Tuitel visits during Disability Awareness Month

Wed, 2012-07-25 09:29 -- univcomm
In observance of Disability Awareness Month, the Anderson University campus will host Johnnie Tuitel, renown speaker and advocate for persons with disabilities. Tuitel (pronounced "title") has spent his life helping people with disabilities become more mobile and educating audiences about acceptance. To many, Johnnie Tuitel's disability is a struggle. But to Johnnie, it's just the way things are. Much of his positive attitude can be attributed to his upbringing. Tuitel will be the featured guest during chapel/convocation in Reardon Auditorium on March 27 at 10 a.m. The public is invited to attend this free event.

"Life is a gift on a daily basis. Take the focus off yourself and put it on what truly matters," says Tuitel. "That understanding will change your life forever."

In 1963, doctors told Johnnie's Dutch-immigrant parents that their son had cerebral palsy. "He'll be a burden," they said. "He won't be able to lead a normal life." Ignoring the doctors, the Tuitels took their baby home to love him and to raise him. They encouraged him to focus on his abilities and to try anything and everything. Yes, there were cuts and bruises along the way, but they just increased his determination and toughened his resolve. Each struggle was a stepping-stone to a higher, yet undefined goal.

The goal became clearer in 1974 when Johnnie became the first student with a disability to be mainstreamed into the public school system. He not only completed public schooling, but went on to receive a bachelor's degree from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. And all this from a young man who wasn't supposed to be able to lead a "normal" life.

To help young persons better understand disabilities and the value of acceptance, Tuitel co-wrote The Gun Lake Adventure Series, a group of four books that features a fictionalized version of Tuitel named Johnnie Jacobson. An uncommon protagonist, Jacobson is a preteen sleuth who, from his wheel chair, leads a group of friends on mystery-solving adventures.

In 1995, Tuitel and business partner George Ranville started the nonprofit organization Alternatives in Motion with the mission to provide wheel chairs for people who, for insurance or other reasons, cannot afford them. Since that time, Alternatives in Motion has donated more than 300 wheelchairs and raised more than $1.4 million in cash and gifts-in-kind donations. It is the only organization of its kind to pay 100 percent of the costs associated with purchasing a wheelchair.

"We have to keep doing this because nobody else is," says Tuitel. "It is everyone's responsibility to help others get what they need to become productive members of society."

In 1997, former President Gerald R. Ford presented Tuitel with the WOOD TV 8 Unsung Hero Award. Tuitel has also received the National Easter Seals Society's prestigious EDI (Equality, Dignity, Independence) Award and the United Way of Michigan's Speaker of the Year Award. Michigan Gov. John Engler recently re-appointed Tuitel to the state's commission on disability concerns.

As a speaker, Tuitel has given hundreds of inspirational presentations to sports teams, schools and universities, charitable organizations and businesses. During his presentation, Tuitel showcases his trademark humor and wit as he tells his life story, filled with challenge and triumph.

For review copies of the books or to request an interview with Johnnie Tuitel, please contact Tap Shoe Productions at (888) 302-7463, or by e-mail at georan@tapshoe.com. Speaker, author, entrepreneur, visionary, family man and world-traveler, Johnnie Tuitel is a man who thinks outside the wheelchair. And he helps others to focus on life's potentials rather than its limitations.

Anderson University is a private, four-year, Christian liberal arts institution of approximately 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, the university offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs of study in business, education and theology.