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MacFarlane doesn't see his handicapPosted Friday, December 12, 2008, at 10:50 PM
DUGGER -- Motivational speakers come to schools across this country every day, hoping to inspire the youth of America and be more than just an excuse for students to get out of class.
Although I am not sure what the couple of hundred students at Union (Dugger) took from Craig MacFarlane's speech here last week, I know that I left feeling like I had been in the presence of someone very special.
You see, pun intended, MacFarlane, 45, has been blind since the age of 2 1/2. He was the victim of an "freak accident," being struck inside the left eye with a welding striker while playing with other children.
MacFarlane, who went on to become a world-class athlete winning over 100 gold medals in a variety of sports (the majority against sighted competition), not only has spoken at over 2,100 schools and 800 rotary clubs, but has spoken three times at the Republican National Convention at the request of former president George Bush.
MacFarlane also has inspired those in the corporate world as he has given speeches to Whirlpool, IBM, Energizer, GM, Ford, Coca Cola and A T & T.
He also has talked to the Notre Dame football team at the request of then coach Lou Holtz and to the University of Miami football team when Dennis Erickson when he was coach of the Hurricanes.
His book Inner Vision has inspired thousands throughout the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Europe.
MacFarlane also got to carry the Olympic Torch across the United States on its way to Los Angeles and the 1984 Summer Olympics.
MacFarlane, who was at Union (Dugger) High School courtesy of Edward Jones Investments and local representative Bryan Burkhart, did not let being blind, or not even being able to remember what colors even looked like because he was so young, hold him back from a successful and fulfilling life to make anyone stand up and take notice.
"I was very fortunate to have wonderful parents," said MacFarlane, who grew up in Sault Ste. Marie Canada. "My mother used to say she did not know how to raise a blind kid so she just raised a kid. They were very active. We went camping every summer. I got the chance to do everything any kid did. I have to thank them."
The nearest school for the blind in Canada was over 500 miles away, meaning he could only come Christmas and on summer vacation.
But while in the second grade, the unhappy MacFarlane had a life-changing event.
"I was sitting in a cold locker room getting ready for physical education class when a teacher told me how sad I looked," he said. "I told him I was glad he noticed.
"At that point, he introduced me to wrestling. That was the only sport that a blind kid could compete in then."
MacFarlane also competed in water skiing, track and field and downhill skiing, where he was clocked at over 90 mph. In golf, he has shot a 91.
McFarlane's website --www.cmpride.com -- is full of testimonials from the people that he has influenced, including legendary TV sportscaster Howard Cosell before his death in 1995.
"I've covered the sports beat for nearly 40 years of my life and worked with all the great ones firsthand," said Cosell, who was part of the reason for the success of Monday Night Football. " Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, Muhammed Ali, Johnny McEnroe... you name them. But I must tell you the most remarkable athlete I have ever seen, ever known, is Craig MacFarlane."
MacFarlane said that he used to do 500 sit-ups and 500 push-ups when he was in training.
"I did it for one reason," he said. "I never wanted to give someone the chance to say, 'He lost because he was blind.'
Former President Bush said, "Barbara and I are proud to call Craig a friend. I invite you to meet him yourself in these pages of (the book) Inner Vision and discover the fire within that can touch and inspire us all."
MacFarlane stressed to the students about the importance of setting goals, making the most of every day, every moment and trying to focus on overcoming down moments and down times.
"It's like climbing a ladder," he said. "You don't just jump over five or six rungs, you do it one step at time.
"I try to go out and put a smile on my face every day."
MacFarlane said he spoke about PRIDE when he was 13. Perseverance, Respect, Individuality, Desire and Enthusiasm are the words that has helped shape his life.
"Be proud of yourself, your community and your school," he told students. "Don't compare yourself with others. Just try to better yourself and nobody else.
"Everyone has a gift. Find yours and make the most of it."
The one thing that MacFarlane, who along with his wife Patti have three children, said that struck me personally the most was when he said not to forget to look around and notice the beauty in every day life.
"I can't remember what colors look like," said MacFarlane, who said that former Indy 500 race driver Mario Andretti is probably his closest celebrity friend. "I don't remember what my parents faces look like.
"Those are just some of the things that people take for granted. I don't know what a tree looks like or the beauty in watching the leaves turn in the fall. But this is just a minor inconvenience. So many people are less fortunate than I."
B.J. Hargis is sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext. 12 or at email@example.com.
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