FORT LORAMIE — A billboard reminding drivers to pay attention to their surroundings and stay off their phones was unveiled courtesy of Leah Fullenkamp and the Shelby County Farm Bureau.
The billboard, which bears the message “Eyes Up, Phone Down” and “It Can Wait,” sits just off of where state Route 29 and Fort Loramie-Swanders Road meet. The location of the billboard is not far from where a fatal crash due to distracted driving took place on June 16, 2018, claiming the life of Leah’s husband, John Fullenkamp.
“It sucks, and I don’t want anybody else to be in this situation. No matter what happens, it’s never going to be okay, so if somebody else can not be in it, that’s the goal,” Leah said. “If you don’t reply to someone right away, your world will keep turning. But if you do, you have a chance of killing somebody and ending their world.”
The crash left Leah widowed with four children to take care of: Eliza, Henry, Molly and Greata. At the time, they were all under the age of 10. Following the death of her husband and their father, Leah and the children were visited by a fly around birthdays, Christmas, and particularly difficult days; the fly would land on their hands and stay with them. There was always only one fly, and seemed to pop up at important moments. For Leah, it was a symbol of strength for her and her family, and sparked the inspiration behind “In the Blink of a Fly” — a play on the phrase “in the blink of an eye,” and a reminder that your life can change at any moment.
“It became a symbol of strength for us, because this isn’t a good situation. It’s a shitty situation, and flies can survive in shitty situations, and they thrive in shitty situations, and if they can do it, I can do it,” Leah said.
The movement, which started off with Leah sharing her story, has grown into an advocacy for awareness around distracted driving and being mindful of others on the road. The Shelby County Farm Bureau joined Leah in her advocacy efforts with “In the Blink of a Fly” to help remind drivers the dangers of distracted driving, and to be mindful of other people around them — farmers especially.
“We’re super excited to be part of Leah’s ‘In the Blink of a Fly’ project. Nothing means more to us than the safety awareness for our farmers, and part of that is keeping your eyes up and your phone down, and that everyone gets home safe,” Shelby County Farm Bureau Organization Director Jill Smith said. “We’re really excited about this.”
According to Smith, the coalition is also working on informational yard signs, fliers and awareness activities. Anyone interested in a yard sign can contact Leah through the “In the Blink of a Fly” Facebook page.
The billboard, which is the first joint project between “In the Blink of a Fly” and the Shelby County Farm Bureau, was made possible through donations from Anna Young Farmers, Ashley Himes State Farm, Bambauer Fertilizer and Seed Inc, Billing Insurance Agency, Botkins Young Farmers, Birke Petroleum, Inc., Gay Smith/Associates, Julie Shuffelton, CPA, Lacal Equipment, Osgood Bank, Pioneer Electric Cooperative, Raterman Insurance Agency, Reliable Business Solutions, Ruhenkamp Boring & Trenching, Schafer Propane, Schmerge Family Farms, Shelby Co. Persecutor, Shelby County Cattle Association, Sidney Manufacturing Company, Stops Freightliner, Westerheide Construction Company, Wreaths by Holly, and Sarah Paper. The trailer that the billboard sits on was donated by Seth Middleton.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.