Born without forearms and calves, Mt. Kilimanjaro climber inspires Camden students

    Kyle Maynard, a 27-year-old author and athlete, gave a motivational talk on Tuesday to students at Sacred Heart Grade School in South Camden.

    Maynard spoke about getting his start in wrestling as an 11-year-old, his ability to lift 420 pounds and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2012.

    That last item was of particular interest since he became the first man to reach the summit on all fours, as Maynard was born without forearms and calves.

    His message

    He challenged students to find their purpose and to have a “why” when it comes to decision making.

    “A lot of you guys in here have probably been through things that are way harder than anything I’ve ever been through,” Maynard told students, noting that all people are born with disabilities, but his are just easier to see.

    For the most part, Maynard lives a normal life with little modification. He uses a regular toothbrush, cooks for himself and can text using an iPhone touch screen.

    The gas and brake pedals on his Dodge Durango are modified to reach his legs.

    “I’m pretty sure I freak people out sometimes when I’m talking on my cell phone and driving,” he joked.

    Discussing struggles

    During his first year wrestling, as a preteen, he didn’t win a single match and wanted to quit. As a senior in high school, he wrestled varsity and won often.

    In 2005, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

    Four days into climbing the 19,340 ft. Mt. Kilimanjaro, Maynard said that even with his special gear, he was in the worst pain of his life.

    What kept him going? A promise Maynard made to a mother of a U.S. Marine named Corey. He fulfilled that promise and scattered Corey’s ashes at the peak.

    Even in the first months of his motivational-speaking gig, he said he wanted to quit. Feedback from his audience kept him going. Kids thanked Maynard for inspiring them to follow their dreams — no matter what, no excuses.

    Student reaction

    Cyani Scott, a 12-year-old Sacred Heart student, said she learned that before she makes any choice, she should ask herself why.

    Michael Cabrera, who attends St. Cecilia School in nearby Pennsauken, said he was inspired.

    “I do have obstacles in my life,” Cabrera said, “and I think he helped me realize I can overcome them like he did.”

    Besides his speaking job, Maynard is a physical trainer who also helps wounded veterans adapt their fitness routines. Maynard hopes to climb the tallest summit on every continent someday.

    “For every one of us that’s our deepest purpose, to think about why we’re doing what we’re doing,” he said.

    For more on Kyle Maynard, visit

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