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Montana Bar Fairies promoting a sober ride home following family tragedy

A Flathead family is turning their grief over losing a loved one into a positive impact on the community
Montana Bar Fairies
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-25 20:00:18-05

KALISPELL — With so many breweries and bars, drinking is a popular pastime in Montana.

But a fun night out often comes with the threat of drunk drivers, and one Flathead family knows this all too well.

But they're turning their grief over losing a loved one into a positive impact on the community.

Bobby Dewbre grew up in the Flathead, graduating from Columbia Falls High School in 2020, and was set to graduate from Flathead Valley Community College in May with his welding certificate.

"He was kind and generous and funny. And Bobby, anybody who knew him, he was Bobby," Carli Dewbre recalled.

In March of 2023, just before he graduated college, Bobby died.

He was struck and killed by a drunk driver while crossing the highway by the Blue Moon Bar after celebrating his 21st birthday.

“No one goes out thinking, Oh, I'm gonna go drink tonight. I'm gonna kill someone. You know, but that's what happens," said Beth McBride, Bobby’s mother.

McBride's grief became something she didn't want other parents to experience.

"The intense pain that comes when you lose your child I don't want anybody else to feel that," said McBride.

Those emotions became the motivation behind the Montana Bar Fairies.

“Grief is so complicated and it's so heavy, that it's almost unbearable," said Carli Dewbre, Bobby’s sister.

Montana Bar Fairies is a program started by Carli Dewbre, Bobby's sister — and it's simple.

During early mornings for one day on the weekend, Carli and Beth visit area bars and leave $5 coffee gift cards on the vehicles in the parking lots.

But they're not just any gift cards. They include a picture of a drunk driving victim and the story of how they died. It's a hope and also a thank you to those who choose a sober ride home.

“It feels good to channel that anger and sadness and angst into something productive rather than just contributing to the ugliness that already exists in the world,” said Dewbre.

While some of the cars that they put the gift cards on may not be left behind by drunk drivers, it is still a way to promote a sober ride home.

“I think part of the reason that we felt inclined to do this was to honor my brother's memory, as well as Brooke Hanson, another drunk driving victim from Columbia Falls, their faces and their stories are featured on these cards," said Dewbre. "And so even if the person didn't get a responsible ride home or if the cars there for an unrelated reason, it still spreads the message is still shares my brother —his face his story; Brooks face her story with people who I hope will be touched by it in one way or another.'

Beth McBride is working with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, a national non-profit, to hopefully make an impact on the state level.

“Eleven people have been killed in the Flathead due to drunk drivers since Bobby died in March. Eleven! There’s a problem here. If bringing awareness to not drinking and driving can reduce our deaths so that nobody else has to feel this way, then that gives me the strength to go on,” said McBride.

Montana Bar Fairies is small right now, servicing one town in the Flathead a weekend. They are currently working on becoming a non-profit to help expand the program. Until then, the expense for the coffee cards is coming out of the family's pocket. Some gracious coffee shops have donated gift cards to help with the cause.

“We don't want to demonize people and we want to rather just incentivize people to make more responsible choices,” said Dewbre.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/montanabarfairies if you would like to help the Montana Bar Fairies or share your own story with them.

“This isn’t about Bobby. This is about us. This is about our community. This is about making a change,” said McBride.