Students and parent praise Game Plan for Life

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY — Jarvis Miller, born with cerebral palsy, couldn’t walk after an emergency spinal fusion surgery during his senior year of high school.

One day while he was recovering at home, former NFL player Renaldo Wynn paid him a visit.

“I was having the roughest day. I could barely get up out of bed at first,” Miller said. “But as soon as I saw him a smile just came over me and I was just so happy to see this guy.”

Miller and four others talked Tuesday about how Game Plan for Life has impacted their lives.

Miller said his goal was to walk well enough by the end of the year that he was able to walk across the stage during graduation.

Wynn sat down with Miller and encouraged him to keep pushing and working at that goal every single day.

“And on that day of graduation, I walked across the stage and I shook (Superintendent) Dr. Moody’s hand,” he said.

Miller posted his success on Facebook and Wynn left a comment on the post that said, “I’m proud of you, young man.”

“That meant something to me because Game Plan for Life wasn’t just people coming to speak to me, they became a family to me,” he said.

His comments came at a meeting featuring Jim Gardner, chairman of the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. Gardner introduced the third phase of the Talk it Out Initiative at a meeting at the Wallace Educational Forum on Tuesday.

Renaldo Wynn attended the event and introduced Al Wood, a former basketball player for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who went on to play in the NBA.

The Talk it Out Initiative works to raise awareness of underage drinking and encourages parents to have conversations with their children about it.

The third phase will focus on informing parents of the dangers of underage drinking, including its effects on the brain.

Game Plan for Life is a program that brings speakers to schools to share stories about handling and overcoming adversity. The Rowan/Kannapolis ABC Board, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and Salisbury Police Department work together to bring the program to Rowan-Salisbury schools.

Student Camden Stamper said one of his favorite speakers was Darryl Strawberry, a former MLB player who struggled with substance abuse during his career. Stamper said he learned about resisting temptation.

“One temptation is to be a follower, but you always have to be a leader to teach everybody right,” he said.

Siblings Keegan and Makayla Dillon said they also enjoyed the program.

Keegan Dillon said hearing first-hand accounts of how bad choices affected the speakers’ lives makes more of an impact.

“They tell you their failures, their success, what they’ve learned and gained from it and that is just a huge benefit and it’s really impressive and it can change people,” he said.

Makayla Dillon said she was able to work with Game Plan for Life as part of her graduation project on underage drinking. She was also able to learn a lot of information on the topic from the Talk it Out website.

“Having these programs come in and getting to put a face to all these stories that you hear about, it’s awesome,” she said.

Wendy Gilmore Baskins talked about her son Robert Stephen Gilmore’s change of attitude after an interaction through Game Plan for Life.

Gilmore was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 3 years old and suffered from health issues the rest of his life. He died from colon cancer this past February.

Baskins said Gilmore was transferred to a different school in 2012.

“He had a hard time with that transition,” she said.

Gilmore was placed in a class with five other children with hearing impairments. He suffered from high frequency hearing loss. All of the other students used sign language while Gilmore did not.

In 2014, Richie Parker, a man born without arms who is now a chassis and body component designer for Hendrick Motorsports, spoke at a Game Plan for Life event at South Rowan High School. While at the event, Baskin really realized that her son was struggling in school and wanted to drop out.

“By the end of the program I was in tears because I knew he was wanting to drop out of school because he had been taken out of his environment where he felt safe,” she recalled.

Baskins spoke with Derrick Crawford, executive director of Game Plan for Life, and Chris Sifford, an ABC store manager, after the event.

They asked Baskins if they could take Gilmore to another Game Plan for Life event, and she agreed to let him go.

“What I got back that evening was a child who had been changed, who now was wanting to be successful in school,” she said.

Gilmore went on to graduate from Salisbury High School in February of 2016, becoming the first graduate of the year.

Baskins said she doesn’t know what was said to her son, but whatever it was, it worked.

“They helped me help my son stay in school,” she said.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.