Alumnus receives 2009 Ironman Everyday Hero award for efforts to help keep teens safe

Wake Forest School of Law graduate David D. Daggett (’85) has completed 18 Ironman races and 152 triathlons. He is a founding partner of a personal injury law firm in Winston-Salem, and has been distinguished as a “Super Lawyer” by various publications. He has a wife and three children.

It’s an accomplished life. But he knows that one false step, at any point, could have kept him from ever obtaining it.

That’s why Daggett spends whatever free minutes he has in local schools, promoting the Safe Sober Prom Night program, aimed at preventing underage drinking on prom night.

“What stops you from being a success?” Daggett asks the students. “One night of experimenting with friends.”

Since Daggett and his law partner founded Safe and Sober Prom Night in 1991, more than 400,000 students in North Carolina and South Carolina have signed a pledge to not drink on prom night. The lawyers started the program primarily because they saw the effects of drunk-driving accidents through clients who come into their offices. They represent both victims and offenders, and both sides are filled with anguish, Daggett said.

They’ve taken that message to more than 450 high schools since then, although the delivery has changed some.

“We used to show pictures of crashed cars and blood and guts. That doesn’t work anymore. You can’t scare them,” Daggett said. “But what you can do is show them how to succeed in life and then unwind that to say, what you can’t do is make a big mistake.”

The Ironman is the perfect metaphor for young people to see the planning, preparation, results, finish line and staying the course.

Coming from a man who will turn 50 in July, a preachy message might cause yawns among a crowd of teenagers. But Daggett’s credibility increases when he talks about his athletic pursuits. The Ironman competition is brutal – an athlete must swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. And Daggett has finished 18 of them.

Sometimes, Daggett brings a jock athlete up front to challenge him to a pushup contest, just to gain a connection with the students before arriving at the serious subject of drinking and driving. That connection has been made, in Winston-Salem and beyond. This past summer, Ford Ironman Coeur d’Alene honored Daggett with a 2009 Ironman Everyday Hero award, given to only a handful of competitors a year. For winning the award, Daggett was featured on ESPN and Universal Sports.

“I have been able to combine my athletic pursuits with the motivating young people,” Daggett said. “They love hearing stories about my Ironman racing and those sorts of things. The Ironman is the perfect metaphor for young people to see the planning, preparation, results, finish line and staying the course.”