Algonquin students told to make safe choices

By Abby Jordan/Daily News staff
The MetroWest Daily News
Oct 22, 2008

NORTHBOROUGH — Cara Filler’s talk to Algonquin Regional High School students yesterday was peppered with colorful commentary on her teen growth spurt, having feet the size of flippers and a perm gone horribly awry.

But between laughs from the 700 juniors and seniors, Filler delivered a poignant message on teen peer pressure and how they can make good decisions.

“Unfortunately, there are people in my life who won’t be able to grow old,” Filler said.

Her twin sister, Mairin, was killed in a car crash 14 years ago, a day after their 18th birthday.

Since then, Filler, 32, has spoken at 200 schools a year promoting the power of good choices. “When I started, I wanted to save everyone because I couldn’t save my sister,” Filler said. “Now I realize it’s about giving options, letting them take care of themselves.”

Filler’s talk hit close to home for the students who remember the October 2005 car crash that killed Algonquin students Meghan and Shauna Murphy. The Murphy Sisters Foundation, which strives to teach teens safe driving skills and to never drink and drive, sponsored Filler’s talk with the Algonquin chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD).

SADD President Kelsey Laning, 17, said Filler’s presentation was another way to give students someone to relate to who’d lost a loved one, and to keep the Murphys’ legacy alive. “It wasn’t a fun experience for me,” she said of the girls’ deaths. “It’s something I’m always going to remember – we don’t want another situation like that.”

SADD members passed out keychains to promote Safe Rides, sponsored through the Murphy Sisters Foundation. Students can call Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. for a ride, no questions asked.

While several students said they expected Filler’s talk to be somber or “preachy,” they found they could relate to her because of her humor. “I was expecting a sad presentation,” said senior Derek Sachs. “I was surprised in a good way.” Sachs said he thought it was meaningful when Filler asked students to close their eyes and think of the person closest to them – then imagine that person not being there any more.

Filler lost that person, Mairin, when Mairin’s boyfriend picked her up at the mall and, while driving in excess of 110 mph, struck an oncoming car. Mairin died while her boyfriend escaped with a broken elbow and chipped tooth. The two passengers in the other car survived, though they were hospitalized for several months, said Filler.

In delivering her message, Filler said she wasn’t going to tell the students what they shouldn’t do. “This isn’t about not having a good time,” she said. “It’s about having a good time safely.”

Filler said in a situation where a driver is speeding or has had too much to drink, teens should not get in the car. They should call a parent or friend for a ride, or, if already in the car, find an excuse to get out.

“Tell the driver you have to pee,” Filler said. “Don’t just tell them, dance for them.

Juniors Brittany West, 16, and Grace Dewey, 16, said they thought Filler’s humor was effective. “I think it helped kids get the message,” Dewey said. “Around their peers, kids might put off the image they aren’t going to take this seriously, but maybe they will individually.”

Filler also gave a presentation last night to parents on how to encourage teens to make appropriate decisions.

“All those tiny choices matter,” she said.