During four Florida stops of Matthew West’s Into the Light tour October 18-21, tearful concertgoers witnessed “Forgiveness,” the current single from Into the Light, come to life. Waiting backstage at each of the venues were Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge. Renee, the inspiration for “Forgiveness,” surprised audiences, not only by making a personal appearance, but by introducing Eric, the drunk driver who killed her twin daughter in an accident in 2002, a soon-to-be-released prisoner she has forgiven and now considers “part of the family.”
This “surprise” was not the first involving Renee Napier. Earlier this year, The Morning Cruise surprised Renee during an interview in their JOY FM studios by hiding Matthew West in an adjoining room. Matthew’s song “Forgiveness” had been written from the story Renee submitted, but remained unknown to Renee until both the song and the waiting artist were revealed. Subsequently, plans were made for Renee to accompany the Into the Light tour in several cities. Eric Smallridge’s appearance was exclusively for JOY FM audiences. To arrange for the personal appearance of Eric, Renee and others had to convince the Florida Department of Corrections to allow temporary mobility to the inmate, still serving 11 years prior to his planned release in November, 2012.
On May 11th, 2002, a drunk driver killed Renee’s daughter, Meagan, and Meagan’s friend, Lisa Dickson. The driver, Eric Smallridge, was sentenced to 22 years in prison. In the midst of grieving the loss of her daughter, Renee came to forgive Eric and help reduce his sentence to 11 years. In turn Eric decided to make something positive out of his tragic mistake. Less than two years after Meagan’s death, Renee began her journey giving DUI Presentations to a multitude of audiences, including high schools, colleges, the military, churches, and DUI offenders. Since 2004, over 100,000 people have heard Renee’s presentation during which she tells the story of Eric’s decision to drink and drive and the healing power of forgiveness. In April 2010, Eric was granted permission to join Renee in her speaking campaign.
The JOY FM is a network of non-commercial, listener-supported contemporary Christian music stations serving Southwest, Central and North Florida since 1986 and Atlanta since 2011. It is owned by Radio Training Network, and is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization.