When asked about his daughter, Maria, Dom Tiberi described her as a ray of sunshine, a free spirit and a girl who wore her heart on her sleeve. He said she never judged others and loved the saying “live and let live.” And, if anyone ever needed help, she would be the first one by his or her side.
After Maria Tiberi, a 21-year-old graphics design student at Ohio State, died following a car accident Sept. 17, Dom Tiberi and his family decided to carry on her memory and her spirit of helping others by starting a foundation.
“It helps my family, the thought of continuing Maria’s memory and doing good … and hopefully saving lives,” he told The Lantern.
Dom Tiberi, a sports anchor for 10TV, and his family started the Maria Tiberi Foundation to raise money for a campaign to encourage better defensive driving and educate people about the risks of distracted driving.
A Hilliard Division of Police report released Nov. 25 indicated that the probable cause of Maria Tiberi’s death was a “momentary lapse of attention or an unknown distraction.” There was no evidence Maria Tiberi was using her phone and her toxicology reports showed no signs of drug or alcohol use.
Dom Tiberi said the report left the family with more questions.
“We’re going to go through life wondering what the heck happened. Something happened, something distracted her,” he said. “And I’m here to spread the message that it can happen, it does happen, and I’m begging the kids out there to heed this and not do this to their parents.”
Dom Tiberi said he started the foundation within a week after Maria Tiberi’s death with the help of his wife, his son and daughter and his friends. He said they are still in the early planning stages of figuring out what specifically the foundation will do, but it plans to focus on encouraging defensive driving and discouraging distracted driving.
“We hope to do some things with the state government and local municipalities. I definitely want to get involved with the schools,” Dom Tiberi said. “The message just needs to get out there … you need to expect the unexpected when you’re driving.”
The foundation’s organizers also plan to sponsor scholarships in memory of Maria Tiberi, including one to be given to a student who works on Dublin Coffman High School’s magazine, “The Perspective,” and is planning to study in the media and graphic arts fields, like Maria Tiberi did. Saint Brigid of Kildare Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio established a scholarship in her honor that will provide financial assistance, and the foundation intends to continue to support the scholarship financially.
Money has been raised through donations to the foundation’s website, as well as community fundraising events. Dom Tiberi said the community has “overwhelmed” him and his family with support, but didn’t have specifics on how much has been raised so far.
“The outpouring of love and support — from not only the Central Ohio community but from the Buckeye Nation — has been overwhelming,” he said. “The support of the foundation has been amazing.”
Some of these community fundraisers include Buffalo Wild Wings, where Maria worked, which raised almost $7,000 through 16 participating locations.
Kristina Feduik, a certified personal trainer at Advanced Training in Canal Winchester and Pickerington, held a “Live for Maria” yoga class Sunday, which brought in approximately 50 people and raised $500 for the foundation. Feduik knew Dom Tiberi from her time working at 10TV as an assignment desk editor and said she had the idea to host this event because 10TV “was like (her) family.”
“The loss of Maria hit our community hard,” she said. “ A lot of us still feel the effect of the family’s pain, so we do what we can to help bring hope and light.”
Josue Bruno, a second-year in communication, said the Tiberis’ story could influence his own driving habits and the habits of others.
“You hear someone suffered a loss of their own life and someone else suffered a loss of someone close to them … and you compare it to your own life,” he said. “You don’t want to do that to anyone in your own life.”
Dom Tiberi said he ultimately hopes the foundation saves lives, because crashes are “something that (are) totally preventable.” He hopes to prevent families from going through the same loss and said he wants drivers, especially young drivers, to realize the importance of paying attention while driving and how quickly something tragic can happen on the road.
“I was young once, we all think we’re invincible,” Dom Tiberi said. “But I’m telling you … it’s not worth it to put your family through this. Your life could be taken away in one second.”