Amputee Uses Health Challenge to Motivate Others
Washington, D.C. - As a young girl growing up in the nation's capital, Donna R. Walton dreamed of being a singer, a dancer or, perhaps, another type of great performer. Facing crowds fed her soul. But fate had other plans.
Doctors diagnosed Walton with a potentially fatal form of bone cancer in 1976, and had to amputate her left leg, above the knee. She was 18.
But instead of letting this health tragedy limit her life or kill her spirit, Walton, a motivational speaker and self-described "change agent," uses what happened to inspire and uplift others.
Four years ago, she founded Dream Reach Win, an independent consulting company in Arlington, Va., created to motivate people and businesses to realize their fullest potential. "To arrive where I am, I had to deconstruct my life and rebuild it, "Walton says. "I had to reinvent myself.
"After losing my leg, I had to break down all the meanings my life had for me as a two-legged person and reconstruct a life for myself as an amputee," she explains. "As part of this process, I had to realize I needed to change my thinking, my nutrition, and my lifestyle habits if I were to become stronger and begin to reconstruct the new me - a person empowered with passion and a positive outlook on life."
The bulk of Walton's work highlights career obstacles facing people with disabilities and middle-aged adults. But she also aims her message about overcoming discrimination and maintaining self-esteem in the face of adversity at broader audiences.
"Once I began to accept my disability as an asset rather than a liability, I found that I had a greater understanding and appreciation for life," she says, "and this is necessary in any working environment.
Walton, 44, contends that the most formidable challenge facing most people is fear and the absence of a positive belief system. So this national board certified cognitive behavioral therapist, has dedicated her life and work to dispelling myths, misconceptions and preconceived notions about what is possible for people with disabilities -- and everyone else - to accomplish. She conducts sensitivity and awareness training for corporations and school districts, and writes articles about this topic. One of her most powerful pieces is the enclosed personal essay titled "What's a Leg Got to Do With It?"
In addition to producing a motivational video for women with disabilities, Walton is working to complete her doctoral degree in rehabilitation leadership at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She earned her master's degree in adult education in 1985 from Syracuse University in New York. She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary and early childhood education in 1979 from American University in Washington, D.C.
Walton also served as the full-time director of Vocational Rehabilitation Services at Whitman-Walker Clinic, an AIDS service organization in the District of Columbia. At this point in her career, Walton would like to share her motivational message with people worldwide.
"I share my story because I want people to know that although I lost my leg, I never lost my spirit or my will to live," she says. "I knew that although I might not become a great dancer, I could still be great."
Date: August 15, 2001
REFERENCE: Donna R. Walton