WICKENBURG, AZ — While on Arizona highways, there are quite a few signs drivers pass, but there is one sign that families hope doesn't just fade into the rearview mirror.
"I just see his face, like... when I drive by the sign," said Anne Horton.
About 70 miles northwest of Phoenix, cars driving along the US 60 in Wickenburg will see a sign to honor Coach Dan Doom. Doom was Horton's beloved grandfather.
"His personality... he always had a smile on his face," said Andrew Doom. "Even when he was mad sometimes, he still had a smile on his face."
Andrew is Dan's son and tells ABC15 his father held countless titles in the community. He had been a teacher, coach, and role model in the local school system since 1965.
Dan passed from the coronavirus in 2020, but Andrew wanted to keep the memory of his father alive.
He decided to contact Arizona Department of Transportation's Adopt a Highway program.
Now a memorial sign commemorates the coach for about a mile on US 60. But ADOT tells ABC15 there are nearly 2,000 miles of state highways that are now "adopted" by volunteers. The agency asks the group comes out to the area a few times a year to pick up trash.
"That's who he was," Andrew said. "He was service-oriented."
Ryan Harding with ADOT said their selfless actions mean safer commutes for all of us by freeing up crews to work on roadway maintenance.
"They're, you know, doing pavement repairs, they're doing fence and guardrail repairs and keeping infrastructure safe for drivers, and they get to litter as they can but to have people saying, 'Hey, you know what... we're going to take care of this section of highway litter-wise... it's a huge help," Harding explained.
Helping and hope are part of the legacy Coach Doom leaves behind. His family wants you to think of him as your journey on the road takes you past the area where his stopped.
"I hope they realize like there's like real people behind the signs," Horton said. "That it's not just like, 'Oh, these people are cleaning up,' like... we're doing it for my grandpa.' Yeah, there's real people."
Last year, the Adopt-a-Highway program collected 14,000 bags of trash, which ADOT estimates to weigh nearly 200,000 pounds.
The agency has about 1,000 volunteer groups statewide and more than 400 of those were created to honor a loved one.
Are you interested in participating in the free program and honoring a loved one? Click here for more details.
Have a road issue or a question for Operation Safe Roads or email email@example.com.