Girl's parents opposed kids soliciting on public square

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Children shouldn't be soliciting donations in the street, according to the parents of a Marshall County High School graduate who was hit in traffic a decade ago during a soccer team fundraising roadblock.

"After she got hit, all of that came to an end for quite a while," says Dan Bennington, 51, of Gina Lynn Drive, father of Nicole Aziminia, now 27, now the mother of her two-year-old son, Alex, and living in La Vergne.

It may be an obvious position for Bennington, but his opinion was sought now because the City Council is changing the ordinance controlling fundraising practices that are now permitted only on the public square in Lewisburg. The Council was considering new controls during a regular monthly meeting last night. Some officials said they hope to get the new law enacted before school starts this fall.

After 10 years, some officials didn't have a clear memory on what happened when the then Miss Nicole Bennington was hit, so her father was asked what happened to her.

"They were out in front of McDonalds," Bennington said. "We weren't there."

Dan and Carol Bennington both advocate an end to students collecting donations in the street.

"She was with the soccer team and they were doing a doughnut fundraiser and Coach Amy Farris was with them at the corner," Bennington said of the intersection of Ellington Parkway, East Commerce Street and Fayetteville Highway.

"When the light changed, they [other students] were standing there on the edge of the road with their doughnuts and there was a truck turning to go to Fayetteville...

"There was a truck in the turn lane," the father continued about what happened as the driver planned to turn to go east.

"Nicole had gone to the driver's side of the truck in the turning lane and when she came around the front of that truck to go back to the curb, she poked her head out.

"I think the light changed and a pickup truck's rearview mirror bumped her in the head hard enough to knock her to the pavement and be taken to Marshall Medical Center where she got staples (instead of stitches) and cleaned up," he said. Nicole was then "sent to Vanderbilt Medical Center where she was checked again.

"They were concerned about her having a concussion from her head hitting the pavement," Bennington said.

The injury was well within her hairline on her head, so Nicole is not visibly scarred.

"If she darted out without looking," Bennington concluded, "it could have been worse. It wasn't Nicole's fault at all."

Anna Childress' daughter was on Nicole's soccer team at the time.

"I remember she got bumped," Childress said. "While I wasn't there, my memory of the event was that she moved quickly between lanes."

Childress spoke up for the fundraising practice on the public square where "you'd have to stop, and wherever there's traffic, there's elements of danger.

"But it's not the danger they're worried about if it's the merchants who are complaining," she said.

Motorists have been seen turning to side streets to avoid the solicitations, according to comments during a recent Council meeting.

"If people don't want to give money," Childress said, "they can just smile and go on. They don't need to feel guilty.

"All those organizations need the money," she said. "How are they going to get it otherwise?

"The three organizations I have personal contact with have raised over $500 to $1,000-plus from four hours on one Saturday morning," Childress said.

Bennington, however, takes an absolute position: "I don't think there should be any children on any intersection selling anything."

He and his wife don't oppose adults soliciting contributions on the square, he said.

"I understand the need for fundraising and I understand that's how sports groups, clubs and other groups get their money, but I don't see why they would have 8-12 year-olds standing in the middle of the roads with their parents.

"Nicole got hit, where the speed limit is 45 mph," Bennington said.

Then there's a financial calculation - a cost benefit comparison.

"They're selling doughnuts for $5 and Krispy Kreme gets about $3.75, so they're risking their lives for $1.25," Bennington said, estimating revenues were "about $200.

"Maybe $300 if they were lucky. It was never huge money. They'd have to be up early and they'd start selling doughnuts at 7 a.m. and stay maybe until 11 a.m. then the doughnuts are gone."