williams_brentHugs with a Higher Purpose

There are a lot of people who turn to motivational speaking post-SCI, but the kind of speaking Brent Poppen, a C5-7 quadriplegic from Paso Robles, California, does, stands out. With his bleached blond hair and his M.O. of “Hugs by Brent,” the happy energy he emanates is unforgettable.

“Much of my presentation centers around hope, acceptance, not giving up and making the right choice in difficult circumstances,” he says. Last year he reached over 30,000 students. “There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the eyes of someone in my audience ‘get it’ and then be able to hug that person afterwards.”

Becoming a motivational speaker was a natural transition for Poppen. After his injury at age 16 (he was injured while