The West Country Outreach School Students Against Drinking and Driving group recently attended the Canadian Youth Against Impaired Driving Conference in Edmonton.
Although the group has been regular attendees of the Alberta Students Against Drinking and Driving conference, this is the first opportunity the school has had to attend the national conference. And what an amazing weekend it was. Students had the great fortune to hear a number of fantastic keynote speakers who were both inspirational, educational, and heartwarming.
On the first night, they listened to Alvin Law share his message about how physical impairments do not have to limit you as a person. Alvin was born without any arms as a consequence of his birth mother’s use of the morning sickness drug Thalidomide. He learned to perform routine activities using his feet alone including eating, dressing and grooming himself, driving, playing sports, drums, piano, and trombone.
After he graduated from college, Law embarked on a successful career in broadcasting. Today, he is independent and an inspirational professional speaker. This was definitely one of the most inspiring stories the students and teachers have ever witnessed.
Friday was a fun-filled and tiring day. After breakfast and a morning pump up, students listened to Michael Buckingham speak about his experience with drinking and driving. His career as a Washington State trooper ended when he suffered terrible injuries in a crash caused by impaired driving. He asked everyone to do whatever they can to prevent impaired driving. His dynamic presentation inspired everyone to be champions of safer road use.
After Buckingham’s presentation, students got to listen to Joan Parsons. Her story relates how the reckless choices of three impaired drivers shattered her life and a fourth impaired driver helped her choose to put the pieces back together again. Her moving presentation described the impact of the deaths of her son, sister, and brother-in-law, and the severe injuries sustained by her brother.
On Saturday, students started the day with breakfast and another pump up session. Then Cory Johnson spoke to the conference about his life experiences. Being born with cerebral palsy and suffering a stroke at the age of 11 hasn’t deterred Johnson from living life to the fullest. He uses his life experiences, inspiration, and education to overcome the barriers others impose on him. Johnson encourages his audience to see new possibilities within themselves and others. With his own perception on life, he challenges people to remove some of their barriers.
Andrea Wojcik became a paraplegic after surviving a motorcycle crash eight years ago. She shared her experiences of her new life in a wheelchair and the consequences of decisions she made leading up to that fateful crash. Wojcik stressed how important it is to make conscious, well thought out decisions to minimize risk and enjoy life in a safe and fulfilling way.
Heather Charlton’s story emphasizes how seemingly small choices can lead to tragic, long-lasting, and unforeseen consequences. Her humble, poignant, yet frank presentation discussed the realities of being a teenager and underscores how her choices as an adolescent led to impaired driving, speeding, and a car crash that resulted in the death of her best friend. Charlton presented her whole speech with her baby beside her and her young son running around keeping people entertained.
D.O. Gibson was a definite highlight of the conference. D.O. (aka Defy the Odds) is a Guinness World Record setting rapper and university graduate who has been inspiring students as a motivational speaker since 2001. He’s visited hundreds of schools, toured Canada multiple times, and had several videos on rotation on MuchMusic. In the past year, D.O. has performed internationally in Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, New York, Miami, and Las Vegas. His presentation addressed such topics as bullying, peer pressure, and working at peak performance. To show his commitment to students involved in SADD, D.O. even stayed right through to the Sunday morning conclusion of the conference. All of the kids were impressed with his attitude and message.
On Saturday afternoon, students grabbed their banners, posters, and sweet red WCOS SADD hoodies and marched the CYAID message through the streets of Edmonton and right up to the steps of the Alberta Legislature.
On the trip home to Rimbey, students discussed their new found passion to stopping drinking and driving in the community. If you must consume alcohol, make sure you have a safe ride home. There are always alternatives to getting behind the wheel and endangering the lives of yourself, your family, and the families of other innocent people.
The WCOS SADD group worked hard to fundraise throughout the year, holding movie nights for the school and a Saturday afternoon at the movies for Rimbey Elementary School. They had several bake sales at school, and sold lots of candy at special times such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.
Without the generous donations from several businesses and townspeople, this trip would not have happened. Thanks so much to everyone who supports our efforts.
Don’t Drink and Drive.