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Empowering youth: Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge engages Yarmouth County students

YARMOUTH, N.S. – When some high school students rolled out of bed one morning last week, it’s a pretty safe bet they didn’t have any idea of the sort of things they’d be doing a couple of hours later.

You’ll be asked to play a rubber chicken like an instrument. It’s doubtful Jai Shankle knew that.

You’ll be swinging a rope while hundreds of others yell at you, “Ka-pow!” Nope, probably wasn’t on Caleb d’Entremont’s list.

You’ll not only be a Ninja guy, but you’re going to put your absolute all into it as you run across the floor of the Mariners Centre.

We’re pretty sure that wasn’t part of Micheal Melanson’s plan.

So what changed?

No what, but rather who.

Enter Mitch Dorge – a man who at the age of six knew what he wanted to do with his life and that it would involve drums.

A man who has been a drummer with the band Crash Test Dummies since before these high school kids were even born. (Sorry Mitch, but you already knew the math.)

And a man who wants to empower young people when it comes to choices, decisions and their lives.

So where does a rubber chicken, a swinging rope and a Ninja fit into all of that? Because Dorge asked the students to try something, and this can apply to all facets of life – it may be something they’ve never tried before. It may be something they’re not completely comfortable with.

“But they tried, and the fact that they tried is worth the price of admission,” he said during a presentation to Yarmouth and Drumlin Heights high school students on Oct. 19. (Incidentally, there was no admission.)

Dorge – who is a spokesperson for TADD (Teens Against Drinking and Driving), a spokesperson for D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), and who does presentations to young people throughout the world – came to Yarmouth at the invitation of the Yarmouth Rotary Club, which has made youth and youth mental health its special focus. Rotarian Scott Lutz and the co-operators insurance company were also key in making this presentation happen. Dorge also did a presentation at Maple Grove while in Yarmouth.

Dorge said his claim to fame is being the happiest and luckiest guy you’ll ever meet. Everyday, he said, he’s living the dream and he’s not just talking about being a drummer. He’s also talking about life itself.

“When you want positive energy from people,” he said. “You have to create some awesome energy yourself.”


While much of Dorge’s presentation was high-octane, funny and engaging, it also struck a serious note when his attention turned to talking about drugs.

In the arena where minutes earlier he had people clapping and laughing, you could have heard a pin drop as everyone hung onto his words as he talked about the life of Jacqueline Saburido – a young woman whose life was forever changed when she was severely burned in an automobile collision.

Saburido has made all of the right decisions that night. At the birthday party she had attended in September 1999 near Austin, Texas, she decided she had had one drink too many and sought out a sober driver for the ride home. Everyone in the car wore their seatbelts.

So how did this young woman suffer second and third degree burns to much of her body? Because there was someone else driving that night. He was drunk and he collided head on with the vehicle that Saburido was a passenger in.

Two people in her car were killed and her life was forever altered from severe and devastating injuries. Trapped in vehicle when it caught fire, her eyes were scorched leaving her blind. He hair melted off her head. He fingers had to be amputated. She lost her ears, lips, nose and eyelids. She’s had to undergo more than 150 reconstructive operations.

“Which means that she has spent more time in the hospital than out,” Dorge said. “Everyday of her life, Jacqui says that she doesn’t know if she can go through one more day because of the amount of pain she has to ensure on a daily basis.”

And not just the physical pain, but also the pain associated with how she looks and how others often react to that. 

The drunk driver received seven years in jail. She received a life sentence. But she also uses her life to educate others about the dangers of drunk driving.

“Somebody could change your life forever,” Dorge told the students. Don’t be that somebody, he said. And don’t let that somebody hurt someone else.

He handed out postcards bearing Jacqueline Saburido’s name and encouraged the students to learn more about her story and to pass on that knowledge to others.

Read it. Print it out, he said. If you can stop one person from leaving a party drunk or high and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, you may have saved someone else’s life, or spared them a lifetime of pain.


Towards the end of his presentation, Dorge treated his audience to his drum work. He referred back to that happy, lucky life he has.

“You guys just proved it to me,” he said. “How do you think it feels for a little boy who is six who decides he wants to play drums for the rest of his life, to be here 50 years later, to play for 90 seconds and get the applause you guys just gave me? I’ll tell you, it feels amazing.”

He told the students if they know what they want to do with the rest of their lives, even if it feels silly or unachievable, to go after it.

“Go after it with everything that you have,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out that’s fine. I can guarantee you 20 years from now you’ll look back and say that didn’t work out, but I gave it a shot.”

To end his talk, Dorge revealed that he had bags of little rubber chickens to give out. And the students lined up eagerly to receive them – because now a rubber chicken held a whole new meaning.

Once again, bet none of the students saw that coming when they woke up that morning.



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