One Precious Life Lost Will Save Many
East Coast Family on a Mission to Promote Safe Driving for All
June 20, 2005
Excitement filled the home of Lourdes Verea and Dr. Jorge Verea. Their daughter Rebeka just graduated high school, so the family celebrated with a small gathering at their New Jersey house. That evening, Rebeka and her buddy took a break from the celebration. Like any other night, they hopped in the car to pick up a friend. Little did the Verea’s know, it was the last time they would see their daughter alive.
The Clock Struck Midnight
The Verea’s heard a knock at their front door. It came from two police officers who delivered the devastating news no parent wants to hear. "The driver was speeding through a 35 mph zone with Rebeka in his passenger seat,” said Lourdes. “His car slammed into a turning tractor- trailer. The roof of the car was sheared off, killing Rebeka instantly.”
A Time to Remember
Thousands attended Rebeka’s wake. Seeing so many people who cared for their daughter gave the family hope. The Verea’s realized Rebeka’s life had impacted so many people, and they knew…they must keep sharing her story.
Days after the service, the family formed the Rebeka Verea Foundation.
“We aim to educate teenagers on the dangers of reckless driving,” said Lourdes. “Our slogan is, Say Yes to Life.”
12 Years Later
The Verea’s are still brought to tears when speaking about Rebeka, but they’re determined to remain positive, to celebrate her life and to appreciate the countless ways their daughter touched the lives of others.
Every spring, with the support of State Farm, the Rebeka Verea Foundation hosts two educational symposiums in New Jersey – one for educators and one for students. The symposiums feature diverse speakers such as trauma surgeons, car crash victims and police officers.
Each speaker shares their wisdom and experiences with nearly 1,000 students and 500 educators.
Their mission? To educate.
Their goal? To prevent tragedy and promote safe driving.
While the topics are serious, the Foundation also allows time for a light-hearted celebration. The symposium, held in April (the month of Rebeka’s birthday), is a tribute to her life. The students dance, wave glow-sticks, and sing Happy Birthday to Rebeka.
The Work Continues
To keep raising safe driving awareness, a permanent speed machine is stationed at the crash site. A street near the local high school has been named Rebeka Verea Way and Rebeka’s photo and the Foundation logo is displayed on a city police car.Additionally, the Foundation’s annual gala collects money to support Project Graduation in high schools throughout two counties. The event, held on graduation night, is an alcohol and drug free celebration.
“The Foundation is an integral part of our daily lives,” says Lourdes. “Sadly, my daughter died, but we’re working hard to prevent others from experiencing a similar tragedy. We’re always celebrating my daughter’s life. I feel the Foundation is far-reaching and will live on beyond our lifetime.”