Sarah Reinertsen

Sarah Reinertsen

sarah_reinertsen1Sarah was born “different”. Her left leg deformed by a condition called proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD), Sarah wore a stiff, cumbersome leg brace until she was seven. At that point, the decision was made to amputate.

After the operation, Sarah tried to be like all her friends; she was a Brownie. She was a great student. She had a smile that lit up a room. But she could never overcome being “different”. And nowhere was that more apparent than in gym class. She came in last on field day. She was picked last for teams. Teachers and coaches refused to include her in regular play with the other kids. Instead, Sarah would kick a ball against the wall. Alone.

Life changed for Sarah when, at age 11, she competed in her first disabled track meet. Sarah lined up next to other girls missing limbs. When the gun went off for the 100 Meter dash, she ran hard and finished first. For the first time, she experienced the thrill of competition – and of winning and her life would never be the same.

Today, Sarah focuses on triathlons, where she has broken new ground and gone where no amputee woman has attempted before – the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.) This year, Sarah became the first woman to finish this grueling test on an artificial leg, finishing in a remarkable 15:05.

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Patrick Henry Hughes

Patrick Henry Hughes

“I am Potential”


Patrick is a remarkable young man who was born without eyes and without the ability to fully straighten his arms and legs, making him unable to walk Additionally, two steel rods were surgically attached to Patrick’s spine to correct scoliosis.

Despite circumstances that seem overwhelming to you and me, Patrick has overcome these physical issues to excel as a musician and student. Patrick started playing the piano at the age of only nine months, and also plays the 
trumpet and sings.

He even participates in the University of Louisville School of Music Marching and Pep Bands with help from his father (Patrick John Hughes), who tirelessly maneuvers his wheel chair through the formations with the other 220+ members of the Cardinal Marching Band. Patrick is usually a straight ‘A’ student, having received only 5 ‘B’s’ during his entire educational experience – up to and including his sophomore year of college.

A virtuoso pianist, vocalist and trumpet player, Patrick has won or finished very high in numerous competitions, as well as winning awards acknowledging the circumstances he has overcome to achieve these heights.  He has been featured on ESPN, ABC-TV, Oprah, CBS-TV, The Ellen Show, Extreme Make Over Home Edition, FOX-TV, CSTV, NBC-TV, The Grand Ole Opry, People Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Star Magazine, and many, many others.  

His first book, I AM POTENTIAL, is published and available around the country/world.  

Patrick has made appearances from California to Chicago and New York and Miami and countless points in 
between, even performing in Canada, South America and Europe.

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Jason Lester

Jason Lester

“Chasing Me”


Its halloween night 1987, 12 year old Jason Lester is riding his bike when he is hit by a car traveling 80 miles per hour and thrown over 130 feet in the air.  He lives but his right arm is paralyzed.  During rehabilitation, his 39 year old father suffers a heart attack and dies and Jason ends up living with his grandmother.  His Dad had been his (athletic) coach all his life, when he died Jason decided he needed to make a decision: that he was either going to go “north” or “south” in his life and he chose the path to use everything his Dad had taught him in his 12 years to become the best athlete that he still could possibly be.

At the age of 13 Jason tried out for his high school football team, it wasn’t long before Jason was winning the starting position over other (healthier) kids.  At the end of his freshman football year Jason received from his coach the “ironman award”.  His coach said  “if everybody on the team had the heart that you have we would have won every game”.  Also as a freshman he played baseball and batted 300, did I mention he only has the use of one arm?

In his junior year his baseball coach told him “you come in first every time you guys get in trouble and I make you do laps, have you ever thought about running track?”.  He took that seriously and started running cross country and track.  He went on to do 60 biathlons, and 5 & 10k marathons by the time he was 22 years old.

In 2004 he went to Kona to watch the ironman.  This was a great inspiration to Jason, he told himself “you are the ironman” so he moved to Kona to train.  When he approached a swimming coach in Kona for training lessons for the triathlon she chuckled but loved his determination and told him “meet me at the pool in 3 days”.  As Jason puts it “I lived, ate and slept the ironman.”  Jason crossed the finish line at the ironman on his first attempt with a time of 12 hours 38 minutes, at the finish line he told himself I’m going to be back next year and finish in 11 hours.

People routinely walk up to him and ask to shake his hand because he is such an inspiration to others.  Currently there is a book deal in the works and a movie being made on his life story called Chasing Me.

In 2007 Jason founded the never stop foundation which is dedicated to using athletics as a tool to encourage all youth to have the chance to achieve their full potential.

I love this quote from Jason Lester;

“I believe that one of the most beautiful gifts that we’re given is the ability to help others, to inspire others, to share the love that we have instilled in our hearts.  I think we’re all an inspiration to people and I think that that’s the beauty of life.”


