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Local family uses tragic experience to help others

Andy Hovis’s mother, Donna, pins on his corsage before his senior prom.

Andy Hovis’s mother, Donna, pins on his corsage before his senior prom.

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

Ever since an intoxicated driver struck and killed 20-year-old Crouse resident Andy Hovis in 2010, his family has been dedicated to helping others.
The following year, the victim’s parents, Mark and Donna Hovis, along with Andy’s siblings Amber Bradford and Mark Jr., started the A.N.D.Y. Foundation.
Its purpose is to raise awareness about the need for people to possess a list of emergency contacts other than through a cell phone.
Because it took rescue crews days after Andy’s wreck to locate his phone, smashed and fallen down the side of a seat inside his demolished vehicle, and nearly five hours for troopers to contact his parents following the crash, the Hovis family wanted others involved in similar situations to have the right tools during the most critical times.
As a result, they created the A.N.D.Y. Card.
The bright yellow, wallet-sized card provides spaces for people to write their emergency contacts. The front of the card stresses its importance, stating, “All people need contacts. Do not depend on your cell phone.”
The phrase is aligned on the card in such a way that the first letter of certain words spells out “ANDY.”
The morning of the wreck, the Gaston College student had been on his way to meet a professor at the Dallas Campus before heading to a local news station to start an internship for videography, Donna said.
While traveling down Dallas-Cherryville Highway around 8:30 a.m., a driver, intoxicated on Ambien, struck Andy’s vehicle.
It wasn’t until 1 p.m. the family learned the news.
While scrolling through a local news site for updates on the Zahra Baker case during her lunch break at work, Donna said she spotted a picture of her son’s totaled vehicle.
“I never got to see his eyes or hear his voice again,” she said.
On Tuesday, she and her daughter stepped out to help others experiencing similar trials by delivering blankets to the trauma unit at Carolinas Medical Center-Main in Charlotte.
They delivered 24 in honor of Andy’s 24th birthday — today.
The effort is part the foundation’s newest project called “Andy’s Caring Covers.”
Each month, the family plans to hand out 100 blankets, either donated or purchased, to area trauma centers. They desire to have no less than 80 for each hospital.
Donna vividly remembers holding her son’s favorite blanket, filling it with tears each night after the wreck.
“Every night, from Nov. 12, 2010, until Nov. 1, 2011, I slept with this blanket,” she said.
The object was more than a simple piece of fabric for the grieving mother; it was the last thing that Andy touched before he died.
“As a parent, you want to touch something they just touched,” she said, “and feel something they just felt.”
Before leaving their Gaston County home the day of the tragedy, before heading to CMC-Main to see Andy, the family had grabbed his favorite blanket, along with a pair of headphones, to take to him.
When they finally arrived at the trauma unit, the loving son and brother — also a skilled skateboarder, family said — had already coded.
Unable to recover from the significant amount of brain trauma he suffered in the crash, he was soon taken off a ventilator.
The day following his death, Donna left the hospital with his bloody clothes. She also had the blanket — complete with his familiar, soothing smell.
As a result of the comfort the object brought her, knowing it was part of Andy, she wanted to offer the same consolation to other friends and family of loved ones involved in traumatic incidents.
Nurses were more than thrilled to receive the 24 blankets this week and already knew exactly what to do with them. One of the nurses even remembered coding on Andy.
“They were excited, excited to get them,” Donna said. “They even said, ‘We have patients right now who need them.’”
Medical officials also told the two women that they typically have a larger crowd of trauma patients during the warmer months due to an increased volume of outdoor activity, often leading to ATV crashes and boating accidents.
The Hovises said they hope to provide some sense of peace and comfort through the blankets, wanting more than anything for patients to be able to take them home — a sign they’ve recovered, Donna said.
While several drop-off sites for blankets and materials such as fleece and extra-large baggies, Donna said, have already been setup in Hickory and throughout Gaston County, no sites have been designated yet in Lincoln County.
The family hopes to secure additional locations in the near future.
They are willing to pickup donated items or have them dropped off at their home at 317 Bud Black Road in Crouse.
To date, more than 30,000 A.N.D.Y. Cards have been distributed to nearly a dozen states including as far away as Montana and California, Mark said.
But the family’s goal is much larger — distribute to 25 states in five years.
They currently give card presentations at various schools, churches and other locations that request it.
While the cards stemmed from a traumatic story, one that the Hovises hope others will never have to experience, they can also be beneficial in less alarming situations such as misplacing a wallet, Mark said.
Over the years, people have shared stories with the family of how the cards not only assisted in the retrieval of a young girl’s much-needed diabetic medication but also notified a husband, in a separate incident, of his wife’s hospital admittance for a diabetic coma.
The Hovises met the out-of-town woman at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Cherryville and gave her an A.N.D.Y. card.
Last year, the family actually received a letter from the couple, telling them how doctors discovered while she was in the hospital for treatment that she was also pregnant.
Without having met the Hovises — but grateful for the card they created — they felt a connection to them, even giving their new baby the middle name “Andy,” Donna said.
The Gaston County family shared details of an emergency worker who responded to Andy’s wreck and later benefited from the card when she crashed her own vehicle.
“The card doesn’t have to be for instances like ours,” Mark said, “and we hope it doesn’t have to be used for instances like that. When I give people the card, I tell them to put it in their wallet and hope they never have to use it.”
The Hovises were able to finally close a portion of the wreck chapter last year after the driver who hit Andy’s vehicle, Taras Maurice McGirth, 46, of Fort Mill, S.C., stood trial.
The man was convicted of felony death by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter, Donna said.
The A.N.D.Y. Foundation will also be hosting concealed carry classes May 17 at South Fork Fire Department. For more information on the class, the Foundation or how to donate, call (704) 460-4604(704) 460-4604 or (704) 830-8088(704) 830-8088.
Individuals may also checkout “ANDY Card Foundation” on Facebook or signup for a newsletter by emailing andycard@carolina.rr.com.

 

Image courtesy of Contributed

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