Lizzie Velasquez was born with a medical condition so rare that there are just two other known cases of it in the world. She is unable to create muscle, store energy or gain weight due to having no adiopose tissue in her body. At the age of 23, she weighs only 60 pounds and has zero percent body fat. She is blind in one eye and has limited vision in the other eye. The condition is so rare, that it is technically undiagnosed.

Struggling with this her whole life, things became worse as she progressed through school. The stares were bad enough, but the teasing, comments and bullying only increased as she continued through each grade. By high school, Lizze was named “The World’s Ugliest Woman” in an 8-second long You Tube video posted by a cruel classmate. Even worse, the comments to the video called her a “monster” and suggested that she kill herself.

After that video was posted, Lizzie set four goals for her life: (1) graduate college; (2) build a career and family; (3) publish a book; and (4) become a motivational speaker. By the age of 23, Lizzie had been a motivational speaker for seven years and she has given over 200 seminars on dealing with bullies, overcoming challenges and embracing your own uniqueness. She is majoring in communications at Texas State University and she has already written two books, Lizzie Beautiful (2010) and Be Beautiful, Be You  (2013).

 Per Lizzie: “Some days, life doesn’t make sense. You just have to change what you can, ask for help and pray about the rest. I’m at the point where instead of sitting by and watching people judge me, I’m starting to want to go up to these people and introduce myself or give them my card and say, ‘Hi I’m Lizzie. Maybe you should stop staring and start learning.’”

Regarding the bullying and awful comments, Lizzie notes: “I didn’t sink to their level. Instead, I got my revenge through my accomplishments and determination. In the battle between the “World’s Ugliest Woman” video vs. me, I think I won.”

Lizzie is truly an inspiration with the way she perseveres and  with her determined life philosophy. She is using her unique situation in life to inspire others and make the world a better place. To learn more about Lizzie, go to her website: www.aboutlizzie.com

In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I would share this heart-warming story of Andy and Jack Hoffman from earlier this year. Jack is a 7 year old brain cancer patient in Nebraska. He had two surgeries and a 60 week schedule of chemotherapy over two years since the diagnosis in 2011. While on a break from his chemotherapy treatment, he went with his father for a special
treat offered to them from the University of Nebraska during their football spring game in April. 

Jack’s father, Andy, thought that they would just get to go down to the field, meet some players and get some autographs. But the Cornhuskers had something else in mind. On the final play of the game, Nebraska brought in Jack as a running back on fourth and one. After the snap, Jack took the ball from his
own 31 yard line and ran it 69 yards into the end zone in front of 60,000+ fans. 
“It is a lot of emotions all at once,” Andy said about watching his son score the touchdown. Check out this wonderful video above of the day Jack scored the winning touchdown for the Red squad. 

But the Hoffman’s story doesn’t begin nor end with this football game. Andy has been on a mission to educate the country about pediatric cancer. He notes that most of the 13,500 cases of pediatric cancer diagnosed each year have archaic therapy strategies that are older than 25 years.

 “I don’t know why God chose Jack to have this,” said Andy, “but I do know that we can do something good out of it and that is to promote the improvement of the treatments for the disease. This isn’t about Jack. It’s not about us. It’s about the old archaic treatment regimens that America needs to do something about. God
picked our family to deal with this and we’re going to do the right thing.”

 For more information about what Jack goes through on a day-to-day basis with his chemotherapy, read this inspiring article: http://www.omaha.com/article/20130417/HUSKERS/704179785&template=mobileart

See more about Jack's story in the video below.

Janine Shepherd had her life upended in a single moment. Back in  1986, she was a world class cross-country skier who was training for the winter Olympics. While on a bicycling training exercise, she was struck by a speeding utility truck and she was injured quite badly. She had to be air-lifted to the hospital where she had surgery to her L1 vertebrae, which had been smashed to pieces. She also suffered a broken neck and lost five litres of blood.

Doctors performed multiple surgeries over the following months and ultimately told her that she was a partial paraplegic. They told her that she would be bound to a wheel chair for the rest of her life and that she would not be able to bear children. Obviously, her Olympic dreams were also dashed.
Her life was completely changed from that moment on.

Unwilling to be held back, Janine became determined to learn to walk again after one of her surgeries was successful in giving her some feeling in her lower body. She then began the long process of rehabilitation to learn how to walk again. She also went in a full body cast to begin flying lessons so that she could obtain her pilot license. Janine decided that she would move forward with her life doing whatever she could to continue on.

