FREEPORT, Fla. (WMBB)– Local first responders from the Florida Highway Patrol, Walton County Sheriff’s Office and the Walton County Fire Rescue came together this weekend with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Freeport Farmers Market to host the “Walk Like MADD 5K Run/Walk.”

The main purpose of the event was to increase awareness of impaired driving locally and raise funds for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Founded in 1980, the mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking. The Northwest Florida chapter specifically is dedicated to assisting Panhandle victims.

“We hope to see a world with no more victims of this 100% preventable crime,” said Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Northwest Florida Executive Director, Kristen Allen.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving held an inaugural 5K with over a 120 walkers and runners. After the 5K, folks were able to shop over 80 local vendors at the Freeport Farmers Market.

Local first responders had educational displays for kids and teens which included a ‘Jaws of life’ demonstration, drunk goggle obstacle course and the K-9 unit.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving also took the time to honor local law enforcement with challenge coins for their outstanding efforts in preventing impaired driving and boating incidents locally.

DUI-related deaths are on the rise across the country. The National Transportation Safety Administration reports drunk driving deaths went up more than 14 percent between 2019 and 2020. It’s also estimated over 10,000 people lose their lives to impaired drivers each year.

News 13’s Tess Rowland has been a driving force for preventing impaired driving locally, after being involved in a head-on collision crash in which police say was caused by a drunk driver.

“There are so many viable options to get home after a night out, and no one should have to lose their life to this 100% preventable crime and tragedy,” said Rowland.

Rowland hosted a food truck festival in May, and raised over $4,000 for MADD of Northwest Florida. At her event, she met Gary Parks and Dorothy Krupa, the dynamic duo behind the Freeport Farmers Market. The two encouraged Rowland to bring her mission and story to the Walton County community.

At the event, the Freeport Farmers Market and the Bay County DUI Task Force presented check donations to MADD in Rowland’s name. Rowland also helped create a local DUI Task Force in early 2022 after her crash.

“We admire Tess’s passion and dedication. Her story is incredible, and we wanted to help her make a difference locally,” said Parks.

The event raised over $30,000 locally, the most in event history.