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A Father’s Pain Turned into a Purpose

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When Eric Stephens isn’t maintaining Precinct 2 parks, he dedicates his time off to be an advocate against drunk driving. His involvement started when a tragedy occurred with his family almost ten years ago. 

On July 14, 2014, Eric and his family got ready to celebrate his daughter Jade Stephens' 10th birthday party. Eric and his wife remember how a cell phone was promised to Jade. However, it was backordered and was going to arrive days later. Eric recalls sharing the bad news with Jade and how understanding she was about having to wait for her present. The couple was surprised by her reaction and took it as a sign that Jade was maturing into a compassionate 10-year-old. However, Jade would never get to text her friends or take silly selfies on her new phone.

Later that day, Eric’s family went to Main Event for Jade’s party. It was a special day with family. Eric’s two older daughters, who were studying at the University of Texas, came down to surprise Jade.

On the way home, Eric started planning what they would be doing the next day. When he asked Jade and her brother how they felt about watching a movie the following day, and no one replied, he realized they were asleep. Eric and his wife chatted during the drive until everything came to an abrupt, horrific stop. They were five minutes away from home and on a road they traveled countless times when suddenly a drunk driver hit the side of Eric’s car. Jade took the majority of the impact. Jade’s mother held her in her arms until Jade took her last breath. Jade died at the scene of the crash.

This painful day marked the beginning of Eric's new purpose.


                                                                                            Jade at her 10th birthday party. It was one of the last photos taken of her.

Keeping Her Legacy Alive

After the accident, Eric connected with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). MADD helped his family with the court case. But the support didn’t end there. The organization also helped him honor Jade’s legacy and find a new community of support.  

“They’re like our extended family,” Eric shared.

His appreciation for MADD turned into an active partnership with the organization to spread the word about the dangers of drunk driving. He did interviews with media outlets, and his activism garnered awards, including a proclamation from the City of Houston acknowledging his impactful work in the fight against drunk driving. 

“We speak to law enforcement, speak to students, [high school] seniors. We are just trying to get the information out there,” Eric said about his efforts as a MADD volunteer.

It’s through this work that Eric feels Jade lives through him by sharing her story. 

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The Impact

According to TxDOT, in 2022, there were 1,162 fatalities in Texas resulting from drunk driving crashes, a 2% increase from the previous year.

Eric wrote a long victim impact statement for court but when he stood up, he decided to scrap it and spoke from the heart. 

"What could you say?" Eric questioned. “No amount of prison time – if you get life, if you get five years, is not going to bring my baby back”.

The 23-year-old impaired driver was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Eric’s family’s life changed forever after losing Jade. He has made it a mission to prevent another family from suffering the same heartbreak.

"He received 14 years in prison, but for us, it's a life sentence," Eric expressed. He feels he was robbed of his daughter's future. The reality that he’ll never see her walk across a graduation stage pains him every day.

Eric strongly urges people to opt for alternatives like Uber or public transportation if they find themselves even slightly impaired. He knows how a single instance of poor judgment can have a profound and lasting impact.

"It only takes one time to destroy a family or end your own life,” Eric emphasized.



SAMHSA’s National Helpline (individuals and families struggling mental and/or substance use disorders.):

1-800-662-HELP (4357)          

Mothers Against Drunk Driving 24-Hour Victim Helpline



Alcoholics Anonymous