Steve Ferreira is a man of abilities
June 26, 2012
By Daron Anderson
Advocate, entrepreneur and world athlete are a few titles that 23-year-old Steve Ferreira holds. Most recently, Issaquah’s Ferreira added international motivational speaker to his résumé.
In April, Steve Ferreira traveled to his birthplace, Taiwan, to speak at numerous schools and events about living with athetoid cerebral palsy.
“I am really passionate about getting disabled rights, so I try my hardest to get the word out that disabled people are like any other people, so why treat us differently?” he said.
The Christian Salvation Service, a nonprofit adoption association in Taipei, invited Ferreira to Taiwan as part of their efforts to promote anti-bullying. CSS is the organization that Ferreira’s parents worked through to adopt him and his twin sister Emily.
Ferreira traveled to Taiwan with Emily and his mother, Mary Ann. While there, he spoke at two high schools, Dong Hwa University and a charity fashion show where proceeds benefited CSS. He said the experience was amazing and he hopes to return.
After birth complications, Ferreira was diagnosed with athetoid cerebral palsy. According to About-cerebral-palsy.org, this variation of cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the areas of the brain that process the “signals that enable smooth, coordinated movements as well as maintaining body posture.”
However, Ferreira’s condition has never hindered his drive or passion for life.
At 15, he founded a company, Beyond Disabilities, to share his story, motivate others and promote the idea that people with disabilities can participate in life like any person. Now, Ferreira balances his company with his studies at Bellevue College, where he is studying communications and exercise science.
In addition to his trip to Taiwan, Ferreira has spoken at local schools, church groups and Rotary clubs.
Lindzee Alvarez, a health teacher at Interlake Senior High School, met Ferreira after he emailed her advertising his motivational-speaking presentation in 2006. Interested in his point of view, Alvarez invited Ferreira to speak to her class.
“I really admire that he doesn’t let anything stop him,” Alvarez wrote in an email. “I really like his no-nonsense attitude about his life. He doesn’t dwell on what he ‘can’t’ do … but focuses on what he can.”
Ferreira said he believes that disabled individuals are just like anyone else, they simply do things at a different pace. In fact, he has many athletic accomplishments, including a gold medal at the 2010 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation World Games for discus throwing. He also was a part of the Seattle Jr. Sonics Wheelchair team in 2006 and 2007. His teammates voted him the most inspirational player both years.
“I just try my hardest, think positively and don’t give up,” he said.
As a dedicated athlete, Ferreira starts his day with a 7 a.m. workout at his local fitness center. One of his goals is to make it to the 2012 Paralympics in London.
“Every morning I do 2,000 reps of abs,” Ferreira said. “I’m training hard. I also train at Bellevue College with my coaches, so they have me training non-stop.”
Thornton “TA” Perry, one of Ferreira’s coaches at Bellevue College, said Ferreira is an accomplished athlete despite his physical limitations.
“I’ve coached football, basketball and track and field. … If people I had coached had the dedication and focus that Steven exhibits, I would have coached a whole lot of Olympic champions,” Perry said.
Ferreira is also focused on joining leadership boards of local organizations like the Arc of King County, which, according to its website, is the oldest nonprofit organization that works to serve people with disabilities.
In addition, Ferreira has partnered with Health First and Seattle Adaptive Sports to create an event for disabled children for one of SAS’s CREW Youth Social monthly gatherings. Ferreira said he hopes the event will inspire disabled children to become interested in nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. He also plans to include a wheelchair basketball game and have children both with and without disabilities play and interact with each other.
On the Web
Learn more about Steve Ferreira and his mission at www.beyond-disabilities.com.
A true champion
Alvarez said she is grateful Ferreira contacted her and has enjoyed watching him grow.
“I’ve seen his presentation evolve from being a student speaker in high school, now as a young man,” she wrote. “I’m so proud of the person he’s become. I’ve had many students thank me for bringing him in.”
His mother said she is proud of her son and his accomplishments.
“He is tenacious because he never gives up, hard-working because of all that he does and caring because he really cares about other people,” she said. “I’m proud of the way he has turned his life around to take all the negatives in life and turn them into positives.”
Daron Anderson is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.