Former Snowboarder Making a Difference

imageA former Winter X-Games gold medal snowboarder is using his severe injury to help educate people about head injuries.

Kevin Pearce recently established the Love Your Brain campaign. The campaign is aimed towards those who suffer from traumatic brain injuries. Moreover, the campaign helps people with Down Syndrome, in honor of Pearce’s older brother David. Love Your Brain talks about the importance of safety and wearing a helmet. Also, the campaign discusses what to do if one suffers a head injury. Kevin Pearce is a model of someone who uses an injury to help people. He talks with young people about the dangers of sports like snowboarding, and teaches them how to deal with the risks. In 2014, Kevin Pearce was offered the chance to carry the torch for the American team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Though he no longer competes, Pearce is more than content to be a spectator and cheer on his fellow American snowboarders.

December 31, 2009 seemed like just a normal day for former snowboarder Kevin Pearce. He and his close-knit group of friends were in Park City, Utah where Pearce was training for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Nike had just built Pearce his own half-pipe to train, and he was practicing an intricate snowboarding move called the cap double cork. Kevin Pearce’s attempt resulted in a near-fatal head injury. Pearce believes if he had not been wearing a helmet, he may not have survived the injury. He spent twenty-seven days in the intensive care unit in a Salt Lake hospital. After his injury, Pearce had to gradually learn how to walk and talk again.  The hardest part of the injury is coming to terms with the fact that he can never compete again. He can no longer complete snowboarding moves that were once innate to him.image

His love of snowboarding started at a very young age in Hanover, New Hampshire. At first it began as a hobby, but he soon began competing in a myriad of competitions. He eventually moved to Utah so he could practice and compete whenever he wanted. Pearce met American snowboarding champion Shaun White when they both attended a snowboarding competition. Although they were both young at the time, White and Pearce quickly became rivals. Pearce, a four time X-Games medalist, was the favorite to possibly beat White in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Kevin Pearce and his circle of friends established the FRENDS crew in 2007. The FRENDS crew include Pearce and fellow snowboarders Mason Aguirre, Danny Davis, Scotty Lago, Keir Dillion, Mikkel Bang, Luke Mitrani, and Jack Mitrani. The FRENDS crew’s goal was to never let the fun of snowboarding go to waste. They believed that even though snowboarding is competitive, it is important to remember the fun of it all.

Pearce’s struggles with his injury are highlighted in The Crash Reel, a documentary directed by Lucy Walker. After spending months in the hospital, Pearce finally returned home to his family in June 2010. Although Pearce survived the near-fatal brain injury, he suffers from double vision and lack of balance; he also struggles with controlling his emotions. He cites his family as his biggest support system and continually thanks them for their support during his time of need. Due to his injury, he was unable to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Furthermore, though he cannot compete, Pearce does still occasionally snowboard recreationally with some members of the FRENDS crew. He is very careful about snowboarding today, but Pearce does not seem to let his injury hold him back from doing what he loves.

Kevin Pearce has been very optimistic about his injury and post competitive life.  “Whatever sport when you encounter something, you need to learn how to give up and move on and be okay with that,” said Pearce. His ambitious nature has helped him throughout these difficult four years. He has slowly come to terms with his injury, and he is now working to help others come to terms with theirs. He won’t be able to go in the air on a half-pipe anymore, but Kevin Pearce loves motivational speaking. He embraces the idea of helping and inspiring people. From snowboarding competitions to the Love Your Brain campaign, public speaking, and charity work, Kevin Pearce’s story and road to recovery is one for worth hearing.

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