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12.3.2013

Kevin Pearce: STOKED To Give Back

We like to have fun here at Milk Made and not take anything too seriously, but sometimes you have to stand up and give respect where it’s due. Today, that means giving props to STOKED, the non-profit organization that helps inner-city kids succeed through snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing. Today the group is hosting the Stoked Awards where they honor exceptional people, including snowboarder Kevin Pearce.

We talked to Kevin about his career and what it means to give back to his community, but before we get to that we’d like to invite you to join us in donating to STOKED. We’ve pledged $3,000 to support their cause and we hope you do the same at our donations page throughout all of Giving Tuesday. It’s a worthy project and we’re all about supporting snowboarding and skateboarding. Case in point: Milk has supported STOKED since its start in 2005 and founder Mazdack Rassi was a past honoree along with Tony Hawk and Paul Rodriguez. Now, back to Kevin.

With several X Games medals under his belt, Kevin Pearce was considered one of the few challengers to Shaun White’s throne when he suffered a catastrophic crash on Dec. 31, 2009 while attempting a Cab double cork during a halfpipe training session. It took weeks before Pearce awoke from a coma, and months longer before he could return home from the hospital.

But while Pearce’s injuries forced him into retirement from the sport he loves, his resiliency and determination to get back on his board and become an advocate for brain injury awareness has earned him a new kind of recognition as an inspirational speaker and, now, the recipient of the Stoked Achievement Award.

“To be recognized and to be able to go out and share with these kids is extremely important and STOKED is obviously doing incredible, powerful things and so helping these kids and having them recognize me is pretty special,” Kevin told us.

With the support of his family, friends and team of sponsors, therapists and doctors, Kevin was able to get back on his snowboard 712 days after his traumatic brain injury. It wasn’t an easy journey, but it’s allowed him to connect with kids who are undergoing their own seemingly impossible struggles.

"I don’t really go back and talk about where I could be, the fact that I could’ve made the Olympic team and won a gold medal and all that," he said. "But talking about the changes that have come and the things I’ve had to deal with — that’s what’s been most important to show people, that if something happens and you really can’t overcome it then you can still come back and lead a great life even if it’s not the exact path you were thinking."

Despite everything that Kevin’s been through, he’s still only 26. That’s young enough so that kids are able to understand his message of resiliency: "I can share my experiences with these kids and it’s pretty cool that they seem able to relate. If they’re going through some tough times or dealing with some stuff, I can inspire them and get them psyched to step up and make it happen."

A big part of Kevin’s work is through the Kevin Pearce Fund and the LoveYourBrain campaign, which raises money and awareness for action sports-related traumatic brain injuries or TBIs.

"Right now we’re selling T-shirts and stickers and these bowls that my dad is making and it’s cool to get that feeling of raising this money and doing these things and giving the money to kids who don’t have what I had and aren’t as lucky as I was," Kevin said.

Little by little, Kevin says that snowboarding and other sports are becoming aware of the danger of brain injuries.

"[Snowboarding] is becoming more aware and people are starting to get a better understanding. It’s cool to see that happen but there’s still a lot of room for that to continue to happen and I’m excited to be the one at the forefront of that and to push this message."

Please join Milk in supporting STOKED and make a donation today.

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