His left arm is held tightly together by a cast and gruesome scars surround his neck. He is often riddled with stress and getting from place to place has become a challenge.Castleton State College student Adam Van Eron was involved in everything, from his high school days in Baltimore to his first year of college. Whether it was working with politicians or partying with friends, he was involved.
But the night of July 9, 2004 changed all that.
Van Eron and two girls, all under the influence of alcohol, were on their way home from a party without a designated driver. The driver was speeding and lost control of the vehicle, which collided head-on with a tree. The driver was killed, and both Adam and his friend Jody sustained severe injuries.
“I broke my jaw in three places, lost full use of my left arm, and shattered my left femur in the accident,” Van Eron struggled to say. “If I hadn’t been wearing my seat belt, I probably would be dead.”
Birth of SPARKI
Almost two years later, Adam has returned to Castleton and wants students to learn from his devastating incident. While meeting one day with Lisa Kellogg, Castleton’s director of counseling, the idea of a club promoting alternative activities to prevent alcohol abuse was formed, thus creating S.P.A.R.K.I.
“This is a way for me to give back to the Castleton Community for helping regain my confidence after I lost my arm in the accident and came back,” he said. “Any student can bounce back like I did.”
S.P.A.R.K.I., Student Play at Refocusing Kultural Influence, gives students the opportunity to engage in non-alcoholic events, he said.
“We want to address the issue of alcohol abuse in a holistic way, while making it fun and creative at the same time,” Kellogg said.
While S.P.A.R.K.I. is focusing on recruiting students into the club, some potential activities promoting non-alcoholic socializing have been discussed.
“I think having a pool party could be a good idea,” Van Eron said. “We can also have a root beer pong tournament and recycle the root beer instead of drinking it. Each participant can play for a certain charity; maybe get some student-athletes and local businesses involved.”
Road to recovery
Adam lost four pints of blood on his way to the hospital and had to stay in shock trauma at the Maryland University Hospital for two months.
In the days that followed, he had to use a wheelchair to get around and was given homecare therapy
“I wouldn’t have gotten through this without the love and care from my family,” he said. “While I was in the hospital, my dad kept telling me not to give up and that ‘surviving will always make you stronger.'”
The return to college is an enormous step for Van Eron, who is continuing to get his life back in order.
“A big step in my recovery is the ability to drive a car again,” he said with a grin. “I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to drive again after the injuries, considering not being able to use my left arm.”
What the future holds
The energy is apparent from those currently in the club, but more is needed for S.P.A.R.K.I. to emerge at Castleton.
“We obviously need to drum up support from more students and faculty members,” said Bill Barry, one of S.P.A.R.K.I.’s core members. “Hopefully in a year from now, there will be a big increase in supporters.”
When students were asked for their thoughts about the new club, none appeared overly in favor or against it.
“I think S.P.A.R.K.I. is a good idea, but I’m not sure what other students here at Castleton will think of it,” said student Austin White.
While most of the students interviewed said they like the concept of S.P.A.R.K.I., the majority said they weren’t interested enough to join and attend the meetings.
Regardless, Van Eron has always expressed interest in making a difference in the community and is trying to do that now through S.P.A.R.K.I.. But, ultimately, he said he’d like to see changes to the judicial system to avoid more accidents like his.
“I think it’s ridiculous that people still drive on roads after four DUI’s,” he said. “If only our judicial system knew the true severity of driving under the influence of alcohol.