When Rohan Murphy was four years old, doctors were forced to amputate both his legs, due to a birth defect that caused them to be deformed. Afraid of not fitting in with other kids, Murphy wore prosthetics rather than use a wheelchair. As he grew older, however, he made up his mind not to let his disability define who he was. He put away the prosthetics and now uses a wheelchair.
"When I was a kid, I used to look at being disabled as a curse," Murphy told me in a phone interview from his home in Long Island, New York. "But as I got older, I got wiser and started to realize that being disabled could actually be a gift, that I could actually go out and use this gift to inspire other people."
The turning point in Murphy's thinking came when he joined his high school wrestling team, and had great success in the sport. He was able to carry that achievement with him to Penn State, where he excelled in wrestling at the collegiate level, and graduated with a degree in kinesiology. Though he no longer competes as a wrestler, he has participated in international power lifting competitions, and is currently training for the 2012 Paralympics. He has appeared in a Nike commercial, and travels the country as a motivational speaker to tell his story.
Murphy will share that story here in Austin this weekend, and will serve as Honorary Ambassador to the Easter Seals of Central Texas during their Walk With Me Austin Family 2K event on Sunday at the Domain. The walk is one of the nonprofit organization's biggest annual events, with funds going toward providing services for people with disabilities and their families, so they can fully participate in their comunities.
To be successful in life, Murphy says, everyone has to overcome some type of adversity. He hopes his presence and short speech after the Walk With Me event will send a positive message to people with and without a disability. "You should never give up," Murphy said. "You should always try to find a way to make something happen. You should always think about what you want out of life, what you want to accomplish... and what you're willing to do to make your dreams become reality."
If you'd like to register for the walk, or find out more information about Easter Seals of Central Texas, visit the Walk With Me Austin website at: www.walkwithme.org/austin.