Said Janine:  “Although my body was limited, my spirit was unstoppable. It wasn’t until I let go of the life I felt I should have that  I embraced.” Within 18 months, Janine not only had her pilot license, but she
received her pilot training license and began teaching others to fly.  She walks with a limp, but is able to
walk and she also has three children.

 Now, Janine spends her time as a motivational speaker sharing her story world-wide. She has authored four books about her ordeal in order to inspire others. The first book, called Never Tell Me Never, was actually turned into a TV movie. She has been a torch bearer at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney and she was also named one of the Ten Outstanding Young People in the world by JCI in 1998.

 See her Ted talk called: A Broken Body Isn’t a Broken Person below.

Zach Sobiech was diagnosed with a rare form of terminal cancer at the age of 14.  The cancerous bone tumor, called osteosarcoma, led him to multiple surgeries and months of chemotherapy. All of these treatments proved unsuccessful. In 2012, the cancer spread to his lungs and pelvis. The doctors felt that he only had a few months to live and his mother suggested that he start writing letters to people he cared about.

Instead of letting this diagnosis lead him into a world of depression, Zach decided to do something with his life in order to share his spirit with others. He wanted to let his loved ones know just how much he cared for them and he never stopped smiling even until the end. Over the next few years, he took to music and wrote down his thoughts in the form of inspiring lyrics. He wrote several songs, but the one that has become most famous is called “Clouds.”

Last week, Zach passed away on May 20, 2013. His You Tube video has gone viral and his song “Clouds” soared to #1 on iTunes. Actor, Rainn Wilson (from The Office) was moved by Zach’s story and SoulPancake created a short documentary about the teen called: “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech.”

To hear Zach’s song or watch the short documentary, click the videos.  What a spirit Zach had!

 Choi Sung-bong has overcome tremendous challenges in his life, but he has never given up and he keeps moving forward no matter what is thrown at him. At the age of three, Choi was abandoned in an orphanage in Korea. He claims that he ran away from the orphanage at the age of five after enduring several beatings by the people there. During his younger years, he survived by selling energy drinks and gum on the streets. The only places he could find to sleep were in stairwells and public restrooms. By the age of eight, he was working as a manual laborer and a delivery boy.

While doing these jobs, he met a women who ran a food cart outside a night club and she encouraged him to take the general education equivalency exam in Korea so that he could finish his basic schooling and enter high school.  Ultimately, he graduated from Daejeon Arts High School, but he never received any vocal training because he did not have the funds to pay for the master classes.

Undeterred, Choi would listen to music and practice singing songs. During one his stays at Kun Yang University Hospital where he was being treated for medical issues involving a car accident, Choi volunteered to perform a recital for four students who needed financial aid for schools during his in-patient stay. He continued to sing because he said that this was the one thing he loved to do after living such a hard life in early childhood.

Choi ultimately ended up on the show Korea's Got Talent and the video below shows his initial appearance. He became immensely popular in Korea during the 2012 season and he finished second in the competition. Because of his TV exposure, his background was checked intensely and has been verified by the South Korean media. Choi truly exhibits strength and courage to keep fighting in life no matter what obstacles are in your way.
Patrick Henry Hughes has a story that is both inspirational and motivational. Patrick was born without eyes and with a disability in his arms that did not allow them to straighten properly. Despite these challenges, Patrick's family quickly realized by his second birthday, that he was somewhat of a musical genius. Patrick soon began playing the piano with grace and emotion that astonished everyone around him.

Now, Patrick also plays trumpet and is even in the marching band at the University of Louisville. "I mean, God mad me blind and didn't give me the ability to walk, I mean, big deal," said Patrick. "He gave me the talent to play piano and trumpet and all that stuff."

Patrick's life philosophy is that of a fighter. "I'm the kind of person who is going to fight until I win. That's my main objective - fight until I win." Patrick's spirit and motivation to keep moving forward should serve as a shining example to anyone facing challenges in life.

But the other heroes in this story are Patrick's parents. His mom works full time to supplement their income and still takes care of Patrick's daily needs. His father works the graveyard shift at UPS in order to be up during the day attending classes with Patrick and even wheels him around the football field in the marching band. The love that exudes from these parents to their child is endearing. "He's my hero," said Patrick's father.

