Motivational speaker encourages students to ‘Walk This Way’

Karen Moewe for IVC District 321
Ron Bachman on his Amigo motorized chair delivers a motivational message to students from Mossville Grade School, IVC High School and Chillicothe Elementary School in CEC’s gym Monday.

Addresses bullying in school

Somewhere between tough love and inspiration comes the message of Ron Bachman. More than 700 Illinois Valley Central sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grade students heard his message Monday.

Born with a congenital disease which caused his lower limbs to not develop normally, Bachman’s legs were amputated at age 4.

Nearly 50 years later, his message for young and old is how to accept and not turn away; and how to find potential in every adversity.

Born in Detroit, Mich., his parents encouraged him to get out and make friends, and he did. His friends were there to help him when others teased and tormented.

Knowing full-well how words can hurt, Bachman talked to the students about the power of words.

“You guys are in middle school right?” Bachman said.

“That means you are adolescents. That means you lose your mind. Hormones are kicking in. You lose your mind. Learn the power of your words and how you use them.”

Bachman asked if there were any students who felt they could not take it anymore, who felt they could not take it one more day. One by one, more than 16 students made their way to the Chillicothe Elementary Center gym floor.

“See the damage that is done by words?” Bachman asked the audience. “I bet these people were not beat up, but through texting, passing notes, e-mail and shrugs in the hallway, feel like the outcast or the oddball. I’m begging you to listen and understand. If your words inflicts pain on someone, please stop it.”

He told the audience that he believed they all knew the difference between right and wrong. He addressed the bullies in the crowd by saying that they knew who they were.

“You think the world is only for you, but be careful. The real problem is that you are scared. You are a coward. You don’t want anyone to see the real you. We want to see the real you, because it’s not a natural thing to be that way,” Bachman said.

He asked the students who would help him out of the gym if there were a fire. The students raised their hands.

“Yes, I know you would save my life because you have that spirit and that humanity. If you can do that for me, why can’t you leave each other alone?” he asked.

Bachman told the audience he once addressed 2,000 students and after the presentation was thanked with student’s hugs for more than an hour. One student even asked him to sign his shoes, noting that he ran track, and that day he would run for Bachman.

“I felt so much love, joy and respect, I felt the world was changing before my eyes.”

After the presentation he stopped at a bank. A man in a suit stopped as Bachman entered the bank and said, “Dude, honestly, you’re killing me. If I looked like that, I’d go home and kill myself.”

Bachman said looking back on that day, it is easier to remember the cruel words. He added that at the time, he told the man in the suit he was about to say the same thing to him.

But noted, “The reality is, it hurt.”

He said he often thinks of a young boy named Noah that he met in Wisconsin. Noah’s mother handed the boy to Bachman.

Noah had no legs, and no arms; a flesh-eating disease claimed his limbs. He told the students, they get to do cool things everyday.

“You get to wake up, then stand up. You get to pedal, you get to do sports, look how cool your life really is. See how simple it is. Look how blessed you are. You are going to go out and change the world — I promise you.”

Students attending the presentation were given, “Walk Like Me” bracelets, named for the documentary about Bachman’s life made with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. He will also continue to make and keep his friends on Facebook. He currently has 17,000.

Following his presentation came a standing ovation, many hugs and a few tears from students moved by his message.

Bachman will continue his speaking tour, as well as work on a reality television series.

Bachman will visit 10 Central Illinois schools in the next few days. His visit is courtesy of Sam Leman Auto Center.