Youth motivational speaker Kevin Brooks spoke to the Kingswood Oxford community on Friday, Oct. 11 to share his inspirational story about the dangers of substance abuse and impaired driving.
Before the assembly, Mr. Brooks said his story has something for everyone. “I hope people take something positive away from my visit,” Mr. Brooks said, “and if they need a little reminder, just remember to wiggle your toes.” In his presentation, Mr. Brooks went on to explain what he meant by “wiggle your toes.” It all started one night when he decided to drive his car while under the influence of alcohol. This poor decision led Mr. Brooks to get into a car accident from which he and his passenger and friend Brendan, didn’t walk away from. Brendan lost his life and Mr. Brooks became paralyzed. Mr. Brooks went on to talk about how his struggles were far from over after he woke up in the hospital. “When I found out what happened to Brendan,” Mr. Brooks said, “I didn’t feel like I deserved to live.” Junior Henry Mandell found this part of his presentation to be particularly impactful. “It’s very brave of him to share his story,” Henry said. “Especially among the youth because at this age we think we are invincible and don’t realize one mistake can change our lives.”
His motto “just wiggle your toes” stems from when Mr. Brooks woke up in the hospital and tried to move his toes, but realized he couldn’t. “Just wiggle your toes” signifies that everything is alright. Mr. Brooks also talked about how he had to re-learn how to walk, talk and even breathe after the accident. His journey to recovery continued with many months in a rehabilitation center where he relearned simple, everyday tasks. He also shared the emotional story of meeting with Brendan’s family after the accident in which they forgave him for the fatal accident. Mr. Brooks stressed the importance of forgiveness to the KO community and the positive impact it had on his life. Many KO students were surprised that Brendan’s family was able to forgive Mr. Brooks. “It was really impressive to see his family do that,” junior Maddie Theissen said. “I think that is an important lesson to learn.”
After the incident, Mr. Brooks has turned his life in a positive direction and is now a youth motivational speaker who has traveled to eight different provinces in Canada as well as 30 states in the U.S. and has spoken at over 1,000 schools. Kingswood Oxford marks his 30th state in the U.S. as he has never spoken in Connecticut before.
Dean of Students Will Gilyard was responsible for bringing Kevin Brooks to KO. “I first heard of him through a woman who was applying for an internship here,” Mr. Gilyard said, “so I looked him up, watched a couple videos, and thought his story was a powerful one.” Mr. Gilyard and the student body agreed that Mr. Brooks stands out from recent speakers who have come to KO. “He’s a regular guy, so I think that makes him more relatable,” Mr. Gilyard said. This was certainly true as Mr. Brooks included many jokes and current references in his presentation.
His sense of humor made the difficult topics he was talking about such as mental health, gun violence, and substance abuse easier to digest. Mr. Brooks mentioned three other friends who passed away as a result of these issues— Jordan, Christopher and Chris. To honor all of his friends, Mr. Brooks had four empty chairs on the stage with him. This part of the presentation stood out to junior Jack Kinney. “I had a friend who was shot at Dartmouth College in the past year,” Jack said, “so I understood what he was talking about when he talked about the impacts of gun violence.” Overall, KO students left Roberts Theater with a lot to think about, as well as a lot of toe wiggling to do.