In January, I met Amy Purdy, a U.S. Paralympic athlete representing Team USA in the boardercross event. After losing both legs below the knee, her spleen, both kidneys and the hearing in her left ear due to bacterial meningitis, Amy challenged herself to achieve goals that would be difficult even for those who hadn't experienced such trauma. Along her journey, Amy became not only a three-time World Cup gold medalist but a model and motivational speaker as well. She's one of the top adaptive snowboarders in the world and in 2005, she co-founded Adaptive Action Sports, an organization that was an instrumental part in getting her sport - and that of other adaptive athletes - into the Paralympic Games this year. Her influence grew in 2012 when she gave a TED talk about "Living Beyond Limits."
I had the honor of working with Amy on By Definition, a campaign that RT produced for The Hartford, a founding sponsor of the Paralympic Games since it's inception 20 years ago. The Hartford's Ability Philosophy - "We passionately believe people want to live active, productive, independent lives" - is personified in the creative. The Hartford believes in focusing on what people can achieve, not their perceived limitations. Paralympic athletes like Amy live that philosophy to the fullest. I was particularly moved by a quote in her TED talk, "You become truly disabled when you choose not to overcome your obstacles." This is the first year that snowboarding makes its debut as a Paralympic Games sport, due in part to Amy's organization. I think it's fair to say that Amy has inspired change not only in herself, but in her entire community and the world as well.
The point isn't that you have to be famous or an Olympic athlete to inspire others. As I look around at the people I get to work with each day at RT, I realize how fortunate I am to be surrounded by so many amazing women. Outside of the impressive work they do here, they have passions and interests that make the world a better place. There are small business owners; one is a florist, another runs a highly successful Etsy shop. Others are speaking on panels about diversity or technology. Artists, aspiring inventors, a cabaret singer, and even a marksmanship instructor - each one shows me that within each of us lies the ability to contribute to the diverse and rich global network of women that are ensuring a bright future for every girl.