2019 HIGHLIGHTED VICTIM
On June 20, 2016, Brenda Fernander, lost her best friend, husband and the father of her children. Just one day prior, the family had spent an amazing and peaceful Father’s Day together. Brenda recounts her last day with Neil and their children as simple and unlike any other. Normally, the family would spend their Sundays going to church, making dinner, cleaning and preparing for the week. However, that Father’s Day, the family decided to just cook hotdogs and sit out on the porch to enjoy each other’s company. Nothing would prepare them for what would happen the very next day. On the day of the crash, Neil was traveling south on Georgia Highway 54 in Coweta County when a two-time drunk driver ran a stop sign and plowed into Neil. The impact would be fatal.
The Fernander Family was devastated; not only had they lost a family member, the community had lost a volunteer fire fighter, first responder, and community leader. During the plea hearing for the offender, the courtroom was standing room only. It was a true depiction of what Neil’s life had meant to so many. The family provided wristbands in honor of Neil with life rules inscribed on them. Those rules were – serve, accept, forgive and encourage – rules which Neil embodied by his actions each and every day of his life.
Because Neil was an organ donor, 32 people were recipients of his generosity. Even in death, Neil’s kindness stretched wide enough to impact strangers. Brenda often states: “Whoever got his heart, they got a big one.”
Neil’s story will live in the hearts of many for years to come. We honor The Fernander Family as the 2019 MADD Georgia Victim Family of the Year and thank them immensely for sharing their story to inspire others.