Tuesday, November 24, 2009


In light of The Thanksgiving Holiday this week, I wanted to post something a little different. Please feel free to post your own inspirational story as well. and since a picture is worth a thousand words, please share whatever the following pictures inspire you to share. Happy Thanksgiving! I am grateful for the daily opportunity to share my life with so many wonderful people through the internet!

Thanksgiving is the time to feel gratitude for all the good things in life. It is a time to acknowledge the good deeds of fellowmen and be thankful. Thanksgiving thoughts of people give us an insight as to what people feel about it.

Life can be very trying. When your child is hungry, your body wracked with pain, or you have no idea where you and your family will find a place to sleep, pay your rising bills, or make ends meet, it's hard to find something for which you can be thankful. So, for just a few minutes on Thanksgiving Day, step outside your situation and just "be". Find something, no matter how small, to be thankful for because in giving thanks, you will be lightening your load, even if for only a moment

People in Europe were living in squalid conditions, battling hunger and the aftermath of the plague, were being terrorized in the name of religion and came to America, the land of opportunity, in the hopes of building a new and better life. These immigrants, called Pilgrims, were welcomed by the inhabitants of America, the Indians, who were hospitable to the newcomers in every sense of the word. How is it then that the descendants of the Pilgrims managed to take over all the land in America and banish the Indians to hot, arid reservations in the middle of nowhere? Somehow, that has never felt right to me. Do the Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?

Who does not thank for little will not thank for much. (Estonian proverb)

Thanksgiving thoughts are the kind of thoughts that we should have all year long. For it is the folks with thankful hearts whose lives are filled with song. We should take time for kindness to those we hold most dear,and just extend a helping hand to others through the year. Let's set aside some quiet time and share it with a friend. For friendships brings a special joy and pleasure without end. So may the blessings of this day that I would ask for you, now fill you with Thanksgiving Peace that lasts the whole year through!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Heart of a Champion: The Story of Jean Driscoll

Jean was born in Milwaukee, WI with spina bifida (an open spine). It affected her ability to walk and included other neurological complications as well. Although there were challenges during childhood, her determination to get the most out of life was always there. She began using a wheelchair at the age of 15 and after learning about wheelchair sports from a high school friend, she started pursuing athletic opportunities with fervor. The Milwaukee Public Schools Division of Recreation provided her first wheelchair sports experiences. After being recruited to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, world-renowned coaches developed her into one of the world’s most successful competitors.

During her career, Jean was the first eight time winner of the Boston Marathon. She set 5 new course records as well as 5 world best times and has held Boston’s fastest time in the women’s wheelchair division since 1990. It currently stands at 1 hour, 34 minutes and 22 seconds for the 26.2 mile distance. In addition to her success in Boston, Jean also won two Olympic medals, 12 Paralympic medals, and still holds the world record in the 10,000 meter (6.2 mile) track event that was set during the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Jean remains the only 12–time champion of the Lilac Bloomsday 12K Road Race held in Spokane, Washington and still owns the course record in her division from 1995.

Her successes have been celebrated by many. The University of Rhode Island and the Massachusetts School of Law awarded her Honorary Doctorate degrees in 1997 and 2002 respectively. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines provided Jean with one of its highest honors in 2003 when they named her the Godmother of their Voyager Class Series ship, Mariner of the Seas. She is also in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ “Hall of Champions.” and the Wheelchair Sports, USA Hall of Fame.

Jean retired from her successful racing career following the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. For over 20 years, she has offered encouragement and motivation as a speaker to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Through a partnership that began in 2001 with Joni and Friends, Inc., Jean began working with people who have disabilities in Ghana, West Africa. Her alma mater, the University of Illinois, has caught the vision and is now supporting this work as well. In addition to motivational speaking, Jean works as the Associate Director of Development for the College of Applied Health Sciences at the U of I.

Additional story on Jean Driscoll & The Easter Seals

Jean Driscoll clearly remembers the first time she attended Easter Seals camp. It was the first time she didn’t feel different.

At home, Jean stood out among nondisabled friends and family. An 8-year-old with spina bifida, she used leg braces for mobility.

But at Easter Seals camp, Jean was surrounded by children with a variety of other disabilities -- many more challenging than her own. Suddenly she stood out not because of her disability, but because of her natural leadership abilities.

Counselors at Easter Seals Camp looked to Jean to assist and inspire other campers, which in turn boosted her confidence and self-esteem. For Jean, seeing herself as a leader was an important first step toward becoming a world-class athlete and an international advocate for people with disabilities.

Today, at age 36, Jean acknowledges, “I’ve done a lot in my life that most people only dream of.”

