A mixed audience of adults and teenagers listened with rapt attention in the gathering hall at the Cottonwood Community Centre last week.
Anyone who's been a teacher knows it's not easy to get teens to sit still and stop talking. But on this day there was no trouble as they heard Kevin Brooks, who sat in a wheelchair at the front of the room, tell the story of how he ended up that way.
It was just one of a number of activities that happened as part of the second annual Winds of Change Wellness Gathering, an event aimed at raising awareness of health resources available throughout the Pemberton Valley and building a strong relationship between Pemberton and Mount Currie.
And for Mount Currie elder Mary Ann Narcisse, the initiative has been key to lowering barriers between Pemberton and its aboriginal neighbours to the east.
"Before we were separated, we didn't know each other," she said. "When I was a little kid, I knew everybody in Pemberton, and then the last 30 years, we hardly knew each other, we didn't seem like we were neighbours, so this is helping, I think."
Kevin Brooks's story has a loose parallel with that of the Winds of Change. He was a thrillseeker as a youth, looking for his next adrenaline fix through activities like hockey, skateboarding and snowboarding.
One day he made a stupid decision: he drove drunk, killing his best friend Brendon and ending up paralyzed himself from the chest down.
But tragedy brought Brooks a new beginning. He now travels Canada and the United States telling the same story over and over as a way to teach young people about the dangers of making bad decisions when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
The Winds of Change, meanwhile, began as a joint initiative between the Village of Pemberton and the Mount Currie Band of the Lil'wat Nation, but has since grown to include organizations including the N'Quatqua Band, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the RCMP and the Sea to Sky School District.
The initiative was borne out of an incident that saw a Mount Currie youth killed in an alcohol-fuelled altercation in Pemberton nine years ago.
Participants in the initiative have looked to move beyond that incident, putting together a vision for a new relationship between the communities of Pemberton and Mount Currie that has them looking for ways to reduce the harmful impacts of drugs and alcohol throughout the valley.
Their efforts resulted in the formation of the "healing vision," a four-pronged strategy completed in 2004 that included recommendations around promoting healthy lifestyle choices, increasing awareness of wellness resources, improving health services and community leadership and responsibility.