The author, adventurer and GB Paralympic cyclist spoke to over 200 students, staff, parents and members of the local community about her journey to the Rio Games.
Karen Darke inspired the audience at Box Hill School with a speech framed by her belief that, ‘disability is a state of mind not a state of body’.
‘Our own minds are our biggest obstacles to living and achieving our wildest aspirations,’ she explained to pupils, staff and parents. ‘If we set our heart and mind to it then, there are no limits‘.
Karen was paralysed from the chest down at the age of 21 following an accident while sea cliff climbing, but this did not stop her from journey across Greenland’s ice cap ice cap on a sit-ski or scaling El Capitan. She also told how she hand-cycled the length of Japan and sea kayaked a 1200 mile length of the Canada-Alaska coastline.
‘To have the most impact in life we should challenge our constraints, adopt a positive mental attitude and support each other to become the best we possibly can’ said Karen.
A great reception
Dhruvi M, Year 12 student and Round Square Captain at Box Hill School said, ‘It was amazing to hear how Karen faced up to the difficulties of her disability and her absolute determination to tackle every challenge and adventure with such positivity and desire to succeed.’
It was not only Box Hill’s students who were truly touched by Karen’s Story. Rob Groves, who works with many disabled children and has been a fan of Karen for many years now thanked her at the end of the evening, commenting, ‘The three years I spent in a very dark place coming to terms with my disability were very hard for me. It was not until I saw Karen cross the winning line in the 2012 Paralympics that a light was set off in my heart. I knew from that moment I could do it too, and I had to get myself a hand-cycle.’
He continued, ‘Since then, unknown to you, you gave me back my freedom, the freedom to take control of my life and you inspire not only me but so many young disabled children who now can dream and feel the freedom that I get every time I get in my hand-cycle.’
Karen brought along her Paralympic gold medal for students and adults to see and hold during the evening. She also signed copies of her books and answered questions from the audience. .