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Jenna McCarthy runs social media accounts and organizes events for Mariah’s Challenge — a movement aimed at eliminating drunk driving — in honor of her sister.

Walter Hinick, The Montana Standard

Butte's Jenna McCarthy excels at selling home and auto policies at her father's business, Leo McCarthy State Farm Insurance.

But her most important work, she says, is championing the memory of her little sister, Mariah, who was struck by a drunk driver and killed on a pedestrian path 10 years ago this month.

That Oct. 28 tragedy spawned the organization, Mariah's Challenge, and  sparked a movement aimed at eliminating drunk driving by promoting individual sobriety pledges and encouraging healthy choices.

McCarthy runs social media accounts for the organization, including those on Facebook and Instagram.

She also organizes the memorial 5K race and half marathon every year to raise awareness about drunk driving.

Being recognized for her work for Mariah's Challenge "behind the scenes," as she puts it, came as a surprise.

"I didn't think anything like this would ever happen to me," she said. " I'm really excited."

The effort appears to be helping, with fewer DUIs on the books, she said.

"It's dropping," she said, of alcohol related driving offenses — although it's difficult to measure the success of the program.

"The way I look at it is that you can't really measure the good that you do, the lives that you change."

But feedback from the public is encouraging.

"I think it does more good than we will probably ever know," she said, "just knowing people still remember her, and the way she died is not in vain."

This year, the 10th anniversary of 14-year old Mariah's death, will include the annual 5K race on Oct. 29, but the half-marathon will be replaced by a one-mile memorial walk from the Butte Country Club to the memorial cross at the accident site.

There, participants are invited to pause and reflect. "People can light candles and remember their loved ones, and then walk back up to the country club," McCarthy said.

The tribute event brings people together for a common cause.

"For me, it's like remembering what happened," she said. "It keeps us in the forefront, in remembrance of my sister. It's no one's right to drink and drive."

She hopes it will help people consider the consequences of their actions and make smart choices.

"Something really terrible happened, and no one should have to go through that again," she said. "It's why we're doing what we're doing."

McCarthy, 27, grew up in Butte, graduating from Butte High in 2009. She earned her undergraduate degree in communication studies at the University of Montana Missoula and a master's degree in technical communication at Montana Tech.

Her parents are Leo and Janice McCarthy of Butte, and Mariah was her only sibling.

McCarthy's message to the community is simple:

"We need to consider the consequences of our actions. Make smart decisions. Don't drink and drive, and don't get into a car with someone who has been drinking."

This year's Mariah's Challenge event is set for Sunday, Oct. 29. To register, visit Mariah's Challenge Facebook page.


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