A world class mountain climber paid a visit to an east Texas university with a message of keeping dreams alive. Tom Whittaker made history in 1998 when he became the first disabled climber ever to reach the top of mount Everest. He visited the university, to support work which is developing the same kind of technology that gave him back his life. A simple message to the Bio-medical Prosthetics Department at Letourneau University, from a world class mountaineer.
"You should never ever ever give up on your dream" said Whittaker.
Tom Whittaker has scaled six of the world's seven highest summits, all with a prosthetic leg. And he's the first disabled person to summit mount Everest, at over 29-thousand feet. He lost his foot in an auto accident, but says he would not let it stop him.
"People said 'Whittaker what are you going to do now' and I basically said, 'well. I'm going to rediscover what I'm going to do as a disabled person'," Tom says.
Students with Letourneau Engineering Global Solutions, also known as "LEGS", which provide prosthetics to third world countries, were visibly impacted by Whittaker's visit, seeing how what they study really gives people their lives back.
"Seeing how it can impact someones life like we were in Kenya this summer fitting patients and seeing the difference it makes the smiles" he said.
Whittaker is co-founder of "7 Summits Foundation", a non-profit organization involved with funding the LEGS project.
"My big interest is to go into third world countries and to help these people get back to life and they need a prosthetic that's affordable," said Whittaker.
"Giving them mobility gives them the ability to provide some type of valuable function therefore being able to make a living therefore being able to develop their life its not just about walking its about the ability to develop a life again" said Dr. Roger Gonzalez, director of the bio-medical prosthetics department.
Letourneau is scheduling another overseas trip in march, this time to Bangladesh, to fit prosthetic limbs to candidates there.