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Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic

Attitude is Altitude

Imagine being born without arms. No arms to wrap around someone, no hands to experience touch, or to hold another hand with. Or what about being born without legs? Having no ability to dance, walk, run, or even stand on two feet. Now put both of those scenarios together… no arms and no legs. What would you do? How would that effect your everyday life?

Meet Nick… Born in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia, without any medical explanation or warning, Nicholas Vujicic (pronounced Voy-a-chich) came into the world with neither arms or legs. Having had an uneventful pregnancy and no family history to expect this condition, imagine the shock his parents felt when they saw their first born, brand new baby boy, only to find he was what the world would consider imperfect and abnormal. A limbless son was not what nurse Dushka Vujicic, and her husband Pastor Borris Vujicic had been expecting. How would their son live a normal happy life? What could he ever do or become when living with what the world would see as such a massive disability? Little did they or anyone know that this beautiful limbless baby would one day be someone who would inspire and motivate people from all walks of life, touching lives all over the world.

Throughout his childhood Nick dealt not only with the typical challenges of school and adolescence such as bullying and self-esteem issues; he also struggled with depression and loneliness as he questioned why he was different to all the other kids surrounding him; why he was the one born without arms and legs. He wondered what was the purpose behind his life, or if he even had a purpose. After a lot of frustration and feeling like the odd one out in school, at seven years of age Nick tried out some specially designed electronic arms and hands, in hope that he would be more like the other kids. During the short trial period of the electronic arms, Nick realized that even with them, he was still unlike his peers at school, and they turned out to be much too heavy for Nick to operate, effecting his general mobility quite significantly.

As Nick grew up he learnt to deal with his disability and started to be able to do more and more things on his own. He adapted to his situation and found ways to accomplish tasks that most people could only do by using their limbs, such as cleaning teeth, brushing hair, typing on a computer, swimming, playing sports, and much more. As time went by Nick began to embrace his situation and achieve greater things. In grade seven Nick was elected captain of his school and worked with the student council there on various fund-raising events for local charities and disability campaigns.

According to Nick the victory over his struggles throughout his journey, as well as the strength and passion he has for life can be credited to his faith, his family, his friends and the many people he’s encountered during his life who have encouraged him along the way.

After school Nick went on with further study and obtained a double bachelor degree majoring in accounting and financial planning. By the age of 19 Nick started to fulfil his dream of being able to encourage other people and bring them hope, through motivational speaking and telling his story. “I found the purpose of my existence, and also the purpose of my circumstance… There’s a purpose for why you’re in the fire.” Nick wholeheartedly believes that there is a purpose in each of the struggles we encounter in our lives and that our attitude towards those struggles that can be the single most effective factor in overcoming them.

In 2005 Nick was presented with the “Young Australian of the Year” Award, which is a large honor in Australia, recognizing a young person for their excellence and service to their local community and the nation, as well as their own personal accomplishments. This award is only given to truly inspirational people.

Now at 25 years old this limbless young man has accomplished more than most people even twice his age. Nick recently made the massive move from Brisbane, Australia to California, USA, where he is the president of an international non-profit organization, and also has his own motivational speaking company; Attitude Is Altitude. Since his first motivational speaking engagement back when he was 19, Nick has traveled around the world, sharing his story with millions of people, speaking to a range of different groups such as students, teachers, youth, business men and women, entrepreneurs, and church congregations of all sizes. He has also told his story and been interviewed on various televised programs worldwide. However, Nick’s speaking engagements have gone beyond purely motivational speaking, he has had the opportunity to speak with several leaders, including the vice president of Kenya. This year alone Nick is set to speak in over 20 countries.

“People say to me, ‘How can you smile?’” he says. “Then they realize ‘there’s got to be something more to life than meets the eye if a guy without arms and legs is living a fuller life than I am.’”

Nick shares with his audiences the importance of vision and dreaming big. Using his own experiences in worldwide outreach as examples, he challenges others to examine their perspective and look beyond their circumstances. He shares his view of ceasing to see obstacles as problems, but instead begin to see them as opportunities to grow and reach out to others. He stresses the importance of our attitude being the most powerful tool we have at our disposal and illustrates how the choices we make can have a profound effect on our lives and the lives of those around us. Nick shows through his own life that the major keys in fulfilling our biggest dreams are persistence and choosing to embrace failure as a learning experience, rather than allowing the guilt and fear of failure to paralyze us.

How does Vujicic feel about his disability now? He accepts it, embraces it and oftentimes pokes fun at his own circumstance as he shows off his many “tricks.” He meets challenges with his special blend of humor, perseverance and faith always encouraging those around him to examine their perspective as they develop and define their vision. Using those new definitions he challenges each person he meets to make changes in their lives so that they can begin the path to fulfilling their biggest dreams. Through his amazing ability to connect with people from all walks of life and his incredible sense of humor that captivates children, teens and adults alike, Nick is a truly inspirational motivational speaker.

