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Palm Coast Thursday, Mar. 9, 2017 5 years ago

Tragedy inspires action: brother of girl killed by drugged driver launches nonprofit

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Palm Coast native Zachary Smith is raising funds to begin an online platform to help families through the grieving process.
by: Colleen Michele Jones Community Editor

Zachary Smith lost his sister, Meredith, in a 2012 fatal car accident caused by a driver on 1-95 who was later found to be under the influence of drugs.

At the time, Meredith Smith was a rising senior at Flagler Palm Coast High School who seemed to have everything going for her: A 4.5 grade point average, a spot on the varsity cheerleading squad and the kind of sunny personality that lit up a room.

"She was one of the brightest lights of my family," said Zachary Smith, a 2012 graduate of Matanzas High School.

In the months following the death of his younger sister, Zachary Smith saw counselors and therapists. Each told him they thought he was doing fine.

"But I wasn't fine," said Smith, who says he had trouble focusing on his college studies and other underlying issues related to his grief.

Now 23 and living in Gainesville with plans to complete his bachelor's degree in public administration at the University of North Florida, Smith has plans to launch something he wishes existed when he was struggling with his own feelings of loss. In 2013, Smith began a nonprofit organization called Merff (after his sister Meredith's nickname) Co. which raised funds for a high school scholarship awarded in Meredith's name in 2013. He also hoped to spread awareness of the dangers of drunk and drugged driving. Smith is still committed to those projects.

But he recently came up with an idea that he thinks might go a step further. Smith has applied for a patent for an online platform that would allow people who are grieving to talk to others who have experienced similar situations by matching them together.

Smith does not having enough coding or programming skills to engineer and host the online application, so he is raising funds to hire a professional or a student to do so. With an initial goal of $10,000, Smith recently began a GoFundMe campaign at http://gofundme.com/merffco. Under a little over a week, $360 has been raised toward that goal.

"Instead of going to a psychologist or psychiatrist where many find it uncomfortable to open up I would like the platform to be user oriented where anyone can go on share their story and even live chat with someone if you are feeling a wave of grief," Smith writes on the GoFundMe site.

He hopes to reach his goal by the five-year memorial of Meredith's death on July 26 of this year.

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