[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 15, 2009

Students learn sobering lessons at Ed Frank’s Beacon of Hope Care Center

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — High school seniors sat solemnly in front of coffins, each topped with a single rose, as they listened to Mark Gautheir.

The robust, bearded, middle-aged man spoke to them from a wheelchair; he has no legs. Gauthier told them how a drunk driver hit him when he was a boy of 11.

The talk last Friday was part of the first school field trip to the Beacon of Hope Care Center on Gun Club Road in Altamont.

The center is run by Ed Frank Sr., a retired Colonie cop who lives in Altamont. His son and namesake also worked for the Colonie Police — for 19 years — before dying of bowel cancer in 2005. He was 45.

The younger Frank, who liked racing at Saratoga Speedway, had started a program to teach kids that speeding cars belonged only on a racetrack. The father-and-son team started a program to educate kids about the dangers of drunk driving, housed in a traveling trailer.

After his son died, Ed Frank carried on the program with a passion. He is the director of Choices 301. The program is named after the younger Frank’s radio dispatcher number for his police work, which was also his racecar number.

The new home for Choices 301 is at 6378 Gun Club Road. It was originally a dance hall and then became a church. “We’re keeping the steeple,” said Frank, explaining it is a symbol of hope.

The building was bought by Jeff Thomas, a local developer and founder of WeatherGuard roofing, and refurbished as headquarters for the Community Caregivers; the not-for-profit group last year moved to offices in Guilderland.

The Beacon of Hope Care Center will now be the permanent home for the Choices 301 programs, Frank said. “The Thomas Family Foundation has been very supportive of our work,” he said.

His program is currently supported by Albany County Stop DWI and he is meeting with Friends of Recovery, an organization that supports recovering alcoholics, he said.

“We will address suicide prevention,” Frank said as the program expands.

He is sending out information to Capital Region school districts to encourage field trips to the center.

“Tears in their eyes”

The first school visitors were seniors from Berne-Knox-Westerlo last Friday.

“They had tears in their eyes,” he said of the students as they listened to Gauthier tell his story.

Frank was all too familiar with the story; he had worked for the Colonie Police at the time Gauthier was hit.

At age 11, Gauthier had walked out of his house on Albany-Shaker Road to retrieve a pizza for his parents. “That was back when pizza trucks had ovens inside,” said Frank.

Gauthier and the driver were at the back of the truck when “a drunk pinned both of them,” said Frank.

“He went on with his life,” said Frank. “He worked for the state until he had complications later in life. He got married and had children. He made the best of it.”

But there is always sadness. “His daughter is getting married and he won’t be able to walk her down the aisle,” said Frank.

Another of his daughters, Sarah, read a letter to the BKW students last Friday. It was written by her father’s sister soon after the crash.

“She put her feelings down,” said Frank and, all these years later, those who heard her words were moved.

Linda Campion also moved the students on Friday. She held a photograph of her beautiful daughter, Kathleen.

Kathleen Campion was a 19-year-old student at the University at Albany in 1989 when she was hit by a drunk driver and died. She was the passenger in a car that was hit by a man leaving a St. Patrick’s Day party in the early hours of March 18. He had no headlights on; he failed to stop at a stop sign when he crashed into their car.

The students also looked at pictures from a recent drunk driving crash that killed Anson Breen.

They took turns wearing goggles that simulated impaired vision as a State Trooper walked them through a standard sobriety test.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Frank, describing his reaction to how the first field trip went. “The kids were tremendously attentive and well-behaved.”

He is also pleased to have a permanent place for his displays. One of them includes hundreds of shoes, signifying people who have died in alcohol-related cashes.

“This place has gone from music to ministry to caring,” he said of the center. “We’ve found a home.”

[Return to Home Page]