Reality stars share personal stories to inspire, connect with students

On Thursday, May 4, Warriors of Purpose, a group of reality stars from “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race,” “Big Brother,” and “Naked and Afraid,” spoke at the French Memorial Chapel on the topic of substance abuse and mental illness.

The group is currently on their first tour of the country and had traveled to Fremont to present at Fremont Middle School, Fremont High School and Midland University before speaking at Hastings College that same day.

Warriors of Purpose was founded just weeks ago on March 23 by R.J. Vied, Rodney Lavoie Jr. of “Survivor,” Sheri LaBrant of “The Amazing Race” and Merritt Nelson, vice president of student affairs at Midland University.

“I work in the college setting. I deal with college kids all the time. I see the hurt. I see the pain. I see the need for help, so I was able to connect with these two guys (Vied and Lavoie) in a random set of events through social media,” Nelson said.

Social media is also how Vied and Lavoie met.

“I called him one day and (we’ve) literally been friends ever since. We got together and said let’s make something. Let’s quit our six-figure jobs, which we did, and let’s go off faith and just go for a tour and this is where we’re at,” Vied said.

After introducing himself to Vied and Lavoie, Nelson was flown to West Palm Beach, Florida where the three brainstormed ways to help students with substance abuse and mental illness. They came up with the idea to go on a tour with various reality stars to talk about their experiences with these issues in the hopes of helping others.

The tour was originally to consist of four or five speakers, but as Vied, Lavoie and Nelson talked to other reality stars about their plans, more and more people got on board, and Warriors of Purpose currently has 18 team members.

“Our vision is to travel around the nation talking to kids from schools and in communities about the real, raw truth of addiction and mental illness,” Nelson said.

Warriors of Purpose rotates speakers each time they present at a new location, so four to five speakers present at a time. At HC, the four speakers were Trish Hegarty and Carolyn Rivera of “Survivor,” Vied who helped found Warriors of Purpose and Shane Lewis of “Naked and Afraid.”

“The most important thing is that we teach these kids that there’s car accidents, there’s overdoses, there’s guns. All of that is deadly, but the deadliest thing in the world is silence, so silence kills. We’re here to break the silence. We have all these different personalities. We tell our stories,” Vied said. “Yes, it’s very personal sometimes. We get vulnerable, but honestly, every night we go to bed so fulfilled because our Instagram, our social media, our emails are literally flooding with people saying I couldn’t say anything out where you were but can we please talk? It’s just a gift, a blessing.”

Each person spoke about their personal experiences with substance abuse and mental illness
and about how they were affected by these issues within those close to them. Their experiences included overcoming domestic abuse, bulimia, anorexia, depression, drug addiction, alcoholism, rape and suicide.

“The thing that makes us unique and our team unique is that … as all those students are talking to our team, we’re connecting them with local resources, we’re hooking them up with mental health counselors and substance abuse counselors so when we leave, we’ve made those connections,” Nelson said. “We’re not giving advice, we’re not counseling the kids, we’re not professionals in that area, but we are connecting them with resources.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *