Year 7 and 8 boys at The Manchester Grammar School (MGS) were treated to an inspirational talk this week from charity fundraiser John Willis.
The 54-year-old Cambridge graduate is on a tour of 50 schools around the UK promoting his new charity ‘Power2Inspire’, MGS is the 12th school on his mammoth list.
His intention is to attract sponsorship by swimming 1000m in the pools at each school he visits, something he will complete within 100 days. He hopes each school will raise at least £500 for the charity.
John who was born with only partial arms and legs visited MGS not just to promote his charity initiative, but also to give a talk in which he helped pupils understand how they can achieve big dreams and help others without letting their own restrictions hinder them. He said: “The really driving thought throughout my life has been ‘Don’t be a victim, just get on with it! Our ambitions are only limited by our own thought processes, really.”
John’s ‘can-do’ attitude was at the heart of his talk and he says it is something he enjoyed relaying to students: “It’s an absolute privilege to have been at MGS and to interact with such open and enquiring minds. The quality of questions on the day illustrated just how engaged pupils were in a really respectful and empowering way.”
Those questions were varied and saw pupils delve into John’s past and learn more about his motivation. He said that his parents, as well as others such as Nelson Mandela and Billy Beaumont, are people he looks up to.
John was also asked about his disability and explained to students that he had tried in the past to overcome the issue with the use of artificial limbs, but soon found that he was far more stable without, saying: “I gradually learnt to be more dexterous with my ‘paws’ as my daughters call them, so didn’t need the artificial options.”
Concluded Susan James, Head of Lower School at MGS, who arranged the talk: “The boys haven't stopped talking about John. With a Cambridge degree amongst other things, he really challenged their perceptions of what a successful person should look like. His open, frank and mischievous character made what he said compelling for everyone.
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