Abigail Smith (age 24) was diagnosed with synovia cell sarcoma, a rare type of cancer, in January 2012.  After a year long battle, she passed away on December 7, 2013. However, her faith never waivered during that year and she chose to live life to the fullest after her diagnosis. She took a trip to Ireland with her family, she kept working as a professional photographer and she went around speaking at churches and Christian youth groups to share her message of hope and faith. The video above is an inspiring testimony. For more information on Amazing Abby, check out her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amazing-Abby/460829177317472
 
Picture
Ashely Kurpiel has a rare debilitating disease called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva. It is such a rare disease, that she is just one of 700 cases around the world. Essentially, it causes her muscles, ligaments and tendons to turn to bone, which immobilizes the body and traps the person in a second skeleton. To make matters worse, when she was 3 years old, she was misdiagnosed in the hospital with cancer, which lead to an amputation of her right arm that was completely unnecessary.

"I can't move my left arm from my side at all, I have very little neck movement,  no lower back movement at all, my right hip is affected, and my upper back is really stiff," Kurpiel said in an interview with ABC News. While appearing on the Tyra Banks show, she stated that it is "like being claustrophobic in your own body."

Now, at the age of 28, she continues to become more and more immobile, but stays  hopeful with a positive attitude. She is a member of the IFOPA-International Organization that supports research for cure of FOP. "A cure is right around the corner," she says. Just to see Ashely's strength as she battles this disease should give hope to anyone going through adversity.

To read Ashely's blog: go to: http://ashleykurpiel.blogspot.com/

 
On April 16, 2007, a mass shooting took place on the campus of Virginia Tech, an American university located in Virginia. On that day, a student shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in the process. He later commited suicide. One of his victims was Kristina Anderson who was shot three times by the gunman, but managed to survive the Virginia Tech shooting. In the video above, she shares her story in order to help others. Said Kristina: "My outlook in life has changed. I am more grateful for the small things in life. At the end of the day, you get to be there for things - you get to be alive. I will not take that for granted again."
 
Zach Hodskins is an exceptional high school basketball player who has excelled for his school and also on the AAU circuit. What makes Zach unique is that he is so good despite the fact that he is missing the bottom half of his left arm.  In February 1996, Zach’s parents were shocked when their son was born missing half his arm. According to his father, there was no real reason for the missing limb. Zach was a healthy child and they just had to accept that he would grow up with only half a left arm.

From the time Zach was a little kid, he not only accepted it, but he embraced it. His father always treated him as normally as possible and Zach really took to the game of basketball. Zach has really become a star on the court as a guard on his high school team in Alpharetta, Georgia. 

Opposing players often think the best strategy is to make Zach go to his left, but Zach has seen this so much that he has actually learned to go to his left as good or better than his right. In fact, he played so well
during a 2013 AAU camp, that he was named one of the most impressive prospects.

Now, he is even receiving interest from colleges. First, UAB had interest and most recently, the University of Florida has offered him the opportunity to make the team as a preferred walk-on.

 When asked what motivates him, Zach said: “Passion and love for the sport helps me overcome all obstacles. To this day, I haven’t come across anything I can’t do. I know that people who don’t know me sleep on me when I walk on the court. They don’t think I can play or they don’t know what to think, but it’s when I hit those first few shots or when I go by them is when they wake up. That’s when they start playing me hard. And that’s what I love. I know that I have just earned their respect and that’s all I want.”

For more info on his recent offer from Florida, read this ESPN article: 
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/9572836/zach-hodskins-one-handed-basketball-prospect-offer-florida-gators-report

 
Picture
What would you do if you were shot in the head two months shy of your eighteenth birthday and your high school graduation? For Balaal Hollings,
the answer is that you trust in God, focus on your recovery, learn to walk and
talk again and then give a speech as Senior Class President during the graduation – all in two months. Then, of course, you go out and throw the first
pitch at a Tiger’s game in Detroit’s Commercia Park.

In April 2013, Balaal was shot while attending a friend’s spring break party. Some guys that no one knew showed up at the party and started trouble. The party was quickly shut down and as people were leaving, gun shots rang out from the uninvited guests. Balaal was struck in the head and the bullet lodged in his brain.

Balaal was taken to Sinai-Grace Hospital where he was operated on by neurosurgeon Dr. Aria Sabit.  "He was essentially the definition of dead. There was no functioning in his brain whatsoever,” Sabit said. But he decided to operate anyway because Balaal was young enough that he might just survive this ordeal. After two hours, the surgeon was able to stop the bleeding and relieve pressure on the brain.

