Powerful Speech Given At ECHS By Former Tennis Star: How Teen Drunk Driving Accident Changed His Life
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Students at Edmonson County High School were moved today after hearing a man who struggled to stand behind the podium with the help of a cane tell his story about he went from one of the top tennis prospects in America to one that now struggles to button a shirt, all because of what he said was his choice to drive while drunk.
Blake McMeans was ranked among the top high school tennis prospects as a 17 year old in 1994 and was offered a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee, however; as a way to cope with the sudden death of his father, he turned to alcohol and it quickly took over his life.
He said he made the wrong choice to drive while drunk and had a horrible accident that put him into a coma for four months. He would survive, but would never play tennis again while having to learn how to lift his head, blink, and swallow all over again.
He was able to rise from his wheelchair with assistance and a cane, but it took a couple of minutes for him to make the two or three step journey to the podium.
"They say a picture is worth a thousand words," he said in slow, spaced words. "I want you to remember the picture of me walking up to this podium."
He didn't speak long, but discussed how important it was to make good choices and that those choices, whether good or bad, have effects.
He discussed his struggles with alcoholism as a teen and said he began stealing alcohol from his parents' liquor cabinet at age 12. He said that drinking and driving is only one of the many poor choices one can make today. He also said that texting while driving is just a dangerous and choosing to do that can have the same horrible effects as drinking while driving.
"It can wait," he said.
"If you're drinking alcohol or using illegal or prescription drugs, there's something wrong. This isn't normal and you need to find someone to help you. I'll help you," he said.
Students, faculty, administrators, and staff members rose to their feet with a standing ovation as he closed his remarks.
Blake, who has been a speaker for the last 20 years, was kind enough to speak with us prior to addressing the crowd.
"I hope I touch young people's lives, but really just anyone's life, no matter what age," he said. "No matter what age, no matter what walk of life you're from, and no matter what you have going on in your life, you make a choice whether you will drink and drive or not. It's an individual decision and I hope that people will remember my decision and how it changed things."
He said his ongoing mission is to touch as many lives in as many states as he can.
Blake's appearance at ECHS today was made possible through a grant secured by Josh Roney State Farm in Brownsville. Blake was introduced by Roney at today's event.
You can find out more about Blake and his non-profit organization "The Blake McMeans Foundation and Promise Tour" by visiting www.http://blakemcmeans.com/.
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