My father once told me that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what your social or economic status, no matter what your ethnicity, everybody has a story. And somebody somewhere can benefit from your life story. This is my story: I’ve been an avid motorcycle rider since the age of 10. I honed my riding skills tearing around the courses and dirt paths in and near Philadelphia PA, my hometown. I was a typical kid enjoying a typical childhood. In 1978, on Memorial Day, when I was 14 years old, my life took a nightmarish turn. While playing with friends near a railroad yard that day, I scaled an abandoned railroad car. When I reached the top I was suddenly hit by a powerful jolt of electricity that had arced down from an overhead power line. My body was instantly scarred by second and third degree burns, but the worst part was yet to come. A day after the accident, doctors were forced to amputee both my legs below the knees. The electrical current, all 13,000 volts, as it exited my body had left my legs too burned to save. I spent an entire month in a burn center, healing from the most painful injury the human body can experience.
Not being one to shy away from a challenge, I emerged from a summer of physical therapy determined to overcome the nightmarish events of that fateful day and lead a full life. I surprised my teachers and classmates by easing back into school that fall, walking with prosthetic legs. No crutches, no cane. It wasn’t long after that I began to ride a motorcycle (but secretly and against my parents wishes!). At the age of 19 I participated in and won my first motorcycle drag race. That victory hooked me, so much so that I decided to pursue a career in motorcycle drag racing. In 1989 I reached the professional level, won my first championship in the International Drag Bike Association (IDBA) and was named pro rookie of the year. Now I hold 14 world records and 2 world championships. All as a double amputee. In 2000 I secured sponsorship that allowed me to compete in the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) Pro Stock Motorcycle Class.
In 2003, at the US Nationals in Indianapolis Indiana, NHRA’s most prestigious event, I won both the event championship as well as the K&N Filters Klash, a special race reserved for the top 8 riders in the country. Only 4 riders in the 37 year class history have accomplished the incredible “double up” win! I would go on to win the next race on the tour and runner up at another. All as a double amputee. Besides being a motorcycle racer, I am an accomplished pilot, holding ratings for single and multi engine aircraft. As an amputee advocate and certified peer visitor, I have visited with hundreds of new amputees across America, inspiring them to overcome their disabilities and live a full and productive life. I have worked with and fundraised for the Shriners Hospitals Of America and on numerous occasions visited with with our nation’s heroes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In 2011 I became a certified snowboard instructor and have taught disabled veterans to ride a snowboard. All as a double amputee.
In 2015, out of 7500 applicants I was one of twenty chosen to participate in the National Geographic Channel’s new series “Mygrations” which follows a human herd’s attempts to follow the migratory path of the African Wildebeests as they cross the Serengeti. A 200 mile journey on foot that started at the Serengeti Plains and ended at the Maasai Mara River. Mygrations airs on Monday May 23, 2016 @ 9/8c only on NatGeo. A life changing experience to say the least.
As a young boy I never envisioned myself becoming a role model for kids to look up to. Today, I routinely travel across the country visiting high schools, hospitals, rehab centers, educational competitions and church groups, sharing my story with young people, hoping to instill in their minds a never say die attitude. I am a very humble but focused individual. They say the 2 greatest days in life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. I found out my why. I know my path. My way is clear. I am only doing what The Good Lord has purposed on my life. This is His plan for me. To be an advocate for the disabled community. Honestly, I could not do what I do without His guidance. He gives me the strength and the wisdom to accomplish His work. He surrounds me with the people who can help me along my journey. He makes a way when I see no way. Let me share this, each and every one of us has specific talents and abilities that He has given us. It’s your responsibility to discover your talent, to discover your gifts and then to give them back to the world because the world is left incomplete without them. Yes the world is left incomplete without your contribution. Please follow me along this incredible journey that I am on. Everyday in our lives is a new chapter to learn from and reflect on. I’ve heard it said that life is lived forward but learned backwards. It’s only when we look back and reflect on the trials and tribulations of life that we get to see how truly strong we are. Human beings are capable of some incredible things. I want to record and learn from those things. I hope you will learn with me. My vision is to travel the world, to meet with and tell the stories of people who are living with disabilities and challenges and record and document the life lessons that they have to share with us. Their successes, their failures. Hopefully after reading these inspirational stories, one will realize that anything is possible and dreams really can come true. Stay tuned….