Scary DUI program at Sequim school dubbed 'Grim Reaper'
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Sequim High School students, from left, David Vollenweider, Katelynne McDaniels, Ellie Hubbard, Ross McHenry, Megan McAndie, and Rory Kallappa take part in a "Grim Reaper" program exercise at the cemetery in Sequim.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Jeff and Chrysalis Carter opened their door Wednesday night to a Washington State Patrol trooper, a sheriff's chaplain and a mortician.

The three were there to tell the couple that their son, Gabriel, had been killed by a drunken driver.

“I knew he was OK,” Chrysalis Carter said of the news that was part of a mock DUI lesson.

“But still: He wasn't there. They're telling me he's been killed, and I just wanted to have him there.”

Gabriel Carter was one of 19 juniors and seniors plucked from class at Sequim High School on Wednesday to represent drunken driving deaths in a program called “Grim Reaper.”

The Carters spoke about their experience during a three-hour assembly Thursday morning on the danger of drunken driving.

“When the families got up and spoke, I feel like that's the point when the students really started to feel the impact,” said junior Mikayla Simonson, student organizer of the Grim Reaper program.

The selected “Reaper” students spent the night with teacher Jennifer Van De Wege at the Boys & Girls Clubs so their families could feel the effects of their sudden absence.

“We're hoping to get a message out to our kids that your choices affect everyone you know, everyone you love,” Van de Wege said.

Simonson said Thursday that the message seemed to have been received.

“I feel like that really had an impact on them, seeing how these families struggled with it even though they knew their kids were all right,” Simonson said.

Students also read letters at the assembly they had written Wednesday night to let their families know how much they mean to them.

Emergency-response crews visited history classes to give one-hour presentations on the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Van de Wege said the “Grim Reaper” program was timed to remind students of the dangers of intoxicated driving as summer approaches, bringing with it the senior ball and graduation parties.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at

Last modified: May 23. 2013 6:08PM
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