During her career as an elite wheelchair racer, Jean won the Boston Marathon eight times, the only person in the race’s 107-year history, in any division, to achieve that feat. She won two silver medals in Olympic exhibition events and 12 medals in the Paralympics, which are held two weeks after the Olympic Games in the same host city. Jean also holds several world records, and -- among her many honors and awards -- she was named one of the top 25 female athletes of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated for Women magazine.

Now retired from professional competition, Jean is focused on sharing her message about succeeding in all aspects of life. She also works to help others with disabilities benefit from the advantages sports can offer -- an endeavor that has taken Jean to the country of Ghana in West Africa, half a world away from Milwaukee, Wis., where she grew up and first learned to love athletics.

A Setback Followed by a Leap
Jean has spina bifida, a condition characterized by an incomplete closure of the spine at birth. Throughout most of her childhood, Jean was able to walk with leg braces.

A setback occurred during her freshman year in high school, when Jean dislocated her hip riding a bike. It was a serious injury that required five surgeries and a year in a full body cast.

Even after such measures, Jean’s hip became dislocated again. As a result, at age 15, Jean obtained her first wheelchair. Despite confidence gained at Easter Seals camp when she was younger, Jean became depressed. She saw a lifetime of limitations ahead of her.

A year later, Jean’s life took a leap forward when she reluctantly attended a wheelchair soccer practice. “It was real sport,” she recalls. “Wheelchairs were crashing into one another, and I loved the fact the coaches didn’t panic when players fell out of their chairs.”

From that point on, Jean couldn’t get enough of sports. She played soccer, ice hockey, tennis, and basketball and began to appreciate her wheelchair as a vital piece of equipment that enabled her to compete.

“It was like this whole world I’d been trying to get into suddenly opened up to me,” Jean says, “and, ironically, my wheelchair -- which I’d thought was so limiting -- was the key.”

From Recreation to Elite Athletic Competition
Jean’s athletic abilities eventually caught the attention of the University of Illinois, and she was recruited to play wheelchair basketball there. Seeing that Jean also excelled at track events, her college coach encouraged her to compete in marathons. Jean won her first national-level race in 1989 and from there began her professional sporting career.

Besides the rigors of training and the thrill of competing, Jean enjoyed another benefit of being involved in sports. Her attitudes about disability, as well as the attitudes of others, were profoundly affected. “I began to see my disability as a
characteristic, like my hair color,” she says. “My disability doesn’t define who I am.”

Sports can be a powerful vehicle for changing attitudes that limit people with disabilities, Jean found. “Our biggest limitations are the ones we place on ourselves, or that others place on us.”

Spreading the Message and Changing Lives
Today as a professional speaker and author, Jean addresses the topic of failure as much as success. She routinely speaks to corporations and organizations, and her book, Determined to Win, chronicles her story.

“What I try to help others understand is that failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of the process that leads to success,” Jean says. “For example, when you are sore after a workout, it’s because your muscles have developed tiny tears. Once repaired, the muscle is stronger than before. Likewise, after we experience failure, we are stronger, wiser and more prepared to take on life’s challenges.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Remarkable Recovery: Neil Sullivan- Firefighter

A firefighter regains his strength and mobility
Neil Sullivan

It's the love and support of family and friends - including the people of Spaulding - that have made Neil's long road back possible.

In August of 2005, firefighter Neil Sullivan was badly injured when the brakes on a fire truck unexpectedly released, pinning him between two trucks. In spite of efforts to reattach one of his legs during lengthy emergency surgery, one of his legs had to be amputated in order to save his life.
After emerging from a coma, his family decided on Spaulding for his rehabilitative care.

Neil's Story
Jessica Sullivan, Neil's wife:
When Neil met his inpatient therapist Cara, the two immediately hit it off, becoming great friends. Somehow Cara managed to transform the drudgery of rehab sessions into something that was almost fun.
While at Spaulding Neil received a visit from six-year-old David Eustace, who had lost his left leg in a horrific car accident at his elementary school in Stoneham, Massachusetts. At Spaulding, David had learned how to once again run and play baseball with a prosthetic leg. Now he wanted to meet his hero, the fireman. David's enthusiastic attitude - and his racing around the hospital room - were a real inspiration to Neil.

After six-and-a-half weeks at Spaulding, on the day of our third anniversary, Neil came home to our new house, our new son Thomas, and me. He has since continued his rehab, at Spaulding with Allison, his outpatient therapist, who had a tough act to follow in Cara but has shown a similarly high level of dedication in working with Neil. Neil and I have learned that Cara, Allison and the other Spaulding therapists share an incredible passion for what they do. They truly enjoy working with patients and helping them get back into life.

I am so grateful for the treatment Neil has received from Spaulding. It's the love and support of family and friends - including the people of Spaulding - that have made Neil's long road back possible.

For more information:
Amputee Rehabilitation Program