Scout group helping victim of car crash Woman had wanted to be police officer

November 26, 1996|By Katherine Marks | Katherine Marks,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Sherry Gray always wanted to be a police officer. But a driver who police believe was drunk shattered Gray's dreams in an accident that made her a double amputee.

Now Gray's goal has changed from walking a beat to just walking -- and the Howard County Police Department's Explorer Post 1952 is trying to help her.

Last week, the youth organization -- to which Gray belonged for six years -- began a cookie-dough sale to raise money to help pay her medical bills. Although she has insurance, it won't cover all of her costs, particularly waterproof prostheses so she can stand up in the shower and go swimming.

Post members are selling 3-pound tubs of dough through Sunday, and they also are accepting tax-deductible donations on Gray's behalf, said Officer Mary Levy, associate adviser to the post.

For every $12.50 tub sold, the post will donate $4 to Gray. Those interested in donating can call Levy at 313-2276.

Gray, who lives in Guilford near east Columbia, joined the Explorers when she was 14 and dreamed of a career in law enforcement. The group, an offshoot of the Boy Scouts of America, is designed to teach teens and young adults about law enforcement.

About midnight Sept. 13, life changed for Gray. She and her boyfriend Robert Drayton, 22, pulled Drayton's disabled Ford Aerostar minivan onto the shoulder of Interstate 95 North near its intersection with Route 32.

The couple called Drayton's father, Daniel Selke, for help. After he arrived -- while Gray stood between the two vehicles -- a car slammed into the back of the rear vehicle, pinning Gray.

Alcohol was listed on the Maryland State Police report as a contributing factor. The report also said the man driving might have passed out or fallen asleep at the wheel.

Police said no charges have been filed.

Gray, now 21, declined to talk about the accident.

Howard County police Officer Victor Broccolino, the first officer on the scene, told of finding Gray on the shoulder of I-95, saying she couldn't feel her legs.

"She said she wanted to be a police officer. I didn't know what to say," Broccolino said. "What she said really set me back."

A former emergency medical technician, he immediately recognized the severity of Gray's injuries. During the next two months, Gray was hospitalized in the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore and Kernan Hospital near Woodlawn.

Even after numerous surgeries and painful physical therapy, Gray has stayed involved with police work.

She agreed to be interviewed from her hospital bed for a Howard police videotape for local high schools, "You are Responsible." The program tries to show teen-agers the effects of drunken driving. Gray also spoke with juvenile offenders required to tour Shock Trauma.

Pfc. Paul Yodzis of the Howard County police traffic enforcement section, who knew Gray before the accident, watched her speak to offenders who toured shock trauma.

"A lot of those people left in tears," Yodzis said. "Sherry through the whole thing has impressed me. She had her days when she was distraught but the majority of days she had a very positive outlook."

Gray plans to speak to offenders at a victims' impact panel for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said Debbie Dewart, chairwoman and spokesman for the Howard County Chapter of MADD.

Victims such as Gray have a stronger impact on offenders, Dewart said.

"They're real people. You can see what the ramifications are," she said. "This gal wanted to be a police officer. She can never be on the streets."

Denise Weagley, another Post 1952 adviser, agreed that Gray's story could have an impact.

"It's completely unfair to have the life as she planned it gone in a second," she said. "She's always thinking of others which really adds to the unfairness."

Levy said Gray has lost a lot of her independence, but the young woman told Levy she plans to walk by the end of the year.

Police Cadet Karen Slack, 21, who has known Gray for seven years through the Explorer post, said it is hard knowing that Gray will be unable to be an officer.

However, "she's looking to what she can do, not what she can't do," Slack said.

Pub Date: 11/26/96

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