Although motivational speaker Lloyd Bachrach told the Burleigh Elementary students that he was going to remove his artificial legs beforehand, the gymnasium echoed with surprised and startled gasps when he actually did.
Bachrach presented his "Yes, You Can!" program to the elementary school, over the course of two assemblies, Feb. 27 to motivate children to pursue their dreams.
Bachrach was born with a congenital bone deficiency that left his legs extremely small.
In his artificial legs, Bachrach appears to be average height. Without them, he stands at about four feet high.
When Bachrach was born in 1962, doctors told his parents that he may not be able to live a functional life.
"This is how I was born, but I never let it stop me," Bachrach told the students. "I always looked at the glass half full ... and when someone says I can't do (something), that's like dumping gasoline on my fire; I want to prove them wrong."
Bachrach participated in multiple sports that helped him gain upper arm strength, such as swimming, baseball and gymnastics.
Despite his ability to overcome the challenges associated with shorter legs, Bachrach began using his artificial legs when he was 13 years old "to get the girls," he joked.
Throughout his performances, Bachrach often made light of his disability in an effort to convey an important message to the young students.
"My message, without directly stating it, is 'If I can do it, you can do it,'" he said after one of the assemblies. "Hopefully, they'll get that impression."
"His use of humor allows children to feel safe in exploring a topic that might be uncomfortable," said Burleigh Principal Teresa Curley. "We like that he is able to help our children understand the obstacles that some students might face and overcome. It's not just about students who are disabled, but just how everyone has different abilities that may impact them in one way or another."
In 1996, Bachrach competed on the USA Paralympics sit volleyball squad and worked for more than 10 years on the trading floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange, eventually reaching the position of a currency speculator, according to his website, yes-you-can.net. He has modeled for Sears, J.C. Penney and Lands' End. In addition, he coached gymnastics for eight years in Chicago, where he currently resides.
Bachrach now travels the country as a motivational speaker for students and corporations.
"It sure beats working for a living," Bachrach laughed. "I'm marketing for something positive."
He credits his accomplishments to exercising the "Five Keys to Success": building high self-esteem, focusing with a positive attitude, setting powerful goals, persevering and maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit.
"I call this program 'Yes, You Can!' because I believe you can accomplish anything," he told the students. "The only thing limiting you is you. Go out and live your dreams because I'm living mine."
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