It was a shock to his classmates and friends. Balaal was the senior class president and the homecoming king. He played multiple sports and was captain of the football team. He was even voted Most Likely to Succeed in the yearbook. 

"This young man represents what we're all about, that is, academic success, and it was critically important for me to go to the hospital and let him and his family know that he is important to us, that he has a bright
future, and that we stand ready to ensure his continued success," said Roy Roberts, who is the  Detroit Public Schools emergency manager.

Balaal never doubted that he would get better. He focused on his rehabilitation and put his trust in God. Over the next two months, his hard work paid off as he was able to walk across the stage at his graduation and deliver that speech. (see video below)

“God is not done with me. I know I haven't fulfilled my purpose. I'm not sure what that purpose is, but I know I haven't done it yet. It's a lot He still wants me to do,” said Balaal.

During his graduation speech, he said: “First, I want to thank God. It’s so good to be alive. This is just a small piece of my life. I still have my whole life to live.” The auditorium went nuts for him and now he
continues to inspire many around the country.

To read more about the story, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/07/teen-shooting-victim-it-is-so-good-to-be-alive/2402795/

 
Picture
Josh Blue was born in 1978 with cerebral palsy. But he did not  let this condition stop him from doing what he loved when he grew up. You see, Josh is funny and he says he is funny because he has always just wanted to fit in. So, naturally, Josh became a comedian and has proven to be quite successful
on the comedy circuit.

 Josh was on the fourth season of the reality TV show called Last Comic Standing where he was voted the winner. He has also appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show, Live with Regis and Kathy Lee and has had numerous appearances on ABC, NBC and Fox. He has even had his own Comedy Central special recently.

Much of his comedy centers around his disability and his experiences dealing with the unexpected occurrences due to his disability. He has found that people respond well to his self-deprecating humor and it his way of showing people that everyone has something to deal with, so why not just laugh about it. Check out his stand-up routine above. He is hilarious.

For more information, visit his website: www.joshblue.com 

 
Picture
Richie Parker was born without arms in May 1983. But that didn’t stop his parents from giving him a normal childhood and it didn’t stop Richie from learning to first be independent and then very successful in life. He learned to ride a bike with no arms and later, he learned to drive a car.

 For the last eight years, he has worked for Hendrick Motorsports designing chassis and body components for NASCAR’s most winning organization. "Based on his resume, I knew he could do the things that I needed him to do, it was more a question of how,” said Rex Stump who is the engineering manager at Hendrick. He writes with his feet, he uses a keyboard and mouse with his feet and he uses his chin and shoulders to carry things.

ESPN recently featured Richie Parker’s story and his successes at Hendricks Motorsports. During that show, Richie summed it up perfectly: “I don't know there's a lot in life ... that I'd say I can't do – just things I
haven’t done yet.”

 
Picture
Matt Golinski is a celebrity chef in Australia who you might
have seen on the show Ready, Set, Cook. In 2011, Matt suffered a horrific tragedy that took the life of his wife Rachel (38) and his three daughters, Starlia (10) and twins Willow and Sage (12). A fire started in their Sunshine Coast home and took everything in Matt’s life.


 Although Matt was spared himself, he ended up with severe burns on 40% of his body. He also has limited mobility in his arms due to a condition called heterotopic ossification, that is common in burn victims and causes your elbows to lock up. There is also nerve damage in his fingers which has affected his grip strength.

Since the incident, Matt has very much remained in the public eye. In many interviews, he has discussed the physical and emotional journey he has taken since losing his family and going through a difficult recovery.
 “I have no idea why I was spared from the fire but I am determined to look forward and live a life that would make them proud,'” he said in his first interview since the tragedy. “I want to honour the memory of
Rachael and our girls by finding a silver lining somewhere in these dark clouds. To say my world has been turned upside down is an understatement. Although the loss of my family is unfathomable, at this stage of my recovery I am simply grateful to be alive and to have experienced the love of my beautiful wife and
three daughters.”

In April 2013, Matt returned to the celebrity chef world and began cooking on stage at the Jan Power
Farmer’s Market in the Brisbane CBD. Along with other celebrity chefs, Matt also has started a charity called Plates for Mates, which aims to raise money to assist in developing techniques to help heal burn victims.

Matt has also found love again. During his recovery, he developed a close relationship with his personal trainer and physiotherapist Erin Yarwood. "They clicked right away, a lovely friendship formed and, slowly
and gently, their feelings have changed. It’s become a very special love story," a friend told an Australian magazine. 

