What’s Within You Is Stronger Than What’s In Your Way
No one believes this more than our speakers today: David Shurna and Tom Lillig. Bestselling authors of the book “What’s Within You“, these social entrepreneurs are co-founders of No Barriers, a nonprofit organization that helps people reach their fullest potential, no matter the obstacles they face. You may have seen their work highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the USA Today, the Today Show, National Public Radio or any of the hundreds of news sources that have covered them over the nearly 20 years since they founded the organization.
As board president, Tom Lillig has helped oversee the growth of No Barriers as a leading organization for unleashing human potential. A gifted storyteller who connects at the heart level, Tom has crafted groundbreaking campaigns for numerous global companies and organizations from the US Mens and Women’s Soccer Team to the US Peace Corps. Tom runs the Chicago office of Stone Ward, a creative agency dedicated to building good. He lives in the Chicago area with his wife and three children.
Gretchen is one of the most decorated female veterans in US History. She was a successful senior military intelligence analyst and paratrooper, operating in several high tempo and dangerous missions around the world including Grenada, Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In 2006, while working as a sergeant major in Afghanistan, a mortar blast threw her into a concrete bunker wall. She suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and lost 95% of her hearing, ending her career in military service. Gretchen received the Bronze Star for valor and heroism in combat.
Gretchen shares compelling and riveting stories and experiences, going from being the highest enlisted rank in the Army to traversing through life after a serious combat injury. Her insightful and poignant perspective offers a view into a window of today’s warriors, and offers nuggets of wisdom and impactful takeaways. She shares her story with a unique style of encouragement, hope and humor.
Gretchen’s story is featured in the new 2020 bestselling book, What’s Within You, and in August 2020, Gretchen and her adventure racing team, Team UNBROKEN, were featured in the “World’s Toughest Race” on Amazon Prime, hosted by Bear Grylls and produced by Mark Burnett. Team UNBROKEN is the first totally disabled team to ever compete in this arduous adventure race. Their desire is to bring awareness that disabilities do not define or limit what is possible with hard work, grit, gumption, and a rope team.
J.R. Martinez is an actor, best-selling author, motivational speaker, advocate, and wounded U.S. Army veteran. J.R.’s career path has been incredible, and perhaps even a bit improbable. Once a high school football player from a small town in Georgia, the only son of a single working mother who emigrated from El Salvador, J.R.’s trajectory is nothing if not surprising. Even to him.
After high school, he joined the army. J.R. was proud to serve, as a way to give something back to a country that had already given so much to him and to his family. In March of 2003, J.R. was deployed to Iraq. On April 5, he was driving a humvee in Karbala when his front left tire hit a roadside bomb. The three other soldiers were ejected from the burning vehicle, but J.R. was trapped inside.
Having suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to 34 percent of his body, J.R. was immediately evacuated to a local medic station in Iraq and then on to Landstuhl, Germany, for immediate care. He spent 34 months in recovery and had 34 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery in the eleven years since his injury.
During his recovery, a nurse asked him to speak to a burn patient, who had just seen his body for the first time and had become withdrawn. After a brief visit, J.R. realized he had a positive impact on this patient and decided to use his own experiences to help others. He continued to visit patients every day sharing his story and listening to theirs. He learned that inspiration is often a two-way street.
Martinez now travels the world spreading his message of resilience and optimism. He devotes himself to showing others the true value of making the most of every situation.
He has spoken to troops at various bases around the world, as well as to other groups including universities, non-profits, and Fortune 500 companies. His story is unique, but his message is universal: your path in life is decided by your own ability to adapt and overcome.
However, many also know J.R. from his TV appearances. He’s starred and co-starred on a number of shows including daytime drama All My Children, action series SAF3, and Army Wives. In 2013, J.R. inspired a nation on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars when he and partner, Smirnoff, were named season champions.
Martinez is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit,” a memoir about how he was able to take his own personal tragedy, and turn it into an inspiration for others.
In 2011, Mandy won VSA’s Top Young Soloist Award and lived a personal dream of performing at the Kennedy Center in DC. She continues to perform around the United States and has been recently featured on NBC Nightly News, Katie Couric, Canada AM, The Steve Harvey Show, and the Los Angeles Times. In addition to performing and speaking, Mandy has become an ambassador to both No Barriers USA and Invisible Disabilities with a mission to encourage, inspire and assist others to break through their personal barriers.
In 2017, Mandy Harvey’s audition on America’s Got Talent consisted of singing her original song “Try” while playing the ukulele. Moved by her performance, Simon Cowell pressed his Golden Buzzer to send Mandy straight to the Quarterfinals. She went on to make the Finals and placed 4th overall.
Erik is one of the most prominent speakers in the U.S. and internationally. Many of the biggest companies have hired him once and then hired him again and again, to include Google, Apple, Intel, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Wells Fargo, CoBank, BDO, Accenture, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Philips, Pfizer, Merck, Abbott, Amgen, Pepsi, J&J, Wal-Mart, Coke, American Airlines, Toro, P&G, General Mills, GE, AT&T, IHG, Cox Enterprises and many more.
Erik is best known as the blind man who climbed Mt. Everest and was a Time Magazine cover story. His high visibility, in this country and abroad, stems from:
Luis is the founder of the World Happiness Fest and President of the World Happiness Foundation. Author of The Exponentials of Happiness. www.teohlab.com and Director of the Gross Global Happiness program at the United Nations University for Peace.
Former Global Brand & Marketing director at Deloitte, and an important piece for this firm to become the number one in professional services worldwide, he is the author of Brands and Rousers and collaborates and teaches Reputation and Brand Management at IMD, IESE , ESADE, IE and EOI. He is also frequent guest as a keynote speaker at numerous events around the world to discuss topics related to the brand and how Think Holistic, Act Personal is the key to help companies succeed in today’s global economy.
Luis loves to converge science with spirituality, art with gastronomy and everything necessary to raise awareness and perspective of human beings, determined to bring the tools that make us happy to millions of people around the world.
Survivor. Advocate. Storyteller. Disruptor
Heather Zoccali is the current founder and director of the NB caregiver program, whose mission is to encourage and provide tools for critical and often-forgotten self-care, and individual empowerment in order to live a No Barriers life. Additionally Heather is co-host for The Brutally Beautiful podcast which is a podcast intended to help stories rise, specifically stories that shed light on the strength and beauty that culminate from the brutal moments.
“Life is brutally beautiful, but seeing and creating the beautiful bits are up to us” ~Heather Zoccali
“Heather is an outstanding speaker with an enormous and generous heart. I have heard her speak many times in groups large and small. Her superpower is that her words come directly to you from her heart: There’s no hidden motive, there’s no glossy storybook ending, there’s no BS — it’s the real person who is there with one goal only — to help other real people on whatever journey of adversity they are on. With each word, she brings her depth of experience, wisdom and heartfelt care to her audiences. You will definitely shed a tear and you definitely will walk away in awe of this woman.”
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