What started as a typical Saturday night of partying for the skateboarding, snowboarding, hockey playing Kevin Brooks quickly turned tragic with a fateful poor choice. Fueled by a deadly combination of alcohol, testosterone and that fearless “it will never happen to me attitude” often held by young people, Kevin left a party. Driving intoxicated, distracted and in excessive speeds, he was not alone. Beside him sat his passenger and childhood hockey friend Brendon…
Weeks later Kevin would learn the devastating news as he lay in a hospital bed on life support. He was paralyzed from the chest down and would now rely on a wheelchair to get him around. In disbelief Kevin tried to move his legs. He gave everything he had to just wiggle his toes, but his lower body lay still. As if this news was not bad enough, Brendon had not survived the crash. Horrified, Kevin’s first thoughts were of giving up and ending his life. However, suicide was hardly possible at this early point in his recovery Kevin being paralyzed and confined to a bed . He was left to lay there with his thoughts, his guilt, and the overwhelming sadness and fear that had enveloped this once active and care free young man. Kevin’s family and friends as well as Brendon’s family, rallied to support Kevin during the darkest days of his life. His attitude began to change, and soon Kevin’s thoughts were focused more on figuring out how to live than they were on wanting to die. “Brendon and I grew up together. Our families spent so much time at the rink and on road trips. My sister Allison dated Bren in high school. Our parents always got along well, and Bren’s parents were always good to me. When I learned of their support following the crash I was at first surprised. Facing them was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life even with their support. They truly gave me another chance, and I knew I had to do something positive with it. They also taught me an invaluable lesson in forgiveness” It would take months of rehabilitation to heal a grocery list of injuries combined with seemingly every infection a hospital could offer. Still faced with such insurmountable challenges, Kevin chose to swim rather than sink… and swim he would.
Kevin’s journey as a speaker began with a chance meeting with an iconic and inspirational man named Rick Hansen who in 1985 set off on a worldwide journey in his wheelchair. Rick’s goal: changing attitudes and raising awareness for people with disabilities. Meeting a fellow paraplegic who had accomplished so much without the use of his legs was a life changing experience for Kevin. A seed was planted that day that would set Kevin off on an epic journey that would not only change his life but more importantly change the lives of so many others. After his chance meeting with Rick Hansen Kevin pondered how he too could make a positive difference… Eventually he decided to hold an event. But HOW? And more importantly WHAT? Thinking back to a recent time when his mother, six year old sister Hayley and him had gone to a public beach, Kevin recalled watching Hayley splashing and playing in the water as he sat on the sidelines. He remembered the tears that filled his eyes that day as he further realized the consequences of his poor choices from the past and the effects on his family. Determined to not let their day be ruined Kevin fought to push his wheelchair through the sand that day and into the water. Play with Hayley he did, and as he waded in the shallows Kevin secretly vowed to come back to this beach one day and swim across that lake using nothing but his upper body.
The fundraiser called From Wheels to Water happened that summer. Kevin indeed swam the lake after spending the past six months training and learning to swim. The event brought together family and friends, raised nearly $10000 and attracted local media. A week following the fundraiser, Kevin was invited to speak about his experience in an elementary school library. Kevin never knew it at the time, but that presentation would be the beginning of an unbelievable journey.
Today, Kevin is busier than ever traveling across North America sharing his inspirational story. Over the years Kevin’s presentation has evolved into much more than simply a motivational / road safety presentation. To date, Kevin has spoken in well over one thousand middle and high schools; in dozens of colleges and universities to sororities and sports teams; at countless community events and conferences; and for thousands of US Army troops. Local media still regularly cover his story as did the Tyra Show starring Tyra Banks for an episode titled Teens on the Edge: A Wake Up Call. Kevin’s remarkable story of perseverance and never giving up was also featured in a Reebok campaign that aired during Super Bowl 49. He also re-enacted his story for an inspirational music video for a song called Believe by rapper Sonreal. The moving video touches on such important issues as impaired driving, depression, bullying and substance abuse, issues Kevin feels strongly about and advocates for.