To read more, check out this article:
Most of these posts involve people who have already overcome tragedy and moved on with their lives - sometimes, years later. For Jeff Bauman, he is just in the beginning of his recovery. Jeff had his legs blown off in the Boston marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 and the picture to the left (of Jeff) became a symbol of the horrific after-math that affected so many victims.

Just a few weeks after the bombing, Jeff appeared as an honorary banner captain at a Boston Bruins game. (see video above). Here is a guy who has every reason to hold pity parties for himself or fall into depression. Yet, as you can see in the video, he appears triumphant and ready to move forward with his life. In a statement, Jeff said: "I want to thank everyone for their amazing support for me and all those injured and their families. I'm making great progress and I thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers. "

Even in the rehab facility, shortly after his surgeries, Jeff had an amazing outlook on his future: "But . . . it's in the past. You only look forward.  I had a lot to live for in the past and I have a lot to live for now." Jeff is truly inspirational with his philosophy on life and recovery Hopefully, it will motivate others to get off their stool and get back into the fight.

To read more about Jeff's story, click here: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/pissed_but_he_dead_and_still_here_4eohIvLssoxHUYNIbnha5H

They say parents would do anything for their  children. For Rick van Beek, this includes carrying his thirteen year old  disabled daughter as he races in triathlons, half-marathons and other running  races. Rick’s daughter, Maddy, was born with cerebral palsy 13 years ago. She cannot walk or talk and they are not sure if she can see. Nonetheless, Rick began racing alongside his daughter in what he calls: Team Maddy. 

For triathlon events, he pulls her through the  water in a kayak during the swimming portion. Then, she travels in a cart behind  his bike during the bicycling section. Finally, he pushes her in a three-wheel buggy during the running part of the event. It is truly an inspiring story of the love of a parent.

Rick said that he sees the joy Maddy gets when she is outside and feels the breeze in her face. “I am her legs and she is my heart,” he admits. “The emotion drives me or inspires me to do the things I do. Call it inspiration, call it motivation, call it whatever you want. I call it love. That will never fade. Although someday she might not physically be able to be there with me, she will always be  in my heart, cheering me on,” he continues.

See the inspiring video below and for more information, read this article:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2188373/Rick-van-Beek-Devoted-dad-runs-triathlon-carrying-teenager-daughter-cerebral-palsy.html

What would you say to people if you knew you only had months to live? What would be your last speech? For Randy Pasch, this was a reality. Randy was a Carnegie Mellon professor who inspired millions with a simple lecture. This lecture was presented to his class on September 18, 2007, which was one month after Randy was told he only had three to six months to live following a new bout with his pancreatic cancer.

The lecture became known as "Randy's Last Lecture" even though he entitled it: "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." The motivational talk is both inspirational and humorous. Randy discusses some of his childhood dreams like  becoming a pro football player or developing rides for Disney World.
After the lecture, Randy co-wrote a book With Jeff Zaslow also called "The Last Lecture". In it, he shared his philosophies about finding the good in others, living generously and overcoming obstacles through hard work. A ten minute version of the speech given on the Oprah Winfrey Show is shown above, but you can see the full lecture here:  http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo
Josh Rivers was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In December 2010, while at the Great Alaskan Bush Company, a man started randomly shooting at various people for no apparent reason.  There was no altercation, no argument, no warning that the shooting was going to occur.

Josh was struck by three bullets, one of which, lodged in his spine and remains there today. “I knew what was going on and I just had to keep my eyes shut,” said Josh.  “I was just lying on the floor waiting for a sign that everything was safe.”

Josh survived that random shooting the sent bullets through his arms, chest and spine, but the bullet in his spine left him paralyzed from the waist down. Josh now spends his time learning a new reality in his wheel chair. If you just watch the video below, you can see the daily struggles Josh faces as he moves forward with his life.

I’m sure Josh had his share of pity parties in the beginning, but he has decided to use his incident to inspire others. Although doctors told him he will never walk again, he never gave up. He started doing research about his condition and found out about the Bioness, which is a device that might help him walk again someday. This device is designed for patients with spinal cord injuries and uses electrical stimulation to help people regain mobility. He wants to learn to walk in order to inspire others who have sustained similar injuries.

 “I’m hoping to be able to walk again. To the people who have experienced something like this, be thankful you are still alive. To the people who haven’t, just knmow that it can happen anywhere anytime and it can change your life in the blink of an eye,” Josh said.

Read more about the story here: