RFH Mental Health Awareness Assembly

December 13th, 2013

Gabe Hurley

Gabe Hurley, who was severely injured in June 2009 as the result of reckless teen behavior, addresses a group of students about what he calls “the awesome responsibility of driving.”

Credit to photographer Brianna Martin for this picture.




Rumson — Spring is officially prom season, during which the halls of Rumson-Fair

Haven Regional High School are usually abuzz with students’ plans for the Junior and

Senior formals. On a recent morning in May, however, the hallways took on a more

reflective air as students absorbed what they had just learned at a school assembly and

discussed its implications in hushed tones.


On May 20, the 11th and 12th grade students attended a Mental Health Awareness

Assembly in the RFH auditorium. There they listened intently as a 28-year-old man told

them about the events that unfolded four years ago when he set out to buy toothpaste

at his local drugstore.


The young man in question, Gabe Hurley, was a gifted guitarist who had recently

graduated from college and landed a high-paying job when his life changed forever on

June 18, 2009.


At the same time as Hurley headed down Oak Tree Road in Edison at 11:20 p.m., a

17-year old was putting his newly minted driving skills to the test by displaying reckless

behavior. The young driver soon lost control of his car and swerved into the opposite

lane, hitting Hurley’s car head-on. The impact was so severe that it dislodged the

air compressor from under the hood of the teen’s car, sending it through Hurley’s

windshield. Hurley was left clinging to life, having suffered severe facial and head



He was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center

in New Brunswick, where he spent the next two months before enduring over twelve

reconstructive surgeries. He lost both eyes as a result of the horrific crash.


In 2011, the Public Relations Staff at Robert Wood Johnson wrote an article about

Hurley’s determination to keep a positive attitude in the aftermath of the life-changing

incident. This article was the springboard to his current vocation as a speaker, in which

he is getting his message and story out to as many teenagers as possible.


In addition to reminding teens to make safe decisions when behind the wheel of a car,

Hurley has the goal of providing perspective and teaching young adults not to take the

simple things in life for granted.


“It is important to point out that even though I never considered myself to be invincible,


I still never expected to become another statistic or headline,” Hurley said. “I think

many people lose sight of the fact that while can’t control everything in our lives, we can

control how we operate a car.”


RFH Student Assistance Counselor Dr. Suzanne Fico felt strongly about getting

Hurley’s message about what he calls “the awesome responsibility of driving” through to

the students.


“Gabe’s presentation was very thought-provoking, inspiring, and well-received by our

juniors and seniors,” said Fico. “Hearing first-hand from a young person who was the

victim of a tragic, senseless automobile accident truly made an impact on our studentsĀ 

and will help them to make healthy decisions in the future.”


In addition to lecturing, Hurley performs with his band “The New Black” and hopesĀ 

to return to work in his field. His future plans also include establishing a non-profit

organization that would inspire teens to overcome obstacles.


Prior to Hurley’s presentation, the RFH juniors and seniors viewed a video entitled

Every Fifteen Minutes: Castro Valley High School. The title of the video, which

is also the name of the California high school’s anti-alcohol program, is based on the

often-quoted statistic that every fifteen minutes someone dies in an alcohol-related car



Produced by students at the high school located in Alameda County, it tells the story

of a group of teenagers who drink alcohol and then make the ill-fated decision to get

behind the wheel. An alcohol-fueled crash and funeral are simulated in the video, which

earned a 2011 Emmy Award for Excellence in Informational Programming.

Funding for the assembly was provided by the Rumson and Fair Haven

Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, which was established

in January 2013.



Mary Ann Kampfe, RFHRHS Public Relations

mkampfe@rumsonfairhaven.org or 908-347-885

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