Kyle Maynard, an author and award-winning athlete, was born with a condition called congenital amputation. He was born with arms ending at his elbows and legs that ending at his knees.
“If you can dream anything, you can believe it, and you can achieve it,” Maynard told students at the assembly. “Any dream, no matter how crazy, no matter how huge it is, you can make it happen in your life.”
An 8-year-old Johnston Elementary School second-grader, Memphis Lafferty, made a special trip with his dad to be at the assembly in the Macedonia community east of Canton to hear the message.
Lafferty, a quadruple amputee, lost his limbs at 7 months old after being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.
Chris Lafferty, Memphis’ dad, said his son met Maynard for the first time as a 1-year-old and their friendship has meant the world to him.
“When my son saw Kyle today, what he said to me was, ‘When I grow up, I want to be just like Kyle,’” Lafferty said. “It didn’t hurt that he saw Kyle’s phone and truck.”
When his son was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, Lafferty said the doctors told him his son wouldn’t live more than 12 hours.
“He fought for three and a half months,” Lafferty said. “They said, even if he did live, he’d be sucking out of a straw — he’d be brain dead. So, he’s proved everybody wrong.”
Lafferty said the family’s medical costs are high, and they always appreciate help from the community. A donation site is set up online, and contributions can be made at www.memphislynnlafferty.com.
Maynard told students about his experience growing up and deciding to become an athlete at 11 years old, starting with wrestling in high school.
“I believed I could do it, and the only thing left to do was to go out and do it,” Maynard said.
He lost every match his first year wrestling, and lost most matches his second year. But, Maynard said, as with many other pursuits in his life, he didn’t give up.
As an example, Maynard said it took him 45 minutes to put socks on his feet for the first time, and showed the students that now it only took him seconds.
“Thankfully my mom and dad didn’t let me give up, they wanted me to learn to do it on my own,” he said.
Maynard went on to win 36 varsity wrestling matches in his senior year, beating some of the best wrestlers in the state.
“I used to be so scared going into these matches, but I remember the first match that I won. Going into it, I was afraid, and I remember saying a prayer that the fear would be taken away,” Maynard told the students. “We went out to the center of the mat and shook hands. We were lined up across from each other, and I could tell when he shook my hand that he was a little afraid, and it just took all the fear away from me.”
Maynard said when he took the other wrestler to the ground in his first winning match, “I was way more surprised than he was.”
Throughout his life, Maynard has excelled in his athletic endeavors. He was awarded the 2004 ESPY Award for being the Best Athlete with a Disability, and a year later Maynard was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Most recently, Maynard became the first person to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on all four limbs. The 19,340-foot peak is the tallest mountain in Africa, and Maynard said it was an extremely difficult achievement.
“The first mountain I climbed was Stone Mountain. It took me an hour and 45 minutes,” Maynard explained. “Mount Kilimanjaro was like climbing 22 Stone Mountains in a row.”
Maynard said he felt like he couldn’t do it after a few days of hiking on all four limbs, but made a vow to himself that he wouldn’t give up, no matter how hard it was.
“On the fourth day, I went into my tent by myself and just cried,” he said.
Maynard said the mother of a dead soldier asked him to take her son’s ashes to the top of the mountain, and Maynard promised to do it.
“I decided to just keep going, no matter what,” he said, “No matter how hard it got.”
With an estimated 15-day trip to the top of the mountain, Maynard, along with his climbing partners and guides, decided to take a shorter but much more dangerous route to the top.
“It was basically straight up,” Maynard said.
The group made it to the peak in January 2012.
“Our group got to go touch the roof of Africa, together,” he said. “We got to pay tribute to (the soldier). We got to leave his ashes there and it was one of the most special moments of my life.”
Maynard told students if they have a dream, they have to keep going, “no excuses.”
“When you dream it and you believe it, then, you achieve it. Anything is possible,” he said.
Maynard lives in Atlanta, and is a CrossFit certified instructor. He opened his own fitness center, No Excuses CrossFit, in 2008.