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Attitude is Altitude

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Sgt. Merlin German

Sgt. Merlin German

“Miracle Man”

Sgt. Merlin German nearly died in a roadside bombing, while serving in Iraq in 2005. German suffered severe burns over most of his body and no one expected him to survive but he bravely battled back and was awarded the Purple Heart. 

He endured more than 100 surgeries and procedures over a three year period. He learned to live with pain, to stare at a stranger’s face in the mirror. He learned to smile again, to joke, to make others laugh.  He became known as the “Miracle Man”.

“Sometimes I do think I can’t do it,” German said in an Associated Press interview. “Then I think: Why not? I can do whatever I want.”  Slowly his determination paid off.  He made enormous progress.  From a ventilator to breathing on his own, from communicating with his eyes or a nod to talking.

“I can’t remember a time where he said, ‘I can’t do it. I’m not going to try,’ ” says Sgt. Shane Elder, a rehabilitation therapy assistant.

Lt. Col. Grant Olbrich recalls a day in 2006 when he stopped by German’s room and noticed he was crying softly. Olbrich, who heads a Marine patient affairs team at Brooke, says he sat with him awhile and asked: “What are you scared of?” He said, “I’m afraid there will never be a woman who loves me.”

Olbrich says that was the lowest he ever saw German, but even then “he didn’t give up. … He was unstoppable.”

At Brooke Army Medical Cente Merlin designed a T-shirt that he often gave away. On the front it read: “Got 3% chance of survival, what ya gonna do?” The back read, “A) Fight Through, b) Stay Strong, c) Overcome Because I Am a Warrior, d) All Of The Above.” D is circled.

When the hospital’s Holiday Ball approached in 2006, German decided he wanted to surprise his mother by taking her for a twirl on the dance floor.

Poeple around him thought he was kidding.  They knew it could be agony for him just to take a short walk or raise a scarred arm.

He got help rehearsing for months, without his mother knowing.  He chose a love song to be played for the dance: “Have I told you lately?” by Rod Stewart.

That night he donned his Marine dress blues and shiny black shoes — even though it hurt to wear them. When the time came, he took his mother in his arms and they glided across the dance floor.

Sadly Marlin German died after routine surgery to add skin under his lower lip.  He was just 22.

Before his death however he set up a foundation for burned children called Merlin’s Miracles to raise money so these kids could enjoy life, whether it was getting an air conditioner for their home or taking a trip to Disney World, a place he loved.

On a sunny April afternoon, German was buried among the giant oaks and Spanish moss of Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. The chaplain remembered German as an indomitable Marine who never gave in to the enemy — or to his pain.

Sgt. Merlin German JUST DO IT ANYWAY.

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The butterfly effect

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Gianna Jessen

Gianna Jessen

“Born Alive”

Gianna Jessen does not quit. Giving up is not an option to her. Gianna has what she refers to as the “gift” of Cerebral Palsy. She weighed a mere 2 lbs at birth and the doctors said she would never be able to hold up her head, sit up, crawl or walk. She began to walk by the age of three years old with the help of leg braces and a walker.

Gianna doesn’t believe that her Cerebral Palsy takes away her life, but, rather, enriches it. . . she walks with a slight limp today and runs marathons. On April 30, 2005 she completed her first 26.2 mile marathon after running just over 7 hours and was presented with the coveted blank blank award!  On April 23, 2006 she completed the London Marathon as well. She is now determined to run marathons all over the place, because she was never supposed to even walk!

Gianna understands the plight of orphans, being one herself. She was placed into the foster care system early on in life, eventually being taken into the loving home of a woman named Penny. Penny has been a mother to 56 foster children in her life. Gianna was later adopted by Penny’s daughter, making Penny Gianna’s grandmother. According to Gianna, Penny saved her life.

Gianna is a Christian. Her life was given to her by the grace of God. She shouldn’t be walking, but more miraculous still; she should not even be alive. Gianna’s biological mother was 17 when she had a saline abortion in her third trimester. Many Americans don’t realize it is legal to have an abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. After being burned alive for approximately 18 hours in the womb from the saline solution, Gianna was delivered alive in a Los Angeles County abortion clinic. Her medical records state, “born during saline abortion”…this is what caused her Cerebral Palsy.

Gianna’s travels and experiences have led her all over the world. Her life has been covered by many major news media outlets, including, most recently, the BBC News and World Radio, Sky News, and The Good Morning Show in England, reaching many people with a message of hope and conviction. In November 2005, Gianna spoke in several colleges all over Ireland and in December of the same year, spoke at a meeting held at the House of Commons in London. She has returned to England this year to speak in several parochial and public high schools. Gianna’s audiences include: churches – church youth crusades and women’s ministry retreats; various corporations as a motivational speaker; secular and Christian youth organizations and schools – middle school age through college, as well as several times before Congress – most recently having her testimony read before the Supreme Court in Carhart v. Gonzales.

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Gianna Jessen, JUST DO IT ANYWAY.


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