Finding Compassion and Lessons After Local Tragedy


Being injured in a vehicle collision is a traumatic experience. Losing a loved one to a vehicle collision is an unimaginable experience. Nobody is prepared to lose a child in a preventable vehicle collision by an impaired driver. Unfortunately and tragically, there have been over 225 alcohol and/or drug impaired fatal and serious injury crashes in Washington so far this year.

“In May 2017, when I found out my daughter Cheyllyn had been lost in a collision caused by an impaired driver, my world turned black. She was my life,” said Deb Collinsworth of Centralia. “I was a single mother and we shared a very special bond. I was so proud of her, she was enrolled at Central Washington University and wanted to become an elementary school teacher with a minor in education. It is a daily struggle, and when the anniversary of Cheyllyn’s death comes around, it really impacts me even more. I don’t want any other parent to experience this kind of loss.”

Collisions have tremendous impacts on the lives of the victims and their families, said Todd Rayan, Partner and injury attorney with the Centralia and Olympia law firm Althauser Rayan Abbarno, a law firm that has represented injury victims since 1946, including Deb Collinsworth.

“Nobody should have to go through the tragedy of losing a loved one to an impaired driver. Unfortunately, automobile collisions resulting in injuries and death are going to continue to happen,” Rayan said. “Althauser Rayan Abbarno has the experience and tools of big city law firms, but what sets us apart is our small town attention, compassion, and client focus. Clients are not merely single transactions to us.” 

Deb said the small town attention and compassion began as soon as she stepped into Peter Abbarno’s office at Althauser Rayan Abbarno.

“Peter had a connection to Cheyllyn, because he spoke at the Chamber’s Top 25 Scholarship luncheon where Cheyllyn’s academic achievements were acknowledged,” said Deb. “I felt right at home like I knew Peter and he really cared about my family. I remember one particular meeting with my boyfriend, Robert, where Peter asked how ‘we’ were coping as a family and as a couple. Peter gave us advice on not letting it impact our relationships. He was very personable, responsive, and knowledgeable to any questions we had.”

Meeting Deb after the Top 25 Luncheon and hearing about Cheyllyn’s passing was very emotional, said Peter Abbarno, partner and injury attorney with Althauser Rayan Abbarno. 

“I pride myself on being a good attorney and being a good person by understanding how tragedies impact everyone involved,” Abbarno said. “Sadly, this collision, like all collisions involving drug and alcohol impaired drivers, was preventable. I wish it were different, but our legal system can’t turn back time, eliminate the pain, or bring back loved ones. We fight for fairness and the best recovery and compensation for our clients and their families.”

Deb said there are two annual scholarships given out in Cheyllyn’s memory; one through Dollars for Scholars and one created by Althauser Rayan Abbarno.” 

“While I continue to mourn her, knowing scholarships in her name are given to high school seniors wanting to be teachers like Cheyllyn, gives me some peace that something good could come from this tragedy,” Deb said. “I am grateful for all of the support from our community.”

Althauser Rayan Abbarno’s priority is delivery quality legal services to the community, said Abbarno. He wanted to do more than represent Deb and her family as an attorney, so they created a scholarship in Cheyllyn’s name and promoted the TargetZero Initiative.

“There are very important lessons to be learned from this tragedy,” Abbarno said. “Our attorneys and staff are client and community focused- being a good neighbor is one of our core values. There may be no better cause than promoting safe and sober driving to prevent further tragedies in our community.”

Deb, an employee with the Washington State Patrol, advocates the Target Zero Initiative to eliminate senseless collisions caused by drug and alcohol influenced drivers. Target Zero also dedicated a day of DUI patrols in honor of Cheyllyn and Deb was able to “ride along” with law enforcement.

“I appreciate the tremendous support and effort by Washington state to adopt Target Zero — with its goal to reduce traffic deaths in this state to zero by 2030,” added Deb. “We need to do everything we can to stop such senseless deaths and support the effort of our law enforcement to keep us safe.”

To learn more about the Target Zero initiative, please visit

Seniors interested in applying for the Cheyllyn Collinsworth Memorial Scholarship can contact the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce at