Message to students comes through loud and clear: Don't do it

Sherrie Taylor/Gatehouse News Service
Chris Gibbs, left, and Chad Truelove, both of Victoria, shared on Oct. 16 with AlWood students stories about Gibbs’ and Truelove’s lives after accidents involving alcohol and or drugs. Gibbs lost her son, Alex, while Truelove escaped serious injury; his truck is seen in the photo.

There were no mixed messages at the MWAH! program at AlWood Middle/High School on Oct. 16.

Accompanied by talented singers and dancers, powerful messages were delivered, including by two local speakers, Chris Gibbs and Chad Truelove, both of Victoria.

The 22-year-old Truelove, a ROWVA High School graduate, talked about attending a party to celebrate the summer a year ago and setting out for home after drinking. He had an accident on the way.

As he spoke, a photo of his mangled pickup truck was displayed.

“The truck rolled and with a seat belt on, I considered I was lucky getting out of the accident alive. But I now say I was blessed,” Truelove said.

“Most of the damage was on the passenger’s side, and had there been someone else with me, it would have been different,” he added.

The incident taught Truelove a lesson - one he’d like others to learn.

“Learn from my experience; there’s no excuse to drink and drive,” he said. “If you do drink, have someone come and get you.”

Truelove also offered to give the students his own cell phone number, saying he’d be willing to pick them up if needed.

Gibbs read a touching letter she wrote to her son, Alex, who died about 18 months ago.

“Sometimes an accident doesn’t end well; my son was not so lucky,” she said.

The letter, written after Alex’s death, asked what he was looking for in alcohol and drugs.

Seemingly, he had everything: a loving family, his own vehicle, friends and work. Family and friends helped him stay clean and sober for a long time, hoping he would live a long, healthy life.

“Drugs do not add to your life, they only take away,” Gibbs told the AlWood students.

“It’s often all about the C word, and I don’t mean casket,” said teen speaker Chris of MWAH!

“It’s about choices.”

The troupe shared messages about bullying, abuse, hatred and a variety of teen issues.

The students were told they have a lot of heroes in their lives, people who can save a life or help them in some way. AlWood Middle/High School Principal Jay Bizarri introduced AlWood heroes at the end of the program. Middle school student Raven McFarland was one of them. She often takes care of brothers and sisters, but continues to contribute positively to the school, Bizarri said.

Elijah McCreery, also a middle school student, struggled academically last year, but is making a real effort to get his life back on track, taking care of programs that will help him. This makes him a hero, Bizarri said.

“Jonathan Timberlake is a hero to me,” Bizarri said. “He has struggled academically, had reading difficulties, but wanted to be part of the John Deere Area Career Center program and is finding success.”

Sisters Chelsea and Nikki Meirhaeghe lost their father a year ago and one of the girls has had back surgery, but they strive to overcome obstacles and do well academically; they’re heroes, too, Bizarri said.

The AlWood heroes were honored with a song, sung to each of them personally by several of the troupe members.