When an Ending Arrives in the Middle: A Story of Perseverance

Ron Turcotte 2It took only a few seconds for his career to end and his whole life to be altered. Some time would pass before the reality of this set in for him.

His life up to that point trained him to persevere. Born to a large French-Canadian Catholic family, he grew up without running water or central heating. With his brothers, he fished and hunted for food to help keep his family fed. He left school at 13 to join his father working as a lumberjack to provide for the family.

At 5’1’’ and 128 pounds, he was a small lumberjack. Though it wasn’t ideal for a  lumberjack, his size proved to be a great asset to his future. Knowing the risks of logging, his father put him to work with the horses rather than the more dangerous work in the forest. The young boy learned to be patient with the horses and build up the confidence they needed to complete the work.

The life of a lumberjack was not what he wanted. Looking around, he realized that lumberjacks work harder than most but never escape the struggle of earning a living wage. He saw it as a hard life with little reward. Not willing to live out that fate, he left the trade in the late 1950s. Eventually, he found work as a hot walker, someone who cares for race horses. His days of working with the logging horses soon paid off. When someone recommended that he become a jockey, he took their advice and soon was making money by winning competitions.

In 1971 his career reached a turning point when he met a big, clumsy, calm-tempered horse that would carry him to some of his most glorious victories. He earned a name for himself in the world of racing. Like logging, racing horses was hard work. The difference was horse racing provided the money that logging never would. And, he loved horse racing.

In 16 years, he earned over 3000 victories including the Triple Crown. Just before his 37th birthday in 1978, his career ended in a matter of seconds. Moments after leaving the starting gate, his horse lost its footing and he was hurled to the ground. He remained conscious and knew his injuries were disastrous. Later, he would learn that he was paralyzed from the waist down.

In the weeks following the accident, he remained hospitalized while undergoing numerous procedures. He grappled with the fact that he would probably not walk again and the reality that his successful career was over. While still in a back brace, he trained at the gym and made plans for how he would get around without the use of his legs. In a 1978 interview with People Magazine, he assured the reporter that his injuries would not prevent him from enjoying the outdoors or horse racing. He continues to love the sport and has become a devoted fan.

By the time he was injured, he had developed a reputation as a great horseman. He used his influence and wealth to became an advocate for jockey’s with disabilities. To this day, he raises funds for disability programs and works with the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund (PDJF).

Ron Turcotte 1If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, you probably recognize the story of Ron Turcotte who rode Secretariat to the Triple Crown victory in 1973. Turcotte and his wife now live on 400 acres near the area where he grew up. He regularly returns to Belmont, the site of his famous winning ride on Secretariat and the place where his career came to an end. In June 2014, he told a reporter for New York Daily News: “The accident is behind me,” he says. “I take what comes along. I’ve never looked back, and I’m not going to start looking back now.” One way or another, he continues to love horse racing and find ways to be involved in the sport.

“The Only Perspective That Matters”

He was a miracle baby. Born two months early in the 1950s, he spent his early days on life support in an incubator. The incubator saved his life but not his eyesight, which was lost due to the complications.

Music was both a love and talent from his earliest years. As a child, he played piano, harmonica, and drums. With a friend, he formed a duo that played at dances and parties. Ronnie White of the Miracles overheard the young boy playing harmonica and introduced him to the world of professional music. By 13, he had signed a contract with Motown and wrote a song that became a radio hit.

He was a success from the beginning. Before his teen years were over, he co-wrote much his own music and music for other groups, such as the Miracles and the Spinners. By the time he was 21, he had self-produced an album. As he explored his musical talent, he felt stifled by Motown, which had the final say in his music.

At 21, he created his own publishing company and renegotiated with Motown so he could have full artistic control over his music.  Armed with creative freedom, he paved a new way in R&B music. His innovations on the synthesizer produced a unique, new sound that topped the charts.

His formidable musical talent also gave him a platform for addressing the issues close to his heart.  At the height of his career, his music often addressed social issues such as poverty, drugs and war. His music was known for having a social conscience.

In the midst of this success, he was in a serious car accident that left him in a coma for several days. Within the year, he was back at his music career although the accident permanently damaged his sense of smell.

During his career, he has been the youngest person to have a number 1 hit, won several Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, and the Academy Award for Best Original Song among other awards. He has learned 9 instruments and is hailed for shaping the sound of pop music in the 70s and 80s.

As his sphere of influence grew, he used his wealth and position to promote causes that were important to him. Most notably, he successfully campaigned for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to become a national holiday. In addition, he sponsored a home for children with disabilities, became active in Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Charge Against Hunger Program, and the anti-apartheid movement.

In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, he was asked if his disadvantages made him the success he is today. He responded, “Do you know, it’s funny but I never thought of being blind as a disadvantage… I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistically – I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and to make something out of it.”

Generated by  IJG JPEG LibraryWho is this musician and activist? Stevie Wonder. In the 70s, his musical innovation led the way for a new sound in R&B.  His success in music gave him a public platform for speaking up about social issues. How did he achieve all this success? By recognizing that his innate talent didn’t need to be stifled by what people would often consider to be ‘disadvantages.’ Incight applauds everyone who refuses to let limiting beliefs stand in the way of their potential! Thank you, Stevie, for being an inspiration to us all.

Keep an eye out next month for the story of a man who got his start as a zombie in a Thriller reenactment and moved on to fulfill his dream of acting.

