Spencer West delivers a presentation at the Performing Arts Centre on overcoming the hardships after losing his legs at the age of five.

Spencer West delivers a presentation at the Performing Arts Centre on overcoming the hardships after losing his legs at the age of five.

‘Disabled kid’ changes lives, climbing Kilimanjaro

Spencer West, who has no legs, talked to more than 700 Grade 9 students about overcoming obstacles in life...

Andre Lodder

Morning Star Staff

No one likes being picked last in gym class, but for Spencer West, it happened nearly every time.

West grew up in Wyoming in a typical family of four. West’s life however, was far from typical.

By the age of five the question West faced most wasn’t “what’s your name?” Nor was it “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

It was “where are your legs?”

At first West answered the question honestly. He was born with a genetic disease that prevented the muscles in his legs from working. Then at the age of five, doctors removed his legs from the pelvis down in order to help him become more mobile.

People saw him as the disabled kid. That’s when he decided he needed to change things.

Instead of explaining what actually happened to his legs, West made up humourous stories that made people laugh.

It was his way of making them see him as a person before they saw him as disabled, something he nor his family ever saw.

Though he may not have known it at the time, that change in attitude was a basis for the speeches he gives today.

“I speak on behalf of We to Me throughout the year. This year my focus has been on redefining possible and the campaign,” said West.

West was in Vernon, on behalf of KPMG, on Monday performing his speech to more than 700 Vernon School District students at the Performing Art Centre.

He spoke about his campaign, Redefining Possible.

West is a university graduate and a former cheerleader. But it wasn’t until a trip to Kenya that he realized what he needed to do.

While he was there, the kids asked about his legs, but one young girl made the comment. “I didn’t know that sort of thing happened to white people, too.”

From then on West knew what he had to do and has never looked back.

“I realized I needed to stop trying to fit in and realize that I’m different and that I could use that to inspire and give back,” he said during his show.

In June, West will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of a fund-raising effort to raise $750,000 for clean water programs in East Africa as part of Redefining Possible.

His story and campaign resonated with many of the students in attendance, including Alana Mccolm from W.L. Seaton Secondary School.

“I think his story is incredible, it brings joy. When I hear people whine about school it makes me upset because I see children in Africa having to work in a really small room with more than 10 people,” said Mccolm.

“Yet they find it so much fun, but here everybody whines and it’s just not fair,” Mccolm is also amongst a number of students who are also planning on taking part in We Day, a one-day event that will take place in Vancouver and promotes youth leading global change.

If West’s goal was to promote global change while inspiring youth in their own endeavors, he succeeded.

“It’s always a pleasure to hear him speak and using his own story and courageous words to help inspire others to do what they want to do and make sure there’s no limitations for anyone,” said VSS student Natalie Johnston.