West Side News

Speaker urges students to make a difference

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Author, athlete, and motivational speaker Kyle Maynard talks to students at Park Street Intermediate School on Thursday Nov. 15, 2012. Maynard was born with a condition called congenital amputation, but despite that recently became the first person to crawl to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro.
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Despite being born with a condition known as congenital amputation, which left him with arms that end at the elbows and legs near his knees, Kyle Maynard hasn't been deterred him from reaching heights most people can only dream about.

In January 2012, he became the first quadruple amputee to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, crawling to the 19,340 foot summit without assistance.

In an interview Thursday before speaking to students at Park Street, Maynard, 26, said that he really isn't that much different from everybody else.

"We all have a disability. A lot of times you can't see the disabilities that people face," he said. "(We) all have 'Mount Kilimanjaros' to climb."

Maynard said he wanted to climb the real Kilimanjaro so he could experience its magnificence sitting above the clouds.

Two veterans joined him on the trek, and he said he made the effort to help send a message to the veteran community.

Despite their sacrifice "of life and limb," Maynard said he wanted to show disabled veterans that "you can create the life you want."

An active lifestyle is nothing new for Maynard, who played football and wrestled in high school and has trained in mixed martial arts. He is the owner of No Excuses Crossfit gym in Suwanee, Ga., and wrote the memoir, No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life.

Maynard travels the country giving motivational speeches.

At first he spoke mainly at corporate functions, but he said he is enjoying balancing his schedule with more appearances at schools.

"It's more fulfilling," to speak to youngsters, Maynard said.

His goal is to encourage students to "be driven to be resilient," he said. "I know things get tough at times. I want them to realize that (they) are capable of making a difference in the world."

Maynard spoke at Park Street during the school's first anti-bullying week.

He told the students that he experienced bullying when his family moved to the southeastern United States.

It was a difficult time for him, Maynard said, as he worried what the future would hold for him.

"I wondered if anybody would hire me for a job or if I would have to live at home with my parents for the rest of my life," he said.

"I'd cry at night wishing and dreaming" that he would wake up with arms and legs.

He almost gave up on life, but when he went out for the football team at his school, he found strength, "in being part of something," Maynard said.

"Every one of you have the capability of going out and changing someone's life," he told the students. "There's no difference between you and me."

Maynard also demonstrated to students his ability to perform a walking handstand and showed them how he has learned to write using his elbow.

Maynard's appearance fit in perfectly with Park Street's anti-bullying week, said fifth-grade teacher Arin Kress.

Each day featured a different theme and a related action students were challenge to perform, she said.

On Monday of the week, students were encouraged to make a friend by sitting at lunch, play at recess or strike up a conversation in class with someone different.

Students were asked to make a truce or forgive someone who upset them on Tuesday; to let someone know how wonderful they are by paying them a compliment on Wednesday; to thank someone they appreciate verbally or with a card or note on Thursday; and to perform a random act of kindness on Friday.

 

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