Sandra LaRose is a motivational speaker and a road safety educator. On August 16th, 2018, her daughter, Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk, was involved in a tragic collision with a train. 

"From the police report, the train crew saw her head lowered like she was looking at something in her passenger seat, which happened to be her phone because she drove a standard so she wouldn't have had the phone in her hand because she would have been shifting at that time."

"And she didn't see the train."

"It was a mistake. She was human and humans make mistakes. But she doesn't get a chance to fix her mistake. She paid the ultimate price and I just want people to realize that that 10-second lapse of judgment could end everything for you and could change everything for those who love you."

LaRose said that Kailynn's story, which is what her presentation is about, surrounds the distracted driving portion of it. "The cell phone and also the fact that she didn't hear the train whistle. All her windows were rolled down because she did not have air conditioning. So her music was playing that loud is what I'm assuming, because I know my daughter."

LaRose now speaks about the dangers of distracted driving to schools, organizations, and companies, and she is also a Rail Safety Ambassador with Operation Lifesaver Canada. She said that it's not an easy thing to get up and relive the most traumatic part of her life through her presentations, but she hopes to impact as many people as she can with her story.

LaRose explained how she became a motivational speaker and road safety educator, although she said she didn't really anticipate fully growing this way.

"Back in 2019, I was approached by Manitoba Public Insurance to be a part of their Friends for Life speaker series. So in 2020 I participated virtually due to COVID. I presented to, I think it was about 25 schools, and reached just under 5000 students that year. And then in 2022, Friends for Life was brought back in person." 

"I was able to go to Winnipeg for two weeks and I did 20 presentations in 10 days, and reached just over 5000 students. So between the two years I've reached, you know, just over 9000 students in Manitoba."

LaRose said that when she wrote her presentation, it was written for Friends for Life.

"Then it got me thinking, once I presented live because virtual, I couldn't see the audience, I couldn't see the reactions, there was no interaction between myself and the students and the teachers. It was really difficult to gauge the reception." 

"So when I went live and in-person," LaRose said, "the response that I received from the students totally surpassed anything that I expected. To see 650 grade 11 and 12 students sitting in the gym silent for an hour is definitely something to witness. So, it got me thinking after I left Winnipeg, that maybe I should approach SGI and see if we could partner."

SGI ended up reaching out to LaRose before she reached out to them because they knew how strong of an advocate she was for tougher laws for distracted driving. 

"They have a grant through a partnership with the Acquired Brain Injury Program, where they will help offset the cost of having speakers come out, events, so on and so forth. So my presentation would fall under this grant. I sort of tweaked my presentation to make it less Friends for Life specific, so it's a more generic presentation for students and then I also rewrote it for adults."

Schools and groups can reach out to LaRose through her website, and they can apply through SGI's website for the grant, with there being two different granting periods.

"One ends February 28th, and the other ends October 31st. Grant applications that fall under the October 31st deadline, the presentations would take place between November 1st and February 28th. For grant applications falling under the February 28th deadline, the presentations would be held March 1st to October 31st."

LaRose said that every year around graduation time she gives out an award in memory of her daughter at the Weyburn Comprehensive School. 

"But I never got to see her walk that stage. Her picture walked that stage with Hannah [her best friend], but I never got to see her walk that stage. I want everybody who hears my story to be able to walk that graduation stage and I'll never know the impact that it has. There's no numbers that are measurable, there's no stats that are able to be compiled."

"But if every person graduates that sees me and gets a job, and a career, and a family, and falls in love, you know, becomes grandparents. I can just in my heart think that I had a tiny little piece of their life. I had an impact that made them make wiser choices when they got behind the wheel." 

LaRose added that she has been working with a teacher and they're developing an educational package to go along with her road safety presentation.

"So if a school books me, I will send them the contract, send them everything, and then I will send all of the educational materials as well. So there's pre-presentation things as well as post-presentation activities and it pulls out outcomes for the different subjects that would pertain to my presentation and different activities that could be covered. So it just helps the teachers with a lesson plan to incorporate my presentation into the curriculum."

LaRose will be presenting at Montmartre school on April 25th at 1:00 p.m.