Jack's Memory Still Running: Mom Uses Tragedy To Bring Driving Simulator To Sheriff's Dept.

By Mike Perleberg

Beth Fox sits in the new driving simulator her foundation has purchased for the Dearborn County Sheriff's Department. Her late son, Jack Carpenter, is pictured on the side of the device. Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle 99.3. (Dearborn County, Ind.) – Thinking back to the events of September 7, 2010 isn't easy for Beth Fox. That afternoon, she and her children were visiting her parents’ home on North Dearborn Road. Playing a game of tag with his sisters, Fox’s three-year-old son Jack Carpenter ventured out into the street. A truck struck the child. Jack was killed almost instantly. The driver, unaware and not paying attention to the road, continued on. “It was the worst day of my entire life. It completely changed me, my whole entire family. We’ve made it through it, but it’s a constant struggle since that day,” Fox, of Logan Township, says. Fox realized soon after her son’s death that there was nothing she could do to change what had happened. However, she knew she could use the experience to create something positive. She became determined to spread the message that distracted driving can cost lives and help people become safer drivers. On Tuesday, Fox’s wish was realized in the form of a driving simulator delivered to the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department.

Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle 99.3. “I can’t believe it’s here,” Fox glowed as she sat in the simulator set up for the first time in the department’s conference room. Fox, her family, and friends have worked 4 ½ years to donate nearly $22,000 to the sheriff’s department to purchase the device. Funds were raised through donations to the Jack’s Forever 3 Foundation and by the Jack’s Forever 3 “Still Running” 5K held in Bright each September weekend closest to the anniversary of Jack’s death. “Dearborn County has been beyond anything I could have imagined. I’m so glad I live here in this community and I hope everybody gets out of this what I’m hoping they will,” she said of those who helped make the acquisition possible. The simulator developed by Oklahoma-based Simulator Systems, Inc. is full sized with gas and brake pedals, steering wheel, gear shift, turn signal buttons, and other gadgets. It can simulate more than 200 different types of driving scenarios in both day and night. What sold Fox on the Simulator Systems simulator was the cockpit-style setup and a districted driving scenario. The device includes two cell phones that a user must use to read and send text messages while attempting to navigate the virtual roadway. There is also a mode that allows users to experience the delayed reactions they may experience while driving under the influence. The realistic simulator is the first of its kind in southeast Indiana. Most other driving simulators are desktop computer-based, says Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department chief deputy David Lusby. “She thought that would make it more interesting and fun to the kids to experiment with,” he says. Beth credits the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department, and Lusby in particular, for their help in finding the simulator and willingness to take it out into the community.  “They’ve been amazing.” Lusby echoed her sentiments, also extending credit to John Lee, the department’s IT director. “Beth was relentless in contacting us and making sure we were aware that she wanted to help,” he said. “I can’t imagine going through what she has had to go through and pray that I never have to. But to looking at this good that has come from that tragedy, I admire her for that.” Lusby expects the department to have staff making the simulator available to citizens at fairs, festivals, community events, and schools starting in about 30 days. Any organizations interested in having the simulator at an event can make a request by calling the sheriff’s department at (812) 537-8700. Getting this simulator is not the end of the foundation, rather it’s the beginning. Just like Jack, who like many three-year-old boys loved to run and jump around, his foundation will continue running. “My goal is to continue the (5K) run, continue growing the foundation, get more simulators, and get the program out there and make it a bigger thing than it is already,” said Fox. You can learn more about the Jack’s Forever 3 Foundation and donate to the non-profit organization at www.jacksforever3.com.

Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle 99.3.

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