How To

In the Wake of Personal Tragedy, this Woman is Using a Petition and Media to Affect Change

Sep 30, 2015

Even in the midst of a personal tragedy, Darla Darnell used the media to promote her petition. By using the support of the people around her and taking advantage of media interest, Darla was able to grow her petition.

Darla had a bad feeling about her boyfriend, Josh Jacobsen, going out on his own in the Badlands National Park. When Josh didn’t answer her call on the fourth day, Darla knew that something was wrong. When Josh failed to show up for work after five days, Darla reported him missing.

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The search started immediately with rangers combing the park on foot and on horseback. While rangers and volunteers did everything that they could, Darla was frustrated that National Park Service rules forbid the use of drones in parks. “Drones can search in areas that can’t be accessed on foot or on horseback.”

So Darla’s started a petition asking the National Parks Service to make an exception to the drone rule for search and rescue operations where a life may be at risk.

To get through this tough time, Darla turned to those close to her. “My daughter has been an incredible support through all of this. She has been contacting the local media and putting out press releases, coordinating with all of the local search and rescue groups and she’s been supporting and encouraging me. My daughter even contacted our local representatives.”

As a result of her daughter’s efforts, the story of Josh’s disappearance was covered widely on TV, radio, and in print across the Midwest.

“It’s been kind of difficult to talk to reporters. My daughter has been helping with that. It’s hard to talk about it without becoming emotional,” said Darla. “But most journalists have been pretty sensitive about that. They haven’t pushed too much and it felt like they understood how I felt.”

After hikers found Josh’s backpack, rangers found Josh’s body at the bottom of a deep ravine more than two months after he first went missing. Darla is convinced that had the rescuers been able to use drones, they would have found Josh’s body sooner and may even have saved his life.

Some, but not all of the original news stories mentioned Darla’s petition. But since reporters are always looking for new angles on a long running story, Darla plans to contact the reporters she has already spoken to and suggest a follow-up story about her petition.

“I want to do everything I can to make this change,” said Darla.

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