Gridlock Guy: Remembering Sandy Kinnard - sober driving warrior and shiner of light

A.	Doug Turnbull and Sandy Kinnard (right) work the TEAM Georgia booth at a 2018 event at the Infinite Energy center

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A. Doug Turnbull and Sandy Kinnard (right) work the TEAM Georgia booth at a 2018 event at the Infinite Energy center

Back in the days of actually attending large events like concerts and sports, concourse trips in arenas and stadiums often involved a series of retailers and volunteers hocking their products or causes. Rarely does one remember the faces and names of the people asking for the petition signed, the cotton candy bought, or the mailing list joined. Attendees are in a hurry, so these interactions are just transactions. And without repetition, these moments are tiny drops in the ocean of time. But one such advocate impacted passersby in a far greater way than most and deserves her due.

Sandy Kinnard volunteered for years at the TEAM Georgia booths at Atlanta Braves games and numerous Infinite Energy Center events. The aim of TEAM Georgia is to promote safe and sober driving and boating. The coalition’s booths at these events allow attendees to sign a pledge not to drink and drive and often get a free soft drink voucher in return. The pledgee then wears a wristband, so vendors know not to sell them alcohol. No one has signed up more sober drivers for TEAM Georgia than Kinnard.

Kinnard was a fixture at Atlanta Braves games for most of two decades at Turner Field, working the TEAM Georgia booth. She attended nearly every Braves home game in that stretch, staying on afterwards. Attending events for free is the payoff for TEAM Georgia volunteers, so Kinnard’s charm shined through by not only how she treated Braves fans, but also with her own fandom.

When TEAM Georgia’s tenure with the Braves ended, Kinnard became a fixture at Atlanta Gladiators games at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth. While TEAM Georgia sometimes struggled to find volunteers in other places, Kinnard was often the captain of the duo that would work the booth for those games and other events in that arena. She made sure all the tools volunteers needed - paper, pens, vouchers, signs - were in the right places and stored away just so. Diehard Braves, Glads, and Swarm fans remember her well.

“[My son] would always sneak around the counter to give her hugs!!!” Karen Barrett said on a recent Facebook post about Kinnard’s volunteer work. “She almost always had a treat of some sort for him.” That kind of consistency and that extra touch made Kinnard memorable. She saw her work for TEAM Georgia as not only a move to make the state’s roads safer, but also a service to the people attending the games. Kinnard shined the light to those people.

“Sandy trained many younger volunteers. They learned from the best,” TEAM Georgia Executive Director Robert Cucchi said. Her consistency in not only showing up to volunteer, but also doing a great job made Cucchi and the other leaders worry far less about the work going on in the field. Kinnard was as dependable as seconds on the clock. She worked hard and networked like a champ.

Take Cucchi’s word for it: “Sandy had many friends who worked in various capacities at the [Infinite Energy[ Center who would come by our booth to visit with her.” And Cucchi couldn’t keep up with her, “I can’t tell you how many Braves fans would come by to just say hello to Sandy prior to the games. When I ran Booth #2 at Turner [Field], I could never come up with more than 25-30 [sober driving] signups.She would easily secure over 200 signups most games.There were tallies of 300 and more when she had additional help.”

The COVID-19 precautions halted all events where TEAM Georgia would run these booths. Kinnard fell upon some medical problems at some point during the pandemic and they eventually claimed her life on Thursday, August 27th, at 79 years young. A great grandmother, Kinnard had a big biological family, but her web of familiarity also extended far beyond her genealogy because of her zeal for safe driving and her unending warmth.

“Sandy made her volunteer work part of her life and would show up when she was feeling poorly,” Cucchi said. “It was hard to convince her that she didn’t have to show up during those few bad times. [She was a] very conscientious person. As I mentioned before, The Lord broke the mold when He created Sandy K.”

When sports and concerts resume, the TEAM Georgia designated driver booths will be back in place. But working them won’t be the same. I worked several events with her and experienced Sandy Kinnard’s light firsthand. Add to Kinnard’s legacy and go to TEAMGeorgia.net to join the cause and volunteer as she did. Captain Herb Emory was a founding TEAM Georgia member and continuing his giving legacy has taken a team. The same will now be true for Kinnard. Godspeed.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com .