3 Stories of Disability and Triumph to Start the New Year

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3 Stories of Disability and Triumph to Start the New Year

Adapting with a newfound disability can be a challenging road, but stories of people with disabilities who have overcome adversity can give inspiration and hope. So why not kick off the new year with a dose of positive thinking by taking a look at those who have have trodden the road before us.

Being strong despite weakness

One such story is of Greg Smith, a former radio host turned motivational speaker from Ocean Springs, MS. Born with muscular dystrophy, a muscle-weakening condition, Smith weighed only 65 pounds but was called “The Strength Coach” by thousands of people who were transformed by his powerful message of inner strength. Early on he learned he had a voice for broadcast and used his gift to raise awareness about disability issues in the 1990s and 2000s, including a syndicated radio show called “On a Roll.” Smith died last year, but his legacy and message live on.

From Vietnam to Walter Reed

War veteran and Erie, PA, resident Gary Orlando was spotlighted on the website livingwellwithadisability.org, as a disabled individual who turned tragedy into triumph. Gary came from a military family and joined the military during the Vietnam War. But his dreams of a long-term military career were dashed in 1971. An attack left him paralyzed and no longer able to continue his military service. Orlando said, “I went from fighting a military war one day to being paralyzed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center the next.”

Losing the use of his legs didn’t stop Orlando from making moves in life. He has served on the board of directors for his local chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America and as a hospital liaison officer for his region. Additionally, he has volunteered for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games since 1998. In 1999, Orlando began to compete in the Wheelchair games and racked up five medals in 2012.

Finding employment

Our last spotlight shows one creative way of finding employment, which is statistically more difficult for people with disabilities, who face many preconceived notions.

Collette Divitto, a 26-year-old Boston woman with Down syndrome, applied to several jobs in her area but kept getting rejected. She told Upworthy that while the constant rejection was disheartening, she would not give up on her dream of earning a living.

With the help of her mom, she founded her own cookie company, called Collettey’s. At first she was selling around 100 cookies a week to her local grocery, but then something amazing happened. Her story was picked up by CBS Boston, and orders skyrocketed to several thousand from all over the country.

The stories are many, and we’ve only touched a few. But the message is the same: Living

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