FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – It was a mix of emotions on Friant Road with smiles of gratitude, tears of sorrow, and laughter from memories as dozens gathered to honor the life and legacy of Gavin Gladding.
“It’s amazing the number of lives he touched. Children’s lives, he impacted so many people here, when he was in Peace Corps in Africa, and when he was in college, so many friends, so he had a wide group of acquaintances and friends and impacted a lot of people,” says Gary Gladding, Gavin’s father.
Fresno County officials unveiled two blue street signs at the ceremony – each going on either side of Friant Road, saying “In Memory of Gavin Gladding Educator and Environmentalist,” with a replica awarded to Gavin’s family.
One of Gavin’s former Clovis West High students shared his impact on her life is something she carries with her every day and is thankful to see these signs going up in her favorite teacher’s honor.
“It’s so impactful, he was just such an important person in all of our lives. In high school, he was one of those people who just really cared about his students, mentally, and emotionally. He was a really amazing man, a really amazing person and he cared deeply about our river and about the environment and that was something that always impacted and will always impact me forever,” says Jenae McCarthy, a former student who now works at the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust.
September 18th will mark the five-year anniversary since Gavin Gladding was killed by a hit-and-run driver and the Gladding family hopes this memorial will help keep his memory alive
“People need to remember what happened so people can help it not happen to someone else’s family which is what we’ve been trying to do all these years in Sacramento,” says Rita Gladding, Gavin’s mother.
For years State Assemblyman Jim Patterson and the Gladding family have worked together to try to pass Gavin’s Law in the state legislature – and if passed, the law would increase penalties for hit-and-run drivers.
Under current state law, a DUI driver who leaves the scene and sobers up before being caught avoids a potential 15-year sentence for felony DUI charges.
Despite failing to make it through several sessions now, Gavin’s family members are not giving up.
“I’m not so sure we’re done. They’ve thrown us out again, we get thrown out every time we’ve been there since 2018 and we’ll just keep going. A day like today just warms my heart and makes me understand how our community, and who you are and what you’re here doing, and how we’re going to make this – we’re going to get something done, we’ll get a lot changed,” says Rita.
Assembleyman Patterson echoed Rita Gladding’s push to pass Gavin’s Law saying things need to change.
“People like Gavin’s mom, Susan (Gavin’s wife), the kids, they don’t count to those people – well they count to us, they count to me and I’m going to continue to be an advocate and I’m going to fight for Gavin’s Law until I’m turned out, might even do it after I’m turned out,” says Assemblyman Patterson.
To complete Gavin’s memorial weekend, a golf tournament in his honor is also being held on Saturday, September 9, through Gavin Gladding’s Foundation which raises funds to inspire youth to make the world a better place by providing scholarships and grants for higher education, camps, and other educational programs focused primarily on environmental stewardship.