A Mothers Mission
By Allie DAugustine
dont think of my training as a
teacher when I speak, says Louise Hammell 95, a graduate
of Rowans education program. But Hammell does
teachshe just doesnt have typical students. Instead,
she speaks to drunk drivers about her son, Matt, who was killed
at age 17 by a driver with a blood alcohol count nearly twice
the legal limit. It never even occurred to me that I was
teaching until people came up to me and said, You are a
Hammell is a speaker with Atlantic Prevention Resources, which
works to prevent drunk driving. After her sons death, which
happened several months before Hammell graduated from Rowan, she
gave up plans to teach elementary school. When Kathy McFadden
of Atlantic Prevention Resources asked Hammell to speak at the
mandatory classes for DWI convicts in New Jersey, Hammell jumped
at the chance. When she asked, it was like a major yes
in my soul.
Hammell became a regular speaker at these classes, and is nearing
completion of a book on her experience, which she plans to call,
That You May Know God Has a Purpose. After Matts
death, she began keeping a journal of the good things that have
come since the tragedy. This comprises most of the book, along
with descriptions of the pain of the first year. Not that
its easy now, says Hammell, but its easier.
You can never get over it, but you can move beyond. The
book concludes with a section on forgiveness. Hammell hopes its
publication will reach others who are troubled.
Throughout Matts youth, he had a similar desire to help
others. As a member of his schools junior varsity baseball
team, he helped the freshmen players both on and off the field.
His role model was his mother, who would casually counsel
friends and neighbors.
Hammells helping spirit is ever apparent. My favorite
thing to do is talk to convicted drunk drivers, she laughs,
and adds, I see them crying and know that Ive changed
and helped at least some of them. Some, she admits, sit
impassively, but Hammell says its worth it if she reaches
Occasionally she hears from her former students. According
to Hammell, several people quit drinking immediately after hearing
her presentation. One day, a waitress at a diner recognized Hammell
from her DWI classes and the two started talking. She went
on and on about how that class had impacted her, Hammell
says. Its not easy, she says of her speaking
engagements, but the fruit of it is so great. I rejoice
in the fact that things are changing.
The Hammell familys faith has been integral to their life
before and after Matts death. As a young boy, Matt had narrowed
his career choices to baseball player and missionary.
He eventually became certain that he would work on a mission field
instead of a ball field. In a very real sense, his mother believes
it has happened.
Hammells talks in New Jersey DWI programs have been so successful
that a video, Matts Mission, including footage
of Matt growing up, was produced and sent to other states
alcohol awareness programs. Its now being shown in various
programs, including similar classes in Massachusetts, and daily
on a public access channel in Florida. The video helps fulžll
both mothers and sons desire to help those around
them, and Hammell plans for her book to continue that mission
Before Matts death, Hammell envisioned herself as a teacherits
something she always pictured herself doing, ever since, as an
eighth grader, she watched a kindergarten class during a break.
Now, she teaches adults, and although its not in a traditional
classroom, the impact she makes is real. She says, You cant
change their minds until you change their hearts.