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Making a difference and raising awareness with orange

By: Sherry Christian

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A Dauphin County boy is being remembered for his love of the color orange, and being remembed by raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

Eight-year-old Owen Brezitski was killed four years ago by a then 17-year-old motorist who was distracted with her car radio.

Owen was walking to a local restaurant to get a milkshake in 2011, and a split second action forever changed his family's world.

His family continues to make a difference and change the thought process of people, especially young drivers, when they get behind the wheel.

The pain of Owen's loss is still very real to his family, like his sister, Makenna.

"He should be telling me he likes my hair straight, he should be telling me he loves me as a big sister, but he can't anymore because someone decided that changing their music was more important than someone's life," Makenna said.

Makenna was 14-year-old when Owen was killed.

The whole family, his mother, Karen; his father, Mark; and sister, Kyla, were walking home from a concert at the former Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg on St. Patrick's Day when the teenage driver was districted by the music she was playing and struck and killed Owen while he was in a crosswalk.

The family was on the way to a McDonald's to get a Shamrock Shake, which were his favorite. A coupon for the shake was in his pocket.

"He had a smile that would definitely light up an entire room," Makenna said.

The family relies on happy memories to try to deal with the pain of the loss, like attending a Penn State football game.

"That was the best father, son day ever. We got tickets from a friend to go to Penn State versus Temple in 2010. Great day me and him, the weather was fantastic," Mark said.

"Since we were the youngest we buddied up and had our little games and played Legos all the time together," Kyla said.

"And he was actually able to ride that bike several times because it was warm that year in 2011 before he passed," Karen said.

One of Makenna's fondest memories of her little brother was actually from the day he died.

"I had to stay after school for some sporting event and he came for his bus. There was little line leaders he followed for his bus and he just walked by me and said 'Hi Sissy, I love you,'" Makenna said.

Five hours later, she would be saying goodbye to Owen forever.

Days later, as Karen and Mark were planning Owen's funeral, Kyla and Makenna came up with what is now the Orange 4 Owen Foundation, a distracted driving awareness campaign that started with orange wristbands.

Orange was Owen's favorite color.

"So whenever you put your hands on the wheel, you can see out of the corner of your eye, if you're wearing your bracelet, it's a daily reminder, every day, to keep your eyes on the road," Makenna said.

In support of the family and the campaign there have been Orange Out events across central Pennsylvania, including one last week at Bishop McDevitt's boys lacrosse game.

On Thursday CBS 21 hosted a station Orange Out to support the Owen Foundation and as well as the station's Drive Safe Central PA project, to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

But perhaps the loudest and saddest reminder is from Owen's absence.

"Makenna is graduating this year and Owen won't be in the audience physically. I mean we know he's with us, but he won't be physically there and that's a hard pill to swallow, as well and every milestone they achieve, they move towards, he's not part of," Karen said.

Two years ago, CBS 21 stated the No Text Zone campaign, allowing individuals to sign up an pledge to not text and drive.

The new Drive Safe Central PA is an expansion on that pledge, to raise awareness and help cut down on distract driving.

Throughout the year, CBS 21 will have pledge drives to get people to commit to driving with their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

Public service announcements will be broadcast on CBS 21, cbs21.com and digital platforms.

For another tool to help lessen the distractions while driving, download the Drive Safe Mode app through you smartphones' app store. The app will disable some features while a vehicle is in motion.