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Matt Evans brings laughter,
tough message to KDSS

By Liz Dadson

Education

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Matt Evans (in front, wearing KDSS sweatshirt), is joined by members of the Kincardine chapter of Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID), Monday afternoon; back, Gregory Reid (L), Logan Wolfe, Kalvin Stares, teacher Jennifer Evans, Brendan Rogers; and front, Lori Ogilvie (L), Jordyn O'Connor, teacher Christine Newton, Eliza Bumba, and teacher Sandy MacLeod

By the time he was 19, Matt Evans had buried his two best friends.

But that's not what motivates him to speak to youth about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Speaking to students at Kincardine District Secondary School Monday afternoon, Evans said his motivation came after he was working with teens in youth programs.

They heard him talk about the death of his friends, due to alcohol abuse, and they started to ask him why he didn't talk to his friends and help them.

"It's difficult to talk to your friends about this stuff," said Evans, "but it's important that you do."

Now executive director of Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID), an actor, comedian, educator and motivational speaker, Evans uses humour to drive home the sober message that drinking and driving is a deadly combination.

His high-energy, passionate and spirited presentation certainly struck a chord with the KDSS crowd.

"I failed a lot in school," he said. "I'm not proud of that. I was good in sports but I struggled in school."

Originally from Parry Sound, he now lives in Kemble, near Owen Sound.

"Everybody has a challenge," said Evans. "Quitting is easy. When dealing with a challenge, you have to be creative. You have to try, you have to care and you have to work.

"You sit there and think that you can't be a role model because you're youth. But little kids look up to you - you're their role models. If you do good things, they'll do good things. If you do bad things, they'll do bad things."

In high school, Evans discovered help through the guidance office. He underwent tests and was diagnosed with dyslexia.

"So, I have to work six times as hard to read a word and a sentence," he said. "I have to work six times harder to do what others do so easily."

He graduated from high school and holds a degree in communications from Wilfrid Laurier University. He also studied education at the University of Winnipeg and studied acting at George Brown College.

Evans has been in TV series, such as "Daring and Grace" and "Highlander - the Raven," and has won four best actor awards from the Western Ontario Drama League.

He has travelled to every province in Canada, much of the United States, India, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Amsterdam, Iceland, and now, Kincardine.

He has worked with youth programs, teens and teachers across Canada for more than 20 years, and as head of OSAID, he knows how serious the message is that he delivers.

"Cars are the No. 1 killer of teenagers," said Evans. "That's why OSAID is so important. It's run by teenagers, telling other teens not to drink and drive."

He said if you want to learn to drive, talk to an Indy car driver or a NASCAR driver.

"It takes seven years to learn how to drive a car," Evans said, "and it takes years of experience to become a great driver. We love our cars, but we don't just automatically know how to drive."

As to drinking, Evans said he doesn't care if youth drink. "I'm not your parent, a cop or your Spiritual Sherpa. But I care if you drink and then go out and hurt somebody - plus, you're not legally allowed to drink until you're 19."

He asked the students what they would think of a guy who went out and drank milk at a party and then puked it up. And then did this over and over again every weekend.

"We'd probably think that was disgusting," he said. "But kids do the same thing with booze and it's accepted."

The No. 1 incident at hospitals is overdosing on alcohol, said Evans.

"Kids think that if they are drunk, they'll be more popular, but you just end up looking stupid," he said.

His friend, Jamie, started drinking in Grade 10 and was popular, had good grades, played hockey and had a girlfriend. But he became an alcoholic and when he drank, he would get into fights and act crazy.

"One New Year's Eve party, right after he turned 19, he was drunk and standing on a ledge at the top of an 18-storey building," said Evans. "Half of the crowd at the party was telling him to get down, the other half was cheering him on.

"He fell from that ledge and died."

Another friend was 19, drunk, and  driving his motorbike through downtown Banff when he was killed.

"I was 19 years old and I had buried my two best friends," said Evans. "We have to talk to our friends. We have to find solutions to impaired driving."

He urged all the students to sign the "In Control" banner, pledging not to drink and drive.

"Get involved with OSAID," he said. "It's teens talking to their friends. Oh, and don't text and drive either."

The presentation by Evans was sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care - Healthy Communities. The ministry has sponsored OSAID to do 30 presentations across the province and provided the Pledge Banner and the lanyards with the "In Control" slogan on them.

 



Motivational speaker Matt Evans warms up the crowd of students at Kincardine District Secondary School, Monday afternoon, with an audience participation game



Isabel Tuck, Grade 10, signs the OSAID "In Control" Pledge Banner, Monday afternoon



Geoffrey Dadson, 5th Year student, pledges not to drink and drive



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