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Overcoming adversity is focus of community program

March 25, 2011

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Photo of Roger Crawford.KALAMAZOO--The first physically challenged athlete to receive full certification by the United States Professional Tennis Association as a tennis professional will be the featured speaker during Kalamazoo County's 13th annual Respecting Differences talk Tuesday and Wednesday, March 29-30.

This year's talk, "Challenges Are Inevitable. Defeat Is Optional," will be presented by Roger Crawford, a physically challenged athlete who became an NCAA Division I tennis champion and the subject of the Emmy Award-winning movie, "In a New Light."

The program will be presented at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, and repeated at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 30, in Kalamazoo Public School's Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave. Both sessions are open to the public free of charge on a first-come, first-seated basis and will include on-stage American Sign Language translators.

Crawford, who was born with a rare genetic disorder that affected all four of his limbs, has been recognized by Sports Illustrated as "one of the most accomplished physically challenged athletes in history." During his Respecting Differences presentation, he will share his personal story and how he has lived out the principles of perseverance, optimism and overcoming adversity. He also will demonstrate how to maintain a positive attitude, create possibilities and cultivate courage when dealing with change in life and in the workplace.

A highly sought after speaker, Crawford has a remarkable ability to motivate, enlighten and equip others despite challenges. He has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame in recognition of his highly successful speaking career and is a member of the Hall of Fame for People with Disabilities.

Crawford has appeared on television shows such as "Larry King Live," "Good Morning America" and "Inside Edition" and also has been profiled in print by publications such as USA Today, Men's Fitness and the Wall Street Journal.

A bestselling author, Crawford's work has been translated into 17 languages. His books include "Playing From the Heart," "How High Can You Bounce?" and "Think Again!" All three will be available for purchase and signing at both of his Kalamazoo appearances.

The annual Respecting Differences program began in 1999 as a collaboration between the city of Kalamazoo and WMU to heighten awareness of diversity issues in the workplace.

This year's event is being sponsored by six area employers. In addition to WMU and Kalamazoo, they are the city of Portage, Kalamazoo County, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The program also is being supported by the Kalamazoo Human Resources Management Association.

As in years past, Respecting Differences focuses attention on a local organization that relates to the interests or identity of the featured speaker. The Kalamazoo Wraps project is the highlighted organization for 2011.

Kalamazoo Wraps assists youth and families who often require a variety of community services and resources. The organization does this by "wrapping" case workers, schools, translators and other providers around a family so all members get the support they need.

For more information about the 2011 Respecting Differences program, Roger Crawford or his Kalamazoo talk, contact: the city of Portage's Rob Boulis at boulisr@portagemi.gov or (269) 324-9228 or the city of Kalamazoo's Erica Hicks at hickse@kalamazoocity.org or (269) 337-8470.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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