Bryan Stow had looked forward to the night of March 31, 2011 when the San Francisco Giants, his favorite baseball team and then the defending World Series champions, were opening their season in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
Stow, a paramedic and father of two, traveled to the game with some friends to watch the Dodgers defeat the Giants 2-1. In the moments that followed, Stow’s life changed forever.
Brutally beaten following the game, Stow nearly lost his life. He spent the next nine months in a coma and after had to learn how to live again, just the basic things so often taken for granted like speaking and eating.
A few years after the incident, Stow found a new purpose when he started speaking to kids. This past week, he brought his anti-bullying message to Southern Maryland, speaking to over 2,000 students and elementary and middle schools in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, as well as Patuxent High School.
The presentations featured a slideshow taking students through Stow’s life, starting with what his life was like before the incident and then working through the arduous rehabilitation process he’s undergone in the now eight-plus years since. His message to students was to “Stand up, speak up and lead by example.”
Stow’s new mission started in earnest when he was going through a few weeks of rehabilitation at Good Samaritan Hospital’s Mission Oaks Campus in Los Gatos, California. His speech language pathologist, Brandy Dickinson, had an idea.
“She was working at Good Samaritan Hospital and right next to them was a daycare center,” Stow said. “There were 20 or 30 kids. I talked to them, small kids. I talked about being a paramedic and what to do to call 911 and stuff like that, and then it hit me. Everybody had a question for me and I got really into it.”
While his initial foray into public speaking was a far cry from the presentation he delivers today, the seed was planted and the course for Stow’s new mission was charted.
“When Brandy put together the school thing, she knew the kids would start asking what happened,” Ann Stow, Bryan’s mother, said. “The response was, ‘I got hurt by adult bullies.’ And that’s how this mushroomed. It just became a whole different thing.”
Now closing in on 300 presentations, Stow has become passionate about his mission.
“I like to talk about getting bullied, defending against bullying and all the little stuff that happens day to day in the process,” he said. “From what happened to me to during the incident to after is remarkable. People are like, ‘I can’t believe you survived that.’ I got really lucky. The doctor I had that did the brain surgery on me was 32 years old. I was 42, and he was doing brain surgery on me. Unbelievable.”
Stow, who delivered his presentations with the help of his mother, made his rounds through the area schools starting on Wednesday and wrapped up his brief tour with a public presentation at Patuxent on Friday night.
The public session was sparsely attended, but after speaking to thousands of students the previous couple of days Stow was pleased with how his trip — the first he’s made to deliver his message on the East Coast — turned out.
The appearances, which were put on through a joint effort between Patuxent and the Southern End Football Alliance, was were arranged largely through the efforts of SEFA president Jimmy Eaches, who happens to be a Dodgers fan.
Eaches reached out to Stow not necessarily expecting anything to come of it, but Stow was more than happy to make a trip to the East Coast, something he said he hopes to do more of.
“Really, really good,” Stow said of how he felt about his presentations. “We came down, and [Jimmy], I’d never even met him. My mom talked to him on the phone and then we’re heading here.”
More information on Stow, as well as information on how to donate to his foundation, can be found at https://bryanstowfoundation.org.