2nd Annual Golf Tournament & Handicrapshoot

Incight hosted the 2015 Incight Golf Tournament at Langdon Farms on Monday June 8th.

Big thanks to the golfers, sponsors and volunteers that joined us to make this event a huge success!

Check out this blooper real of Incight’s tournament contest hole, the Handicrapshoot TM.

The Handicrapshoot TM is a disability simulation and awareness experience. It doubles as a fundraising contest too. Teams pay to participate. Each player is assigned a physical impairment to play the par 3, 6th hole of Langdon Farms. Vision impairment goggles, noise cancelling headphones, single-handed swing, or seated in a wheelchair. After they complete the hole, they draw a from a bucket of golf balls that have a 0, 1, or 2 painted marked on it, and that number is their score for the hole.

Players love the contest and find it to be a rewarding personal discovery experience.

Handicrap TM is an anti-stigma campaign. Handicrap TM has two definitions; 1) A Limiting Belief Adopted as Reality, 2) An Unfair Judgment Based on Perception. Everyone has handicrap TM – we all learn to believe things about our self and others, that is not true and keeps us from being our best. The stigma that surrounds disability is mostly the result of handicrap TM.

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In Honor of MLK

“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”  – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


We look to the wise words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He teaches us that, in spite of our limitations, we must always improve upon ourselves.  He urges us not to focus on what we can’t do and instead do as much as we can.  Dr. King was speaking to us as individuals, as much as he was speaking to us as a society.  Despite our societal limitations, we can improve upon ourselves and as individuals we can make our society better.


We are humbled by Dr. Martin Luther King’s service to our country and to the civil right’s movement.  At Incight we believe in the potential of every human being and the potential of our society as a whole.

Homecoming Gala a Success!

October 4th, 2014 was a night not to be forgotten! Incight friends and family poured into the Kridel Ballroom at the Portland Art Museum sporting gear reminiscent of High School days – football jerseys, letterman jackets, cheerleading outfits, and homecoming dresses – to celebrate ten amazing years of Incight services at our biggest party of the year.

Executive Director Dan Friess, channeling his inner Gym Coach to MC the event – along with Student Body President Scott Hatley and Board Chairman Jerry Carleton as the Homecoming King – shared some of the amazing successes and stories from this year. We are thrilled to announce that we raised nearly $200,000 this year – thanks to our amazing family of donors! Save the Date for next year’s Gala on October 3rd, 2015!

2013 Gala Keynote Speaker John Kemp

Incight was proud to host John D. Kemp as our keynote speaker at the 2013 Fundraising Gala.

John D. Kemp is widely respected for his many achievements, both in the corporate and non-profit worlds. With personal disability experience using four prostheses, John inspires others to achieve the impossible through knowledge, experience, vision, personality, and persistence. Mr. Kemp graduated from Georgetown University in 1971 and from Washburn University School of Law in 1974. Mr. Kemp was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Washburn University School of Law in May, 2003.

John D. Kemp is the CEO of Abilities! Abilities! is dedicated to creating a world in which people with disabilities will have the same opportunities as all other people, be treated with dignity and respect, and have access to all the benefits of our society. Abililities conducts a wide range of programs and activities to support this mission including research, job training, education, assistive technology, resources for business and more. Prior to Abilities, Mr. Kemp was principal at the Washington, D.C. Law Firm of Powers, Pyles, Sutter & Verville, P.C. for ten years. In his practice, he served as the CEO of ACCSES, HalfthePlanet Foundation and as the Executive Director and General Counsel of the US Business Leadership Network. In addition, Mr. Kemp represented several technology companies interested in disability.

In October 2007, Mr. Kemp received the New Freedom Initiative Award which annually recognizes non-profits, small businesses, corporations and individuals that have demonstrated exemplary and innovative efforts in furthering the employment and workplace environment for people with disabilities.

In March 2006, Mr. Kemp received the Henry B. Betts Award, widely regarded as America’s highest honor for disability leadership and service. Presented jointly by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Betts Award recognizes a person’s work and scope of influence that have significantly improved the quality of life for people with disabilities in the past and who continues to be a force for change in the future

Appointed by Secretary Leavitt of Health and Human Services, Mr. Kemp served on the Medicaid Commission from July 2005 through December 2006. Additionally, he served on the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities (2007-2010) which guides the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the Agency for International Development (USAID) in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy and assistance with respect to people with disabilities.

John D. Kemp has led, partnered, worked for and served on the Boards of Directors of many of the leading disability and nonprofit organizations such as: United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Very Special Arts, Independent Sector, The Abilities Fund Inc., Disability Service Providers of America, Easter Seals, Goodwill Industries of Greater Washington, and the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, to name a few. In 1995, Mr. Kemp co-founded AAPD and continues to be active with the organization today. During his tenure with Kemp & Young, Inc., John D. Kemp developed disability employment management training and consulting services.

A Successful 2012 Career Expo!

Yesterday Incight, along with Rise, and Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation Services, hosted our annual Tapping Fresh Talent career expo.

Key Tapping Fresh Talent Career Expo highlights:

  • Over 464 job seekers with disabilities attended.
  • 27 employers filled booths
  • These numbers represent double the employers and 150% growth in job seekers over last year’s event.

To read the full Fox 12 news story, access the link below: