Family Focus: Melissa & Demetrius Branca
Four years ago, Melissa Branca received a call that would change her life forever. Her stepson Anthony was struck and killed by a distracted driver on his way to work. He was hit in his vehicle while waiting to make a left turn. The truck driver, who was going 40 miles per hour when he hit Anthony, received a $1,100 fine and a 6-month license suspension for careless driving. Anthony died one month before his 20th birthday.
“When you experience a loss of this magnitude, everything changes…you turn into a completely different person,” said Branca. “I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. This shouldn’t have happened. It was preventable. Distracted driving is an underserved problem, legislatively and otherwise.”
Since Anthony’s tragic death, Branca and her husband Demetrius have dedicated their blood, sweat and tears to preventing other families from experiencing the devastating loss of a child or loved one do to distracted or impaired driving. Branca left her marketing career in the private sector to co-found a non-profit organization with her husband called the Anthony Phoenix Branca (APB) Foundation.
The APB Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness on the consequences of distracted driving. The Foundation’s mission is to “educate drivers, save lives, and end this deadly epidemic.” In addition to anti-distracted driving initiatives, the APB Foundation seeks to strengthen the local community through charity and outreach, while doing good deeds and “random acts of kindness” in the name and memory of Anthony Phoenix Branca.
In addition to her work with the APB Foundation, Melissa Branca recently took on the dual role of State Coordinator of Florida SADD and Lead of the Florida Teen Safe Driving Coalition (FTSDC). Informed Families had the good fortune to partner with Branca to co-host a series of safety fairs and school presentations featuring renowned speaker Kevin Brooks in 10 Miami-Dade high schools this past Spring. The project was funded by The Miami Foundation’s State Attorney Safer & Healthier Communities grant, and in partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation.
Thanks to Branca’s support, students participating in the 2018-2019 FTSDC Leadership Academy adopted Informed Families’ campaigns to bring back to their individual schools this year.
Informed Families is grateful to the Brancas for sharing their story of the devastating impact of one person’s decision behind the wheel. We look forward to partnering together to reach more and more Floridian children and families to educate and inspire them to take a stand against distracted and impaired driving.