Even as their grief is still fresh, friends and family of Mallory Rae Dies have been working around the clock to impart to the community what they feel is the most important message to come out of her death: Don’t drink and drive.
Dies, 27, died Dec. 11 after being struck by an alleged DUI driver while crossing the 500 block of Anacapa Street in Santa Barbara. She suffered major head injuries and was in critical condition, and was taken off life support five days later.
Her memorial brought out hundreds of people to Shoreline Park on Monday to hear about her life, a display that showed the scope of Dies’ influence in the city. The UC Santa Barbara graduate and charismatic bartender at Tonic was known for her laugh, her love of books and her friendship.
Ryan Todey, one of Dies’ closest friends and co-workers, spoke at her memorial service Monday, and sat down with Noozhawk at Tonic on Thursday afternoon.
The club was nearly empty, save for a few employees and Dies’ father and brother. Nearly all of them were wearing black T-shirts with lettering in yellow — Dies’ favorite color — which read, “Forever missed, always loved, #4Mal.”
People trickled in to pick up items they had purchased during the silent auction at a fundraiser held last Sunday at Blush, which was a huge success in light of how quickly the group mobilized to organize it.
“We put it together in 48 hours,” Todey said, adding that people can still donate by clicking here.
For him and those closest to Dies, the fundraising and educational outreach have not only been a way to honor her memory, but have offered them a chance to heal.
“It’s the only therapy I know,” Todey said.
He was one of the friends walking with Dies just moments before she was struck on Anacapa Street, and has been working 20-hour days since the incident to help fundraise for her family.
He met Dies when they were students at UCSB, but became close when they both began bartending at Tonic
Formerly a general manager at the Todey Car Dealership in Camarillo, he has taken a break from his day job to focus on helping the family.
With their first fundraiser, the group accomplished some impressive numbers. Matt Dies, Mallory’s father, said the restaurant was standing room only and that the turnout from the community was “overwhelming.”
Blush donated all of the profits, and the group raised more than $16,000 in raffles alone and more than $11,000 in silent auctions.
“We’re tracking to do over $40,000,” Todey said.
Now, they’re working to navigate the ins and outs of starting a foundation, and have been talking with cab companies and bar owners to get them on board.
He’d like to have one phone number to put on stickers, a number that anyone could call if they need a ride, and if they don’t have the cash for a cab, the foundation could foot the bill. He’s even on board with making bumper stickers and handing them out at his dealership.
Another element of that outreach is having a “Mal night” where Todey and others work at bars in the downtown area to have conversations about how people will safely get home from the bar and stress education.
He’s already been asked to speak to young students by school district leaders. For the younger high-schoolers, the message is it’s not cool to drink and drive, he said.
“Our message to the adults is just get your butt in the cab,” he said, even offering to pick them up personally.
The group is focused on changing attitudes, and Todey admits that in the past, he’s driven when he should have called a cab.
“I’m guilty of it,” he said. “We’re all guilty of it.”
Having worked in downtown bars for the past seven years, Todey has seen that drunken driving is a huge issue in the community.
“We want people to enjoy their night,” he said. “Eating, drinking enjoying the city, that’s what Santa Barbara is about. But we also want people to do it responsibly.”
He has received emails from bar owners as far south as San Diego, expressing interest in implementing the changes. The group is also planning another fundraiser a golf tournament in Dies’ honor in late January.
“We want anybody who wants to help,” he said. “We want to make sure this doesn’t happen to another family.”