Darlene Thomas Peshlakai stands with her family on Wednesday before being awarded a check from Santa Fe Dining prior to the start of a basketball game at
Darlene Thomas Peshlakai stands with her family on Wednesday before being awarded a check from Santa Fe Dining prior to the start of a basketball game at Newcomb High School. The Peshlakai family donated the check to the athletic department at Newcomb High School. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

NASCHITTI The tablecloth covering the Peshlakai family's large dining room table consists of pink and camouflage handkerchiefs sewn together.

David Peshlakai and Darlene Thomas Peshlakai said it is a tribute to their daughters, Del Lynn, who liked camouflage, and Deshauna, who preferred pink.

Del Lynn Peshlakai, 19, and Deshauna Peshlakai, 17, were killed in March 2010 by a drunken driver in a car wreck in Santa Fe. Their parents suffered injuries in the crash.

In October 2011, repeat DWI offender James Ruiz was sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing the sisters in a plea agreement with the state.

Since the crash, the Naschitti family has become advocates against drunken driving and continues to raise awareness about the consequences of DWI in events both on and off the reservation.

Last week, the family participated in the fifth annual DWI March of Sorrow in Santa Fe. The march, which is sponsored by AAA New Mexico and the Santa Fe Prevention Alliance, raises awareness about the consequences of drunken driving and remembers victims of drunken driving crashes.

"We share that message because we don't want this to happen to nobody else. If we can prevent one, that is an accomplishment," Darlene Thomas Peshlakai said in an interview Wednesday.

As part of the effort, the family hosts a basketball tournament in the spring and a motorcycle ride in the summer. They also speak at events and make presentations at area schools.

So far, the family has made presentations to high school students at Career Prep, Pine Hill and Tohatchi in New Mexico, Red Mesa in Arizona and Whitehorse in Utah.

A few weeks ago, they were at an event in Montezuma Creek, Utah, when someone asked David Peshlakai where he finds the strength to continue telling the story of his daughters.

Darlene Thomas Peshlakai thanks Jim Hargrove, president of Santa Fe Dining, right, and the company’s director of marketing, Nicole Kuller, on
Darlene Thomas Peshlakai thanks Jim Hargrove, president of Santa Fe Dining, right, and the company's director of marketing, Nicole Kuller, on Wednesday after a check from the company was presented to the Peshlakai family at Newcomb High School. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

"We tell people because we don't want them to go through this stuff," he said.

The family also gets the message across by wearing T-shirts with a photograph of Del Lynn and Deshauna Peshlakai and handing out items, such as water bottles and handkerchiefs, that have "Angels vs. Drunk Driving" printed on them.

Like the sisters, the Peshlakai couple's 11 grandchildren are involved in sports, including rodeo.

When the grandchildren compete in rodeo, they wear Western shirts embroidered with the "Angels vs. Drunk Driving" message.

David Peshlakai admitted he has come close to stopping to spread his message because there are times he feels like the family's work isn't helping combat DWI crashes. But when he mentioned that to someone a rodeo last summer, that person told him to keep sharing the family's message.

"I've always said, right from the start, after the girls died, I don't want my girls dying for nothing," David Peshlakai said. "I want to do something. In a way, that is happening."

Still, he said, he would like to see tribal officials follow the push by some state lawmakers to implement stricter DWI laws.

Throughout all the activities, the family remains close-knit and David Peshlakai and Darlene Thomas Peshlakai say they are never alone.

The couple was surrounded by their children and grandchildren on Wednesday before the varsity boys' basketball game at Newcomb High School when they received a $5,644 check donation from Santa Fe Dining.

Darnell Peshlekai, right, cheers on Wednesday for her cousin, Joshua Peshlekai, during a basketball game at Newcomb High School, while sitting with her
Darnell Peshlekai, right, cheers on Wednesday for her cousin, Joshua Peshlekai, during a basketball game at Newcomb High School, while sitting with her 4-year-old daughter, DelShay, center, and her sister, Delacey Peshlakai. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

Jim Hargrove, president of Santa Fe Dining, which owns the Blue Corn Café and Brewery in Santa Fe, presented the donation to the family, who handed the check to Newcomb school officials to use for the athletic department.

The Blue Corn Café and Brewery was one of two places Ruiz and a friend drank before the 2010 crash.

"We wanted to find a way to honor the girls and the family and the community," Hargrove said after the presentation. "We decided the best thing to do was a fundraiser at the restaurant."

Money was collected from 10 percent of the food sales during a two-week period in mid-January, Hargrove said. He said the company asked the Peshlakai family to decide where the donation should be made.

James Preminger, spokesman for the Central Consolidated School District, said the donation was a great honor for Newcomb students.

"We are very thankful to Santa Fe Dining Inc. for their generous donation and to the Peshlakai family, whose daughters Del Lynn and Deshauna will forever be in our hearts," Preminger said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.