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ASU alumni speak out against texting and driving

Article Published: Feb. 17, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
ASU alumni speak out against texting and driving

From left, ASU grads Maury Kennedy ('93) and Mike Fowler ('03) appeared on an episode of 'Extreme Makeover Home Edition.'

Photo submitted

Appalachian State University alumni are speaking out about texting and driving. It's all thanks to an ABC airing of reality-help-show "Extreme Makeover."

1993 grad Maury Kennedy's involvement in modular home construction put him front and center with EHM.

"Traditionally, 'Extreme Makeover' has always dealt with typical site-built products, where they build the home from scratch," he said.

No longer. Thanks to a chance connection at a housing show in Las Vegas, Kennedy showed producers how cost-effective modular homes could be, leading the team to produce last year's season finale.

It was such a success, Kennedy was asked back. However, he never expected his "Extreme Makeover" sequel would be so emotional.

The family in need of help? The parents of Alex Brown, a teen killed in a crash blamed on texting. "It was mind blowing," Kennedy said.

All he needed to see was a 30-second clip to know he had to help the family. Not only were they building a house, they were building a center for anti-texting activisim. Fellow ASU grad Mark McGuinn ('93) was equally touched by the story. McGuinn, however, isn't a builder. He's a singer and, thanks to a push from Kennedy, composed a song for the occasion.

It's that song that led to a moment Kennedy will never forget.

A few weeks ago, Alex Brown's family went on stage to sing with McGuinn.

"Mark started playing the song a little bit back stage," Kennedy said, "and the dad said, 'You don't need to tell us the lyrics. We knew the lyrics to that song the first time you played it. We'll never forget.'... Here's a guy whose daughter was killed, and this thing became so much about TV and building houses ... if you weren't careful, you could forget that this man had lost a daughter."

And that's exactly why McGuinn felt compelled to write the song: So no one would forget.

"It just sort of touched a place in my heart," McGuinn said. "We really tried to create a song that would get Alex's story across, but would also make a bigger point, and that is not to text and drive."
It's a vice that, while McGuinn admits he's been guilty, he'll never do again.

"The numbers and the figures for that are pretty phenomenal," he said. "It's stuff that I learned while I was out with them. You're 23 times more likely to get in an accident texting and driving. In comparison, drinking and driving, you're four times more likely to get into an accident."

As for the home construction? "It's a very strict schedule," Kennedy said.

And it's not just what you see on television.

"There's 106 hours total," he said. "It's both chaotic and organized, but they figured out a way to keep the creative element alive and well so things can change."

But, at its heart, he said, "Extreme Makeover" isn't about the homes themselves, it's about the families, something he wants you to remember when tuning in on Sundays. The episode aired at the end of January, and YouTube clips of McGuinn's song have attracted quite a following. A third ASU grad, Mike Fowler ('03) was involved in marketing the episode. For more information on "Extreme Makeover," check out

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