Despite still being plagued by issues with his health two years later, Matt has gone back to long distance running, which was a passion of his before the incident. He is trying to make the most of his second chance by training for a marathon - with the help of his trainer, Erin, of course. Matt’s story is inspirational in that he appreciates what he had in his prior life and honors his love for that family, while still moving forward to make the most of his time left on earth. Included in that plan is sharing his story with others and helping to assist other burn victims. That is what you do with a second chance!

Read more at: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/matt-golinskis-new-lease-on-life-sees-him-smiling-again/story-e6frfmqi-1226668823971
 
Plates for Mates website: http://platesformates.com.au/

 
Picture
Somaly Mam has an incredible story of survival from the industry of human trafficking. She was born to a small tribal family in Cambodia where she grew up in extreme poverty.  At a very young age, Somaly was sold into the sex slave industry and was forced to work at a brothel for many years. She was often beaten and raped by her captors and the men who paid to have sex with her. She even witnessed her best friend murdered in the brothel.

Somaly realized that she must do something to escape this life that she was trapped in and that she must do something to help others who are in the industry involuntarily. She felt that she could no longer keep her silence. In heroic fashion, Somaly escaped her captors and left the country. She was able to build a new life abroad and start the healing process.

In itself, that is quite a story. But what makes Somaly so amazing and inspirational is that she decided that she would never forget those women and children she left behind in the brothel. So, she returned to Southeast Asia and started to work on helping others escape this horrific life. In addition to helping them one on one, she built shelters and programs around the country to help heal victims and empower survivors to help even more victims. In 1996, she established an NGO called AFESIP, which offers a holistic approach to helping victims not only escape, but attain the emotional and economic strength to start a new life.  

 In 2007, Somaly established the Somaly Mam Foundation, which raises money and awareness on the human trafficking issue. It provides a means for trafficking victims to let their voices be heard around the world. The NGO and Foundation have helped over 7,000 trafficking victims to date. Somaly has been named on of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People f 2009 and she was the recipient of the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. 

To escape the life of a human trafficking victim truly makes Somaly blessed to survive. But to go back and risk everything to help others escape these horrors shows what courage and determination really exist inside this remarkable woman.  Asked why she continues to do it, Somaly says: "I don't want to go without leaving a trace." To learn more about her foundation, go to: www.somaly.org.

 
Picture
In August 1998, Nick Scott’s life changed forever. The young  athlete on his way to football practice had his world turned upside down when a tire blew on his car and caused it to roll over five and a half times. He fractured his spine  at the T-1 vertebrae in his mid-back and the L-1 vertebrae in his low back. He was instantly a paraplegic.

After the accident, Nick had to fight hard to recover and learn to live with his new reality. But the days were long and he became discouraged. He eventually became severely depressed and often wished that the accident had just finished him off rather than leaving him in this state. His depression led to weight gain. Soon, Nick saw his weight balloon to over 300 pounds.

Trying for a little normalcy in his life, Nick went back to the gym to try lifting weights, which was a passion of his prior to the accident. At first, he was discouraged watching other people being able to do many exercises  that he could no longer do in his wheel chair. But then he tried the bench press. To his amazement, he could still bench press a significant amount of weight even though he had to adjust his
technique.

Bench-pressing gave him some confidence and allowed him to focus on new goals. He decided that he could still attempt to be stronger than anyone else. Nick became a weight lifter and then a power lifter. Ultimately, this led him to the world of wheel chair body building and after his first show in March 2006, he set out on a mission to tell the whole world about the sport. He has become the poster child for wheel -chair bodybuilding.

 Nick’s philosophy on life is quite inspiring. “The way I see  it,” said Nick, “I believe I am in the wheelchair for a reason. God had a different path for my life and he chose me to go through what I have for a
reason. The man I have become has affected so many people's lives and they have affected others. It is like tossing a stone into the water and starting a  ripple. The day of my accident I was given a gift—a gift of a second chance at life. Instead of wishing things could be different, I am grateful to be given another chance and I will live my life. After going through everything I have gone through, I know firsthand how precious life is and how quickly your life can change. It doesn't matter if my glass is half-empty or half-full; I am just
grateful I have a glass.”

 Now, as a professional author and speaker, in addition to the body building, Nick uses his enthusiasm and life experiences to inspire other people. He wants to give hope to others that they, too, have the strength to
overcome challenges if they just trust in God and harness their inner-strength. To learn more about Nick, go to his website: www.nickfitness.com