“Wouldn’t it be great to go through life with no regrets?”
That was the question Melissa Hague posed to Grade 7, 8 and 9 students of École Mother Teresa School last Thursday.
Hague is an injury survivor who visited the school on behalf of Parachute Canada’s No Regrets program, which aims to educate children, teenagers and young adults on injury prevention, and how to take ‘smart’ risks.
She described how she was badly injured in a severe car crash almost 30 years ago, which left her paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Poor decisions made by the drunk driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash resulted in devastating, life-changing consequences for her and her family, she added.
Her mother was killed in the crash. The drunk driver of the other vehicle survived.
A presenter with No Regrets since the early 1990s, it’s now her goal to emphasize to students the potential impact of their decisions.
“At Parachute, we believe that life is about having fun and taking risks, and risk taking is what makes life fun,” she said. “So go out and take risks. Just be smart about it.”
Avoiding ‘stupid’ risks is the purpose of the principles outlined in her presentation. Included among those principles were recommendations to use proper safety equipment at all times, and to ensure proper training has been received before carrying out potentially high-risk activities.
“We do what we do to prevent injuries from happening,” she said. “My goal is always to try and get across to kids that it is about making choices, and good choices.”
Hague’s own story was backed by a video that showcased other injury survivors who explained how their lives were deeply affected by poor decisions made either by themselves or by others.
The presentation’s target audience consists of those considered most likely to take risks. Typically, this means students in Grades 7 to 12.
“That’s when people start taking risks,” said Hague.
That students reach driving age in those grades is also an important consideration, she added.
“We all know that if people are better trained, they make better choices,” she said.
“If you’re wearing (protective) gear and you get injured, you’re not going to be as seriously injured. If you’re in a car crash, and you’re wearing your seatbelt, you won’t be as seriously injured.”
Unfortunately, those messages aren’t always considered to be common sense for some people, she added.
Peer pressure, overconfidence and complacency are just some of the factors responsible for people crossing the ‘stupid’ line.
“To tell someone not to do something is just trying to stop them from living their life, and we don’t want to do that,” said Hague. “Life is about going out and challenging yourself and feeling alive, but you can stop and think about how to do it in a better way so that you don’t hurt yourself or hurt someone else.”
The presentation is effective in delivering its message, she feels. While she knows this from feedback provided by students, she is aware that plenty of other students who don’t talk to her also approach risks differently after sitting through the presentation.
“I’ve had kids come up to me and say they’re going to live their lives differently because of seeing the show,” she said. “For me, if someone just makes one good choice, then I’ve done my job.”
Hague, who lives in Ontario, was visited École Mother Teresa School as part of a tour of Alberta, which also saw her speak at schools in Mayerthorpe, St. Albert and Red Deer.
Her Sylvan Lake visit took place during National Teen Driver Safety Week, which ran Oct. 21 to Oct. 26.