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Spencer West and Community Service Prefect Caroline Hall
October 3, 2013
Spencer West Inspires with His Story of Triumph Over Adversity

​Spencer West, a motivational speaker working with Me to We, had his legs amputated at the knee at the age of two, due to a genetic disorder. At the age of five, his legs were then amputated at the pelvis. Told he’d never walk, sit up or be able to care for himself, Spencer defied the odds and, in 2012, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity.

Spencer visited Branksome on September 23 and spoke to students in Grades 4 through 12 about the challenges he faced growing up, and the important charity work he commits his time to now.

To help students relax and see his jovial side, Spencer told the audience that he was part of a magic show that didn’t go as planned. Growing up, Spencer was teased and bullied about his physical differences.

“I never knew I was different until I went out in public,” he said. “People would stare and ask questions like, ‘Where are your legs?’ and ‘How do you use the washroom?’ They only saw me as a person without legs, but I wanted to be known for more than that.”

After high school, Spencer went on to study Communications at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. He then moved to Phoenix, Arizona and became traditionally “successful,” he said.

“I had a good job, a nice car, nice clothes,” said Spencer. “I had everything that the media says I needed to be happy, but I wasn’t happy. I thought of what else I could buy to make myself happy and I realized I already owned everything I could buy.”

A friend of Spencer’s invited him to go to Kenya on a volunteer trip with Free the Children. Once he arrived, Spencer instantly felt different in Kenya.

“I found peace and clarity,” he said. “Time is slower there. You can hear the wind blowing through the trees.”

While building a school in Kenya, he experienced a moment that changed the course of his life forever. While sitting on the grass with a group of students, one girl spoke a sentence in Swahili, which was then translated for him.

“What she said would change my life forever. She said, ‘I didn’t know this sort of thing—meaning the loss of my legs—could happen to white people.’”

Spencer instantly realized that he could use his story to give back to others in need.
“I felt that if I came back and didn’t do something, it would be an injustice.”

It was then that Spencer returned to the United States and started working with Me to We. During the massive drought in Kenya in 2011, Spencer created the “Redefine Possible” campaign, through which he would climb Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.

Climbing mostly on his hands, Spencer travelled with his two best friends. As they reached 18,000 feet, Spencer’s friends struggled with altitude sickness and Spencer felt exhausted.

When he was unable to hike further, his friends carried him on their backs. When his friends were overcome with altitude sickness, Spencer climbed using his hands and it inspired them to keep going.

After eight days of intense climbing, they successfully reached the summit. Spencer’s campaign raised an impressive $500,000 to create clean water programs in Kenya.

While Spencer’s climb is considered extraordinary, he encouraged Branksome students to make a difference every day in the following ways:

• Be happy every day and be thankful for what you have.
• Find your team: you can’t do it alone. Draw on help from your teachers and parents.
• Take a risk and do something! This can include attending a Me to We leadership camp or overseas volunteer trips.

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