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July 1, 2005

Breaking down life's boundaries

Career forged in motivational speaking

MAKING HIS WAY: ONE MAN'S JOURNEY TO THRIVE AND ENLIGHTEN

By BILL MOOR
Tribune Staff Writer

Julia Nault, left, and Hannah Werner enjoy one of Brett Eastburn's recent speeches with their classmates at Washington Township High School.



Eastburn scores a takedown on sixth-grader Jeremy Huber in a wrestling demonstration during a motivational speech at Washington Township High School near Valparaiso, Ind.

Tribune Photos/SHAYNA BRESLIN





Chrisa Eastburn gives her husband, Brett, a playful kiss.


If you go

Brett Eastburn will be the keynote speaker at the third annual joint YMCA-Home Management Resources fundraiser banquet Aug. 26 at Century Center.

The festivities also include a cash bar, silent auction, a dinner and an oral auction by Jason Kaser, one of Brett's classmates. Admission is $40. For more information, call 233-3486.



Other stories in this series: Making his way: One man's journey to thrive and enlighten

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 aaaaahs.

"And you probably think I have this giant red button underneath me that catapults me like that," he says to his high school audience.

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 again.

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 adults alike.

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 an hour.

And then for the next hour, he captivates everyone who watches him.

"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 important."

Maybe it reminds him he doesn't do anything in a halfway manner.

"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 says.

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 nights.

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 finger.

"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 might want.

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 that, too."

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 meaning.

"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.

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