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Kevin Pearce is an internationally famous snowboarder who was critically injured when he struck his head above the eyes on the edge of the pipe during a halfpipe training run on New Year’s Eve 2009 in Park City, Utah. He remained critically ill for many moths,undergoing treatment in hospitals in Utah and in a rehabilitation center specialising in traumatic brain injuries in Colorado. The youngest of 4 sons of glass maker Simon Pearce and his wife Pia who are based in Vermont, Kevin is a nephew of the potter Stephen Pearce of Shanagarry County Cork, where his father grew up. His uncle on his mother’s side is Cyrus Vance, Jr., the District Attorney of New York County (Manhattan).
As the months went by and Kevin’s hold on life and recovery were first tenuous then his rehabilitation tortuous, tens of thousands of people joined in wishing him well. His snowboarding friends and fans, from the world champion snowboarder Sean White to children on toboggan runs wore signs reading “I Ride for Kevin” at events and family trips, and posted them on his Facebook page. I do not snowboard but as a very long-time friend of the Pearce family through 4 generations, from his grandparents, father, uncle and aunts, Cork cousins and now his cousin Lucy’s children, I wanted to offer solidarity also….so I in February 2010 I carried my (slightly amended!) sign at Checkpoint Charlie, crossing point between the old West and East Berlin.
Now, 3 years later, Kevin is well and though not snowboarding (his mother won’t let him) is playing sports such as golf and giving his time and energy to “Love Your Brain” an awareness project for those with severe brain injuries. It is not only sports people and road users who suffer traumatic brain injuries and their longterm, often personality changing repercussions, but soldiers. There are thousands of veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq now trying to keep their lives together back in the US, who may not even be aware that they are different, more volatile, than before they went to war; through no fault of their own, but through brain injury, they need awareness of how their heads and their thinking is now unpredictable, even to themselves.
Last year, a film was made about Kevin’s accident and recuperation by the British, US- based documentary maker Lucy Walker. “Crash Reel” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival recently and is showing tomorrow in at the Berlinale Festival in Berlin. I am so glad, three years after I posed this pic in hope for his recovery, to be going to the film in celebration of just that; Kevin Pearce’s greatest achievement (to date!) and the biggest, steepest,highest, hardest mountain anyone could ever have climbed – and what is more, what is another of his strengths – Kevin is back at ground level smiling.