Breaking down life's
boundariesCareer forged in
MAKING HIS WAY: ONE MAN'S JOURNEY TO THRIVE AND
By BILL MOOR
Sixth of seven parts
Maybe it's when Brett Eastburn jumps from his wheelchair onto
the top of a nearby table that garners the biggest oooohs and
"And you probably think I have this giant red button underneath
me that catapults me like that," he says to his high school
Or maybe it's when he draws a great likeness of a cartoon cat by
holding the marker in his mouth.
"Man, this stinks," he says of the marker ink. "But then a couple
more minutes of smelling it, I won't even care."
Or maybe it's when he throws a football with a perfect spiral off
his stub of a right arm.
"Who says it's all in your wrist?" he asks.
It doesn't really matter when he does it, but 33-year-old Brett
Eastburn, born without arms or legs, always wins over the crowd.
They cheer, they laugh, they listen to his message when moments
earlier, they might have only gawked.
"I would give you a thumbs up, but I might hurt myself," he says
in response to their appreciative clatter.
Born in North Liberty, educated in the John Glenn school
corporation and now living in Tyner, Brett is a motivational speaker
who travels the country telling audiences that you can do just about
anything you set your mind to.
He then breaks three boards with a karate chop to prove it once
Brett, who is still known as The Stub by some of his old high
school buddies, has a right stub that only goes to just above where
an elbow would be ... a left stub only a couple of inches long ... a
left stub for a right leg that goes almost to where a knee would be
... and virtually no part of a leg on his right side.
It is amazing what he can do with his stubs, the crook of his
neck and his mouth.
"I've been lucky," he says. "I was born this way. Had I had my
arms and legs amputated after I had gotten used to them, it would be
a lot more difficult to learn to do things."
He is quite an inspiration to those of all ages, students and
Giving at least 150 motivational speeches a year, he usually
starts out by showing off his pretty wife, Chrisa, his loyal service
dog, Murray, and his fancy electric wheelchair that can go 7.5 miles
And then for the next hour, he captivates everyone who watches
"One of my goals is for people to look at me in a completely
different way at the end of the speech than they did at the
beginning," he says.
He and Chrisa run their No Boundaries Inc. speaking bureau out of
their home in Tyner, a tiny town between Plymouth and Walkerton and
a 15-minute drive from his parents' home in North Liberty .
His motto is No Arms, No Legs, No Handicaps. (The Web site of his
business is http://www.bretteastburn.com/.)
Brett, who hasn't used prosthetic arms or legs since he was in
third grade, stands 2-10 1/2.
"And don't forget that half-inch," he says. "That's
Maybe it reminds him he doesn't do anything in a halfway
"And Brett is a ham and a half, too," says one of his longtime
friends, Chad Kling.
Brett watches the faces of people around him and knows when they
are a little leery of his presence.
"That's when you need a good ice-breaker or a firm handshake," he
Or a shake with his right stub, at least.
He can be self-effacing with his jokes and has even started to
perform at amateur hour at South Bend's Funny Bone on some Thursday
Brett holds out his longer stub to show his audience how
difficult it would be for him to hitchhike. And then he demonstrates
how he would salute a passing motorist by holding his stub straight
up in the air -- an obscene gesture if he had at least one
"And my teachers thought I was waving at them when I did that,"
he says amidst a roar of laughter.
Kids who look at him with bewilderment before listening to his
presentation often want his autograph afterward.
Everyone learns to look into the twinkle of his eye.
Once in a restaurant with a few of his buddies, Brett studied the
menu while the waitress asked the others what they thought Brett
They told her to ask Brett himself.
When she did, as if talking to a toddler, Brett pointed to an
item on the menu and blabbered, "Hanahanahana."
And then he added in a normal voice, "I would like a Coke with
The waitress learned a lesson that day.
Brett likes to teach others to open their minds when it comes to
those who are different.
"I want people to know that nobody is better than I am and I am
no better than anyone else," he says.
He has no arms. He has no legs.
He does have quite a message -- which come with both mirth and
"I love who I am," he says.
All 2-foot-10 1/2 of him.
"And don't forget the half."
Next Article: The dreams won't die. For previous stories in
this series, see southbendtribune.com.