April 9, 2014

Blind athlete speaks at Lewis Cass, encourages positivity

Motivational speaker encourages hard work and a positive attitude

by Mitchell Kirk Staff reporter

---- — The speaker at Lewis Cass Jr./Sr. High School Tuesday told students he couldn’t remember what his parents look like. He has never seen his wife or children.

Craig MacFarlane’s blindness prevents him from doing a lot of things, but it hasn’t prevented him from excelling in wrestling, track, and water and snow skiing. It didn’t stop him from winning more than 100 gold medals, many of them against opponents with their vision, or recording his own music. It doesn’t stop him from sinking a putt on the golf course every once in a while either. Most importantly, he said it hasn’t prevented him from maintaining a positive attitude, something the Zionsville resident teaches others how to achieve through his career as a motivational speaker.

”I could have used my blindness as an excuse to throw in the towel,” MacFarlane told the sixth- through 12th-graders of his time growing up without his vision, “but I refused to do it then and I certainly refuse to do it now.”

MacFarlane grew up on a farm in the Canadian province of Ontario. He was 2 years old when a blowtorch striker hit his left eye while playing with some children, eventually causing a disease that spread to his right eye and ended up leaving him completely blind.

His parents were responsible for starting him out on the positive path he continues on today, he said, adding that his mother often said, “We didn’t know how to raise a blind kid, so we just raised a kid.”

As MacFarlane grew older, he attended a school for the blind in Canada. There he was introduced to wrestling, a sport he would continue to participate in for the next 11 years. Through wrestling, he developed an admiration for hard work that he encourages others to pursue today in his motivational speeches.

“I was never afraid to do the work,” he said, adding that he was always the first one to show up at practice and the last one to leave. “Because I was blind, I thought I had to be 10 percent better than everyone else. I never wanted people to say, ‘I bet he lost because he was blind.’”

MacFarlane spoke on PRIDE, an acronym he developed that includes the principles of perseverance, respect, individuality, desire and enthusiasm. He illustrated each of the points through examples using sports, extracurricular activities and academics, expressed his sincere disdain for the word “can’t” and told students maintaining a positive attitude is a choice.

”I would trade my 104 medals to have some of the opportunities you do,” MacFarlane told the students in closing, “to be able to have my eyesight.”

It was a message reflected heavily upon by several seniors in the audience, including Brandy Gamblin.

”I like the fact that he didn’t let his blindness bring him back, he used it to bring himself further and used it as motivation,” Gamblin said, adding that she hopes to be similarly motivated as a college student next year.

Brady Barber said he admired the way MacFarlane used blindness to his advantage as much as possible.

”He saw blindness as an ability because he didn’t judge people on their looks,” Barber said. “He did a lot of stuff people with sight wouldn’t do.”

Barber added he plans on applying MacFarlane’s message to his own life.

”I have no excuse not to do anything,” Barber said.