"Imagine if you woke up one day and you couldn't wiggle your toes..."
May 29, 2019
If you’ve ever had the honour of hearing Kevin Brooks speak, you’ll know that being able to wiggle your toes is a big deal.
The crash and the aftermath
It happened when he was just 21 years old – when partying was his way of life. On the weekend of his little sister’s high school graduation, Kevin and his friends partied late into the night, drinking. Kevin got behind the wheel and his best friend jumped into the car– just as they would have any other night.
What happens next is as horrific as you can imagine.
Kevin woke up – his friend didn’t.
The crash was so intense it left him paralyzed from the chest down. He woke up in the hospital weeks later, near death and strapped to the bed. He had a collapsed lung, six tubes down his sides, and wasn’t able to talk.
The realization of losing a friend, along with everything else he was going through, led him into a deep depression. He was heartbroken and guilt-ridden.
On top of that, being paralyzed meant he had to re-learn how to do the most basic things, like how to use the washroom, how to dress himself and how to eat. It was a long road to recovery.
Sharing his story
Kevin admits he made every bad decision he could have ever made that night. He was drunk, he was speeding, and he thought he was invincible.
But years later, he made the brave decision to share his story through ICBC’s Road Safety Speaker Program so that others could learn from his experience.
Every year, more than 50,000 high school students listen to speakers like Kevin, hearing stories to hopefully make them think twice about doing risky things while driving – like texting, speeding or being impaired. About 29 youth are killed in car crashes every year.*
From his wheelchair, Kevin tells his own story of the choices he made and the consequences he’s faced because of them.
Kevin doesn’t shy away from talking about being suicidal during that time. In fact, he details the many times he thought about ending his life. But more importantly, he highlights that he ultimately chose to live, and decided to live the rest of his life as an example so that other young people wouldn’t make the same mistakes he made.
Kevin doesn’t lecture, he doesn’t tell you not to drink, he doesn’t tell you not to party. But what he does do, is show you first hand the very real and very traumatic consequences that can occur from making poor decisions.
To new drivers, he reminds them to drive defensively, make safe decisions and be a kind driver. To those with friends that are reckless drivers, or who find themselves getting in a car with a dangerous driver, he encourages them to speak up. When young people are going through similar situations, he hopes they’ll remember that guy in the wheelchair who spoke at their school.
At the end of every presentation, there’s always a line up of teens waiting to talk to him, and they’re all moved to tears. He stays to chat with everyone, he listens, he gives advice, and then he gives each person a big bear hug. When Kevin speaks, you’ll feel a mix of emotions, but best of all, you’ll feel like you’ve made a friend for life.
Recently, a man in Campbell River reached out to Kevin online. He told Kevin that he still remembers sitting in the audience during one of the presentations 10 years ago. While listening to Kevin speak at the time, he made a decision never to get behind the wheel if he had been drinking, and was proud to say he has never strayed from that decision.
Hearing Kevin’s story at your school
More than just a motivational speaker, Kevin focuses his energy on engaging youth. He’s spoken in over a thousand middle and high schools across North America.
To book Kevin for your school or organization’s event or learn about other ICBC’s other road safety speakers, visit our webpage.
As for Kevin, he’s the living embodiment of perseverance and overcoming personal and physical obstacles. All the while, he reminds us not to take things for granted, like being able to wiggle to your toes. Life is all about making choices that you can be proud of.
*Police-reported data based on the five-year average from 2013 to 2017. Youth are defined as age 16 to 21.