Anderson, Bob Cebrzynski, Chet Stanley, Gerry Olmsted, Rita Kreslin, and Charlie Wooley. Cindy Huerta, Claudia Corrigan, Sandy Olmsted, and Heather Lopez.
This award is given in memory of Sheila Forsner who rose above her own tragedy and triumphed in educating and inspiring others.
The 2022 Award was presented to: Dr. Charles Nozicka
The 2021 Award was presented to:
Gary “bogie” Bogolin
THE IMPACT ON LIVES:
In 2014, Chuck contacted AAIM with an interest in traffic safety, risky adolescent behavior, and a passion to advocate for responsible driving. Being a pediatric emergency room physician, he had taken care of too many victims of intoxicated motorists. So, Chuck became an AAIM Board member. Without hesitation, he jumped into public speaking and assisting with the AAIM grief support group. Representing AAIM, he's presented to hundreds of parents and students about the dangers of underage drinking, substance misuse, the parental influence on the use of alcohol, and provided expert brain research on the effects of alcohol on the developing teenage brain. In addition, he gives open discussions on proven skills to prevent the tragedies of impaired driving and underage drinking.
Chuck spends countless hours volunteering his time, working community events that bring awareness to victims' rights, and assists in raising funds for needy crash victims suffering financial hardship.
Chuck’s work and life-saving efforts pave the way for safer roads in Illinois and will definitely contribute to future safe travels for his four young grandchildren.