Hal Elrod, 33, grew up in Oakhurst and remembers working at his parents (Julie and Mark) business -- Oakhurst Market -- while attending Yosemite High School (class of 1997). He also remembers, at age 15, starting his first business as a mobile disc jockey. At 16, he had his own show on Oakhurst's KAAT radio and called himself 'Yo Pal Hal.'
At the age of 19, the ambitious Elrod became the top salesperson in Cutch Cutlery's 50-year history, due in part to support of the Mountain Area community, but primarily due to his enthusiastic personality, sales skills and work ethic.
He also remembers his success and his life coming to a shocking halt at the age of 20, when on his way home to Fresno from Merced, he was hit head-on by a drunk driver and found dead at the scene on Highway 99 by first responders. Defying the logic of medicine, he made a full recovery after being revived, air-lifted to a Modesto hospital from the accident scene, spending a week in a coma and enduring eight surgeries to repair 13 broken bones in his young body. Doctors told him he would not walk for a year.
He astounded doctors when he took his first step within two weeks of the accident and returned home one month later.
"At the time of the accident, I was on top of the world," Elrod said. "I had just addressed an audience of salespeople and received my first standing ovation and was heading home in my three-week old Mustang."
It was six years later that Elrod released his best selling book, "Taking Life Head On! -- The Hal Elwood Story." It was May 2006, and the book was an instant hit on Amazon.com, quickly climbing to the No. 7 spot on the company's Top 10 sellers list, one notch ahead of "The Da Vinci Code."
After his first book was published, Elrod found himself on the speakers circuit, sharing his inspirational story to corporate leaders and thousands of high school and college students across the country. His positive and encouraging story soon transformed Elrod into a well-known and successful motivational speaker.
But six years later, about the same time the economic slump hit, his good fortune again turned sour as he found himself drowning in $55,000 of debt, ready to lose his $370,000 house, his business failing, physically out of shape and severely depressed. As he puts it -- "I was a mess."
He committed to waking up an hour earlier everyday. He created a simple "morning" personal development routine that would allow him to start every day off completing tasks that would help him to be the person he needed to be.
"It worked -- Not only did I immediately feel better, but that extra hour every morning gave me new found levels of energy, motivation, clarity and focus that enabled me to set clear goals, create strategies and execute a plan to save my business, double my income and get in the best shape of my life."
Elrod said that the total life transformation he experienced was so profound and happened so fast that it felt like a miracle.
Elrod's second book, "The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed To Transform Your Life Before 8 a.m.," was released on 12-12-12.
Elrod has fond memories of growing up in Oakhurst.
"I loved everything about Oakhurst," Elrod said. "The sense of community, going to Bass Lake in the summer and skiing at Badger Pass in the winter. I wouldn't trade growing up in Oakhurst for anything in the world."
Although Elrod was influenced by many people in Oakhurst, one stands out -- Yosemite High School English teacher Kellie Solomon.
"She was so authentic and genuinely cared for her students," said Elrod. "She was full of energy and was just so fun to be around. She made the learning experience enjoyable. Everyone looked forward to going to her class."
Elrod is donating 10% of proceeds from "The Miracle Morning" to The Boys and Girls Club of America and The Front Row Foundation which helps people with health challenges to 'experience life in the front row' by sending individuals to the front row of their favorite concerts, sporting events and other stage performances.
"And if someone forwards their receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org by Christmas, I will send them my $297 audio program, "Best Year Ever Blueprint," Elrod added.
"The blueprint provides people the not so obvious secrets to guarantee they will have the best year ever in 2013 in every area of their life, including health, finance and personal relationships," Elrod said.
"I'm so grateful for all the support that the residents in Oakhurst have shown me, and I want to give back by sharing what I've learned about how to create more happiness, health and success in our lives," Elrod said.