Friends turn tragedy into teaching opportunity

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With high school prom season getting into full swing, two Illinois State University students, from just east of the Quad Cities are delivering a message to students. Don't drink and drive. A tragedy has given them a new mission to honor their friend's life.

On March 29, 2014, three ISU students were enjoying an evening at a semi-formal. Not wanting to drink and drive, one of the students, Michael Collins called a friend to give them a ride home.

"We weren't even the ones drinking and driving. We were the responsible ones," said Ali Seys, one of the passengers.

Within minutes a drunk driver who was speeding, ran a red light, and hit them. Seys and the driver walked away okay, but Collins lost his life four days later after having several brain surgeries. Collins, a senior, was getting ready to graduate with a degree in exercise science.

"He was contagious, like his smile and his personality, as soon as you saw him you just caught onto that smile," said Seys.

Tawni Ricketts who is wheelchair-bound for now, broke her lower back and has several other fractures from the accident.

"It's just really important to treasure your life and the friends with you because you never know what could happen," said Seys.

Friends wanted to keep Michael's memory alive so a friend of Michael's created a Facebook page called "Pay it forward for Michael Collins."

"We thought it would be a good coping mechanism for his friends and family and it just went viral right away," said Seys.

People from all over the world are being impacted. You can see their movement MC Strong on shirts, buttons and signs. Their message is simple, don't drink and drive.

"I just want them to take away how precious life is and how dangerous it is to drink and drive," says Seys.

Ricketts from Geneseo and Seys from Orion, plan to go to high schools and speak to area students. Collin's parents plan on starting a foundation in his name. Around $48,000 have been raised for it.