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Boatwrights remember Bailey B

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BUFFALO-Kim and Tim Boatwright pass out a bookmark with their daughter's picture. Her long, curly, red hair frames her smiling face. A sparkle shines from her brown eyes. Under the smiling face, the bookmark reads, "Remember me, Bailey B, Don't Drink and Drive."

By By: Katie Duncan

Bailey was killed when a drunk driver crashed into the Durango carrying Bailey and her family in July 2004.

Kim and Tim's faces glow with pride when they talk about their daughter and how she loved life, Girl Scouts, basketball and most of all her big brother, Blake.

"Blake and Bailey were so close," Kim said. "He took care of her. He played basketball with her. He would pitch to her."

The sound of the two siblings giggling late into the night echoed through the Boatwright home.

"She laughed all the time," Kim said.

It was her magnetic personality that drew people to the 7-year-old, her family says.

"At recess, if there was somebody sitting off by herself, Bailey would invite her to join her group," Tim said. "It really made us feel good that she'd go out of her way to do things for others."

At times, Bailey's friendly personality scared Kim.

"She never met a stranger," Kim said. "I was so afraid that one day someone would take her. But Bailey didn't care. She just loved others."

Tim recalls a time when Bailey threatened to ride the lawn mower all the way to Springfield to see the hot rods if her dad wouldn't take her.

"Her red hair told it all," Tim said. "She was the boss."

It is that determination the couple draws strength from as they speak out against drunken driving.

"We could either bury our head in the sand or go out and make a difference," Tim said. "If you knew Bailey, she was the kind to go out and make a difference. We don't want sympathy. We want action."

The accident

The Boatwright family was returning home from a wedding reception in Springfield on July 31, 2004.

"We had talked about leaving the kids with their grandparents, but then we decided to take them with us," Tim said. "We took our kids with us everywhere we went. We never hired a baby sitter. If our kids couldn't go with us, we didn't go."

The reception was at the Tower Club. As the family looked down at Springfield that night, Bailey thought she was rich, Tim recalled.

After the reception, the family buckled up and took a familiar route home, U.S. 65.

"It is a road we have traveled a thousand times," Kim said.

But this time the trip was different. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol report, Wesley A. Kubala, at the time 22, was traveling south on U.S. 65, three miles north of Springfield, in a 2004 Chrysler Sebring when he attempted to pass another vehicle. As he moved into the northbound lane, the Sebring hit the family's Dodge Durango head on.

"He was going from point A to point B, and we just happened to be in the middle," Kim said.

At the time of the crash, Kubala was driving more than 100 miles per hour, Tim said. Tim recalled the Sebring was like a bullet coming at his vehicle.

"It all happened in a split second," Kim said.

The crash left the family separated for the first time. Tim, Kim and Blake were in different areas of the hospitals, and Bailey was gone. Although Tim lost his little girl, he knows how close he came to losing the rest of his family.

"The doctors told me had we been any farther away from Springfield, I would have been the only one left," he said.

Kubala was sentenced to seven years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in Bailey's death. He also was sentenced to four years' probation for three counts of second-degree assault. The family testified Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Kubala's parole hearing - after only serving 120 days. The very thought that Kubala may be released adds to the family's desire to fight.

"Bad for him to hit such a determined family," Kim said.

Twelve members of the Boatwrights' immediate family attended the hearing. It will be four to six weeks before the family will know the outcome of Kubala's parole hearing.

"He made a choice to drink and drive and he killed my daughter, but if he's already out serving 120 days - that's a slap on the wrist," Tim said.

It is a choice the family wants everyone who sees Bailey's grave to remember. On her headstone the family engraved, "God took Bailey to heaven when her family was hit by a drunk driver."

"We don't want people to think her death was an accident. It wasn't. It was a choice," Tim said.

They know their fight will not bring Bailey back, but they hope it will make other people think before they drink and drive and stop the killer in his or her tracks.

"We've got a cure, and it's a designated driver," Kim said. "No scientific studies need to be done. It's pretty simple. Don't drink and drive."

Support from the community

In the weeks and months after the accident, the Buffalo community rallied around the Boatwright family.

They raised money for medical expenses and donated items for Mallory Elementary, the school where Bailey was a student and Tim is the principal. An anonymous donor purchased a memorial bench for Bailey. It sits in front of Mallory Elementary and has her name, Bailey B, in her own kindergartner's handwriting. A large playground sits behind Mallory Elementary with a plaque in memory of Bailey.

Bailey's personality made an impact on her classmates.

"There are kids that will come up to me and give me a hug, but they don't want to say anything," Tim said. "They miss their friend Bailey."

And there are also reminders of the way Bailey was taken from this life.

"Try driving down the road and looking in the ditches," Kim said. "You'll see beer cartons and cans littering the ditches. You think it's not going to happen to you, but just look in the ditches."

Moving forward

It has been more than a year since Bailey was killed. A new school year has started. Blake is playing seventh-grade football, and the family is moving forward. They are also sharing Bailey's story.

"We always knew Bailey would be something," Kim said. "She will still make a difference, but it will be through us making it for her."

During Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 23-29, an 8-foot red ribbon will stand outside of Mallory Elementary school, where Bailey would have been in the second-grade. It was made by Bailey's Girl Scout Troop 890. The family, including Blake, will also be speaking at area schools, sharing photos of Bailey and her story.

"If this had happened to one of us," Tim said, "she would be holding MADD meetings at recess."

The family has become active in the local Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter. They have sold red bracelets for MADD. This summer, the family set up booths at area festivals to promote awareness and to remind people not to drink and drive.

"We are just trying to move forward, talking to kids and trying to make a difference," Tim said "We will never make sense of this."

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