At 13, surfer Bethany Hamilton survived a vicious shark attack in which her entire left arm was bitten off below the shoulder. It seemed like all her hopes of becoming a professional surfer were dashed but eager to get back in the water, Bethany was hitting the waves a mere four weeks after the incident. Within two years, she had won her first national title and went on to win several others in recent years. Bethany is involved with numerous charities including her own, “Friends of Bethany” and is also a health & fitness expert, providing regular tips on her website for how to live a healthier life. She is a wife and mother, and one of the best professional female surfers in the world.
Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli
Luca Patuelli is a Canadian breakdancer born with arthrogryposis, a rare disorder involving limited joint movement and poor muscle growth, which has resulted in a total of 16 surgeries on his spine. At 15, Luca fell in love with b-boying and began representing Canada in top-level international events. He’s performed and competed all over North America, and in 2007, put together “ill-abilities” an international crew of the best “ill-abled” dancers from across the globe. He’s appeared on ‘Ellen’, performed alongside Kanye West, and was invited to perform at the Vancouver 2010 paralympic opening ceremony. He teaches dance to children with disabilities and continually spreads the message of “no excuses, no limits”.
At just 19-years-old, Amy Purdy, an avid snowboarder, contracted bacterial meningitis and lost her spleen. Kidney function, and both legs. Doctors gave her a 2% chance of survival and placed her into a coma. Two years later, she received a successful kidney transplant and less than three months after that Amy was back on the slopes with prosthetic legs, and never looked back. She is one of the top ranked adaptive snowboarders in the U.S. And a 2014 paralympic bronze medalist. Amy gives motivational talks all around the world, models, and is a co-founder of adaptive action sports which helps disabled individuals get involved in action sports. Amy defied all odds when she flawlessly danced her way to the finals of dancing with the stars in 2014.
Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham
24-year-old Aaron Fotheringham was born with a spinal condition called Spina bifida, which has left him without feeling in his legs. By age 8, he was bound to a wheelchair full-time. But has never stopped chasing his dreams. He began following his brother to skate parks and became hooked. Using a customized wheelchair. Aaron began to win a few BMX freestyle competitions, and in 2006 landed the first ever wheelchair backflip, and four years later, the first ever double backflip. He has been a coach and mentor to kids with disabilities and continues to tour with the action sports road show nitro circus.
At the age of five, Spencer West lost his legs from the pelvis down, due to a genetic disorder. Spencer refused to limit himself and chose to pursue a very active lifestyle. In 2012, he climbed over 19,000 feet to the top of mount Kilimanjaro over seven days traveling on his hands for 80% of the trek and raising over $500,000 for free the children. He has helped build schools in Kenya and India, and is currently involved with several environmental and humanitarian initiatives. Spencer wrote a book about his journey and is a motivational speaker worldwide.
Lauren Potter & Jamie Brewer
These two amazing ladies were born with down syndrome, and are changing all preconceived notions about what it means to be an actor in Hollywood Lauren Potter was a series regular on the TV show Glee’and in 2011 was appointed to the president’s committee for people with intellectual disabilities. Jamie began taking theater and improv classes as a teenager and has appeared in four seasons of ‘American Horror Story’ and is involved with several non-profit organizations. In 2015, she became the first woman with down syndrome to walk the runway at New York fashion week.
Born without forearms and having a leg amputated as a baby, Cornel Hrisca-Munn was pulled from a Romanian orphanage and brought over to England. Throughout childhood, Cornel rode in bike-a-thons, swam, and as he got older, developed an interest in music and amazingly taught himself how to play drums and bass. He has garnered many followers and fans in recent years, by posting covers on his youtube channel even attracting the attention of Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer – Chad Smith.
Angela Bachiller shook up the political world when in 2013, she became the first person with down syndrome to hold public office and pursue a political career, as she earned a seat on the city council of Valladolid, Spain. Her appointment is seen as an amazingly huge step in the “normalization” of people with this genetic condition and the hope is that Angela will help inspire great change in the field such as many people with down syndrome still being ineligible to vote.