A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Marie Buckingham

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Marie Buckingham

Marie Buckingham transformed a personal tragedy into a positive change through the creation of Victims of Impaired Driving (VOID) and the Ryan Adam Kelly Foundation. She channeled her grief into action by honoring the memory of her son through an impaired driving panel that discusses the devastating consequences of driving under the influence (DUI)-related accidents to previous DUI offenders.

The Ryan Adam Kelly Foundation, named after Buckingham's late son, serves as a beacon of hope for those who have experienced similar losses. Kelly tragically lost his life due to a semi-truck driving full force into the back of his car. The circumstances surrounding Kelly's death serve as a poignant reminder of the devastating consequences of irresponsible behavior behind the wheel and the need for action.

By sharing her story she aims to prevent future tragedies. Buckingham has demonstrated incredible strength, resilience, and compassion. Her dedication to making a difference in the lives of others serves as a primary example of turning pain into purpose and creating meaningful change in the world.

“I started doing victim impact panels a little over 13 years ago when my 25-year-old son was killed by an impaired driver on his way to work,” Buckingham said. “He was sitting at a stoplight and he was rear-ended by a semi full of 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel at 68 miles an hour. The driver of the semi was high on cocaine and was drunk and my son was airlifted down to Indianapolis. He lived for seven days, and then I disconnected his life support on Thanksgiving Day and his heart stopped seven minutes later.”

Kelly was an engaging person in the community as he graduated from college with straight As and became a firefighter. His positive light on the community will be shown through the foundation his mother has created for him.

“I promised him before he died that I would keep his name alive and also let people know the dangers of drunk driving and how it affects not only the victims but also their families,” Buckingham said. “Therefore, I started my first class the week after I buried my son, which was his 26th birthday.”

Having a unique perspective due to her firsthand experience of losing a loved one to DUI-related accidents gives Buckingham a powerful platform to reach people and effect change. By sharing her story and educating over 43,000 individuals over 13 years, she is making a significant impact in her community and beyond, potentially saving lives by raising awareness about the devastating consequences of impaired driving.

“'I’m the only one that does it,” said Buckingham. “I'm a one-man show. I set up my foundation and I'm the only one that runs it. I work with these people daily.”

Buckingham conducts her courses at the Crown Point Library, lasting an hour and a half and exclusively attended by offenders. Through her panels, she recounts her child's life journey, evoking an emotional response that resonates deeply with all attendees. This approach not only educates about the consequences of DUI but also fosters empathy and understanding, compelling individuals to reflect on their choices and the impact of their actions.

“The people I talked to were caught by the Spirit Superior Court to attend my class,” said Buckingham. “If they didn't attend my class, they would spend 90 more days in jail, so I'll do more, depending on their events. For people on probation, I do classes in the Porter County Jail, Lake County Jail, Indiana State Prison, and Michigan City.”

A couple of years ago, Buckingham decided to acquire a military dog named Rax, aiming to enhance community efforts against drugs.

“Two years ago, I purchased a canine who's a narcotics dog,” said Buckingham. “I dedicated it to the local police department to help keep drugs and alcohol off the streets. The dog is named after my son's initials, which is RAK. He's been making some pretty good drug busts.”

Buckingham's primary focus with the offenders is to highlight the opportunity for a second chance to transform their lives for the better.

“I feel there are two reasons why every person in my class is blessed and lucky to be there,” said Buckingham. “I always ask them, ‘What are  those two reasons?’ They have a second chance to get clean to make things right.”

When not teaching the panels, Buckingham spends her time at Heartland Christian Center, where she engages in extensive volunteer work. Having retired a couple of years ago, she dedicates herself to either volunteering at the church or conducting her classes, consistently inspiring others through her impactful panels.