September 2, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
68°F

Seville couple launches a C.R.U.S.A.D.E.

Seville resident Sharon Baker holds a portrait of her daughter, Kelli, who died in a 2011 car crash. Baker and her husband started the nonprofit Kelli’s C.R.U.S.A.D.E. to advocate for fixing roads and drivers’ education. (KIERA MANION-FISCHER / GAZETTE)

After the 2011 death of their 17-year-old daughter in a car crash, Seville residents Sharon and Rick Baker were inspired to start a nonprofit organization.

“She was a good kid,” Sharon Baker said. “She was our only child, and to lose her so tragically just breaks your heart.”

Their group, Kelli’s C.R.U.S.A.D.E. — which stands for Continuing Road Upgrades, Safety Awareness and Driver Education — works to identify hazardous road areas, and lobbies to get them fixed before there is serious injury or loss of life, Baker said.

The organization has succeeded in various areas; for example, getting sight lines cleared of trees and caution signs on county roads.

Kelli Baker was killed Oct. 19, 2011, when her car hit a tree after traveling off the right side of Apple Creek Road in Wayne County. She was wearing a seat belt.

Kelli was an active volunteer with the Medina County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and worked at Medina Library.

The organization named in her honor started in 2012 and is one of 200 finalists in the United States and Canada in the running for a $25,000 grant from State Farm Insurance’s Neighborhood Assist program.

The top 40 causes will receive funds to help their communities.

Supporters of Kelli’s C.R.U.S.A.D.E. can vote up to 10 times a day through a Facebook app at www.state-assist.com/cause/2000/kellis-crusade.

Baker said that if the organization wins the grant, she would use the funds to buy two mobile driving simulators, which would be taken to area high schools. She said her goal is to get certified to teach students using the simulator.

“Our goal would be to decline the number of fatal accidents in our county,” Baker’s grant proposal says.

The simulators have the ability to show students different road conditions, so they can perfect their driving skills, Baker said. They also can show what it’s like to drive drunk or distracted, such as when texting.

Before the crash, Kelli had been on her way to a morning riding lesson. She had completed high school online, and was attending the Ohio State Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster.

Sharon Baker said Apple Creek Road had been newly paved, and there were no center lines, no edge lines and no berm. Also, it was dark and raining, and the crash occurred at about 6:30 a.m., she said.

The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Wayne County commissioners in June 2012, and it is pending in Wayne County Common Pleas Court.

“Regardless of how the lawsuit comes out, we have already succeeded,” Baker said. “Our hope would be that they would never leave a road like that again.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.