URBANA – An organization born out of the deaths of two Ogden sisters killed by a drunken driver has donated another $17,100 to two area police departments to help in the fight against driving after drinking to excess.
On behalf of the Journey Foundation, Jim and Barb Esworthy of Ogden on Wednesday presented $12,600 to Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh and $4,500 to Assistant University of Illinois Police Chief Jeff Christensen to buy cameras to put in squad cars at their departments.
Walsh said the donation will allow his department to buy three new in-car cameras, bringing to five the number of newer generation cameras working in county squad cars. The UI will spend its money on one camera and a microphone, Christensen said, meaning all 10 marked squad cars on the force will now have the cameras.
"In this tight budget year, we couldn't do it without your donation," Walsh told the Esworthys, whose daughters Jennifer, 22, and Jackie, 18, were killed June 8, 1997, by a drunken driver at the Kankakee-Iroquois County line.
Justin Lueken, spokesman for the AMR Digital Corporation in Woodridge, said the technology in the cameras has come a long way in the last several years.
The cameras are much smaller and wireless and can be activated when overhead emergency lights go on or when the officer clicks the audio button of his or her portable radio. Being all digital, the cameras will record for a minute before they're even activated. The information captured can also be uploaded wirelessly to a computer in the department once the squad car is within a certain range, meaning the camera doesn't have to be removed from the car. That information can then be transferred to a DVD.
"It's unbelievable what they can do now," Esworthy said of the cameras, which were a lot larger and less accurate when Journey began buying them more than a decade ago.
Rebecca Wagner, president of Journey and long-time friend of the Esworthys, said the donations bring to well over $112,000 the amount the organization has given to area police departments in about the last decade.
"As soon as we get money to fund cameras, (we do). We don't sit on it," Wagner said, adding that a relative of the Esworthys made a sizeable contribution last year that helped with the latest purchase.
Also giving continuing support to Journey is the 4-H House sorority on the UI campus, where Jennifer lived as a UI student.
Megan Moss, 4-H House president, said sorority members hold two major fund-raisers each year for Journey, generating anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 a year. Those include a bake sale and a euchre tournament. This year's card tournament is scheduled at the house at 805 W. Ohio St., U, on April 9 starting at 6 p.m.
Moss said that although none of the women living in the house now knew the Esworthy girls, they are devoted to supporting Journey. The 4-H House also awards a scholarship of about $500 a year to a sorority member in Jennifer's name.
"We have a plaque up in the house. It's in our hearts all the time," she said.