Finding role models to spark a lifetime of conversations

None of my kids are particularly sporty. I’m not surprised, or disappointed. I’m not particularly sporty either. We’re a bookish family. We like to hike and bike and do all sorts of things together that don’t involve going to games and practices.

We aren’t particularly sporty but we are still inspired by athletes – particularly by athletes like Para-Olympian April Holmes  (from my home state of NJ) who is an amputee and a runner and a storyteller with strong convictions. As an athlete, April made a commitment to NOT drink alcohol, and to work towards her dreams and fitness goals. Underage alcohol consumption was not a part of that. April recognized that alcohol often gets in the way of young people reaching their potential.

On the Ask Listen and Learn website, April talks about growing up in the inner city, amidst peers who were pregnant, addicted to drugs, ending up in prison. Athletics gave her healthy goals and helped her avoid some of the problems her peers faced. It opened another path. When April lost part of her leg in a train accident, she wasn’t about to give up on her dreams. She could have easily quit, but instead she set new goals.

There’s something so moving about her commitment to herself and her own wellness, her drive to achieve, that is infectious. Her upbeat personality helps too.

I have two teenaged daughters. Alcohol has started to appear at the parties they are attending and a few of their friends have run into trouble involving alcohol. There’s no mistaking the bumpy detoured route that alcohol has sent some of their friend careening off their original paths. Cautionary tales about what might happen if you choose to drink underage, abound.   It’s something we discuss as a family on a fairly regular basis. But the reality is that not everyone ends up in a ditch. The effects of alcohol on teenagers bodies are not always glaringly evident (though charts like this one from ALL showing the effect of alcohol on teen bodies can help you discuss the negative effects that are not so immediately obvious).  Regardless, negative stories are not enough. There’s only so many scare tactics you can employ before your teens start to tune you out entirely.

It’s easy but unrealistic to say “just don’t drink.”

There’s just not as much content out there about what might happen if you make a solid commitment NOT to drink.  For this reason I am grateful for ALL Superstars like April Holmes. Stories of hope, and object lessons involving success are impactful and inspirational. There’s a positive message of “what’s in it for me” if I make the conscious decision not to drink.

I’ve shared April’s story with my teenaged and pre-teenaged kids and suggest that you check out the ALL Superstars page with your kids as well. It’s a great jumping off point for discussion.

Click here for links to Ask Listen and Learn’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Flickr feeds

Ciaran Blumenfeld is a dreamer, daretaker, entrepreneur and co-founder of She shares her food, play and wandering adventures at
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*