Ms. Peterman’s fourth grade class at Lulu Ross Elementary were visited by Mr. Lanspery on Tuesday, May 29 as he discussed disability awareness and community involvement through volunteerism. Mr. Lanspery began by introducing his friend Traverse, who he met through the RSVP Big Bother Big Sister mentor organization. In addition to being a mentee to Mr. Lanspery, Traverse also joins Mr. Lanspery as he promotes disability awareness in classrooms throughout the Milford School District.
“Visiting classrooms gives me the opportunity to show students that people do things differently when they are disabled,” commented Mr. Lanspery. “It’s about showing them what my abilities are, not my disabilities.”
Donald Lanspery has been a digital amputee since 1999 when he had all of his fingers and toes removed from complication of an illness. Feeling very sick after teaching swimming lessons one evening, Donald called his doctor and was rushed to the nearest hospital. While in transport, he went into a coma which would last three weeks. During that time, all of Mr. Lanspery’s organs stopped working except for his heart and he was given a 10% chance to survive. Unable to be stabilized for transport to John Hopkins Hospital, due to gangrene in his extremities, his family decided to amputate his fingers and toes in order to save Donald’s life.
What was later diagnosed as septicemia, a bacterial blood infection, Mr. Lanspery would have to relearn how to live his life without any fingers or toes. Nine months of therapy and unconditional determination were necessary for Donald to begin to walk, talk and perform daily activities for himself.
Telling the story behind his disability to Ms. Peterman’s class was the first step in bringing light to disability awareness to the children. Mr. Lanspery explained to the fourth grade class that his therapist was the individual that helped him return to a state of normalcy by creating tools that he used to preform every day tasks such as getting dressed, playing cards and driving.
“Do people look at me different, absolutely,” stated Mr. Lanspery. “Do I care, absolutely not. Being different is perfectly okay.”
Within a year after his amputation and recovery, Donald began visiting schools where he lived in Maryland to talk about disability awareness. Reading in his local Baltimore newspaper about a state funded program that brought disabled individuals into area classrooms, he called the organization and was invited to observe. When the program was short one speaker on the day he showed up, Donald took the opportunity to speak to the children and has continued his disability awareness in classrooms ever since.
Living in Harrington now, Mr. Lanspery has visited Milford School District classrooms for two years and has seen hundreds of local children.
“What is really rewarding is when kids see me outside the classroom and come up and say hi to me,” commented Donald. “I show the kids that there is nothing wrong with being different and to have a positive attitude.”
Mr. Lanspery hopes that by reaching enough children about disability awareness through this program he can encourage state government to adopt additional programs like these. A huge supporter of volunteerism, Donald encourages every individual to volunteer their time to help our local children.
“Every week in a different school I see that this makes a difference in their lives,” commented Mr, Lanspery. “Whether you are disabled or not, everyone has something to offer a child.”