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No Such Thing as Handicapped

"Art Wallman"

Art Wallman of radio station CKSW in Swift Current, Saskatchewan admits he is pretty blunt when asked what young people today should do to get ahead in a career or business endeavour:

"Getoffyour butt andget itdone! I dontfeel the worldowesmealiving andIdon'tfeel itowesanyoneelseoneeither. Ifyou have goals, you should go after them. You can reach them regardless of the circumstances."

Art Wallman can afford to give that kind of blunt advice because he is the embodiment of grit and guts. He was born in a two-room shack near Wadina, Saskatchewan more than six decades ago, the victim of spastic paralysis. For the first nine years of his life he could only crawl on his hands and knees.

One of 10 children in a poor family, he received no formal education but taught himself to read and write and play several musical instruments.

After the failure of the family farm, the remaining brothers dispersed and Art became a ward of the Provincial Welfare Department. This was in 1950. He moved to Regina and was sent to school for the first time; he was 20 years old and in grade one. He persevered and next entered Regina College. He stayed at a boarding house and was given a $14 a month allowance. Hardly enough to have a good time on.

"To supplement my income some friends and I formed a band called 'The Happy Roamin' Rangers' and we played at dances and weddings allover the province."

Art has limited use of his legs even after more than a dozen operations at the Shriner's Hospital in Winnipeg but he manages very well on crutches. It was while on those crutches crossing an icy street in Swift Current that his whole life changed.

Friends had told me I should try out as a radio announcer since I had a good voice and a wide knowledge ofcountry music. I was crossing the street when 1fell down. A man stopped his car and helped me up. He asked what the heck was a man on crutches doing on an icy street. I told him 1 was going to askfor a job at the radio station. He was aghast. 'No radio station is going to hire a cripple,' he said.

"Well I guess I fooled him. I've been in the broadcast industry now for 30 years and still going strong.

"I wrote my life story in a book called "A Good Day To Be Alive" because that's the way I feel about life. I always get a real charge out of this business of living. I don't think I've missed much in life. As a matter offact, I have done a lot of things so-called physically-equipped people haven't done. Once you've considered the alternative, every day is a good day to be alive. "

Although he had to overcome so many disabilities, Art rejects the word handicapped when applied to people like himself.

"I never felt handicapped. It is not a word in my vocabulary. I think it's a state ofmind. Ifyou want to be afailure, you can be one. Ifyou want to be a success, you can be that too. Your disability has got to be pretty bad ifyou can't accomplish something out of it. "

Art has received many plaques and awards for community service. He married his wife Marlene the same year the Saskatchewan Country Music Association presented him with its prestigious "Heritage Award". In November of the same year he was given the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, the highest honour the Province can bestow on one of its citizens.

It's Art's bright positive outlook on life that has allowed him to "get off his butt" and make a success of himself. His story would fill a book, and it does. I suggest you read it if you want to become as inspired as I am about this Canadian Achiever.

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