Marc Mero believes that by touching a child’s heart you can change his or her mind.
The former professional wrestler hopes to strike an emotional chord when he gives his motivational speeches to middle- and high-school students across the country.
And once he achieves that, he knows he can reach them. He knows many of today’s teens are hurting, and he can relate, because, at one time, he was the hurting young adult.
Mero, 58, will be speaking to students at Lakeview Middle School, in Winter Garden, on Nov. 1, sharing his story and a message of hope. Project 429, a local movement to end bullying in the schools, arranged his appearance with the help of sponsors.
Mero and his wife, Darlene, who are residents of Maitland, started the nonprofit Champion of Choices in 2007.
Mero says he made some poor choices in friends and discovered a lifestyle that sent him spiraling into alcohol and drug addiction. He overdosed three times.
He hurt the people who loved him the most, especially his mother, who wanted only to spend some quality time with her son, he said.
“Your friends are like an elevator — they can either take you up or they can bring you down.” — Marc Mero, motivational speaker
He has experienced great personal tragedy, including the cancer-related deaths of his sister and father, the death of his beloved mother when he was 34 and, two weeks later, the death of his brother. He has lost nearly 30 friends in the wrestling industry to drug overdose and suicide, as well.
In 2003, after contemplating suicide, Mero came to the realization that everyone has a choice. Instead of choosing to end his life, he chose to be happy. And then he chose to share his experiences with others who were hurting.
“The program we speak at schools is about choices,” Mero said. “We are defined by our choices. We talk about bullying, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, campus violence. We also talk about goal setting, going after dreams, living a victorious life.
“Great attitude is a choice,” he said.
This year’s tour theme is “Make it Stop,” and it can apply to anything from bullying, self-harm and suicide to drug and alcohol abuse.
He wants students to make better choices than he did.
“It’s almost therapy for me, in a sense,” Mero said of reliving his horrible moments in an effort to save the lives of others. “The more you give, the more you get back in your life. I’ve never felt such joy giving to other people. … (It’s amazing) to feel like I’m blessed to go into that (school) auditorium – and to think that someone there is going to be blessed.”
The Meros have dedicated their lives to their organization and helping students. In the last two years, he has traveled to speak at 550 schools. After every presentation, he spends hours reading the inspirational letters the students and teachers write to him. When he receives a concerning letter from a student needing help, Mero contacts the school principal.
“The darker it gets the brighter we have to shine,” he said. “We really want to change these kids’ lives. … What is a student’s life really worth? At every school we’re probably changing the life of one kid.”
Mero shared this message he hopes students will take away from his inspirational program: “We all go through adversity in life. You are not alone, and you matter so much. We all go through storms. Some storms you can walk through, some you have to run through. But there are some storms that come that you have to hold onto so tightly.
“But the best chapters of your life are about to be written,” he said. “Every day you have a new opportunity to write a new page. … Never give up.”
“The darker it gets, the brighter we have to shine.” — Marc Mero, motivational speaker
Marc Mero’s mother gave him what he calls the greatest gift: She always believed in him — despite his selfishness and lack of respect for her, he said — and she eventually made him believe in himself.
“My mom always had this vision of me becoming this amazing man in this world,” Mero said. “I now believe I have become that man. I believe she knows what I’m doing and is proud of me.
“When I get to heaven I’m going to spend so much time with her,” he said.
(To read more about Project 429, see our May 15, 2017, story by Brittany Gaines: