Monona school teaches love Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Mar. 15, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
ihm teach love
Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) School in Monona Principal Callie Meiller stands with speaker and Paralympian Lloyd Bachrach as IHM kicked off its “Teach Love” campaign. (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MONONA -- As the Paralympic Games are being held from March 9 to 18 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, students at Immaculate Heart of Mary School (IHM) in Monona heard from a former Paralympian.

The talk by Lloyd Bachrach, called “Yes, You Can!” was given during the school’s kick-off of its “Teach Love” campaign, which also included the students, faculty, and staff performing 10,000 acts of kindness around the school.

‘Yes, You Can!’

Bachrach, a motivational speaker and Paralympian who, while born with a congenital bone deficiency which left his legs unusually small, was able to overcome challenges, live out his dreams, and participate in sports at many levels, including the Paralympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 on the United States sitting volleyball team.

The Paralympic Games, both summer and winter, involve athletes with a range of disabilities. They are held almost immediately following the respective Olympic Games.

Sporting his artificial legs, Bachrach told the students, “I have a disability” and it “makes me a little bit different . . . I use a cane to help me walk.”

With the artificial legs, Bachrach is five-foot-eight inches tall. Without them, he is about three-foot-nine.

Bachrach said his talk would be about “the challenges I had when I was growing up, but also about the success that I’ve had.”

“You know that in life, we all have challenges,” he added, “we’re all trying to succeed at something.”

Overcoming challenges

Bachrach told about when he was born with the bone deficiency. His parents were told he may struggle in life and he should be put away into an institution.

As a baby, he learned to crawl by using his arms to help his whole body move.

He told the story of the principal at a public grade school, a “dreammaker,” who let him go to school there in a time before the Americans with Disabilities Act helped different able students in school.

“Differently abled” was the term Bachrach preferred to use to describe himself and others like him, instead of “handicapped” or “disabled”.

“Aren’t we all differently abled?” he asked. “Don’t we all do things our own special way. There’s no one way to do anything, but there’s many ways to do everything.”

Thanks to his grade school gym teacher, another “dreammaker,” he discovered sports could be his outlet to being successful despite having a disability.

He played baseball as a child, getting on base nearly every time being walked, and ran the bases using his arms to help him.

Bachrach took his artificial legs off and showed the students his baseball running abilities.

He first got his artificial legs when he was 13 years old. The biggest reason for getting them at that time -- “girls!” he said, and wanting to be able to dance with them.

In high school, Bachrach participated in gymnastics, and competed his way into the Illinois state championships his senior year where he placed fifth.

He demonstrated some of his gymnastics abilities and “cool circle tricks” on the floor during his talk, showing the students how he was successful in the sport despite his disability.

Unable to be an Olympic gymnast, he found a way to participate in the Paralympic Games.

His U.S. team finished in 11th of 12th in sitting volleyball in 1996.

“Thank you, Argentina!” he exclaimed.

He also shared about another success in his life -- his wife and two daughters -- all of whom, Bachrach said, are able-bodied.

Following God’s plan

“God put me into this body for a reason,” Bachrach said. He said that reason is to be a witness to others on how to overcome challenge and be successful.

“Once you figure out why God put you here, success will chase you,” he said.

Keys to success

Bachrach shared his five keys to success that have “helped me to overcome the challenges I have” and encouraged everyone that “if you practice the same five keys, I think they would help you the same way they helped me”:

1. Build high self-esteem: “You believe in yourself and you feel good about yourself and take pride in yourself and pride in what you do.”

2. Focus with a positive attitude: “Our attitude, our thoughts are like a magnet, so what we think we attract to our lives.”

3. Set goals: “Give your brain a place to aim . . . set a goal high so you reach for it . . . keep expanding on your limits.”

4. Have perseverance: “Don’t give up and don’t quit . . . find out what it takes to get the job done, but don’t quit. When you quit is when you fail.”

5. Take care of your health: Body, mind, and spirit, “Without your health you can’t enjoy life.”

Bachrach concluded by saying, “The only limitations that we have as people, are the limitations we place on ourselves . . . I believe in you and when you believe in you, you’re going to live your dreams.”

For more on Lloyd Bachrach and his program, “Yes, You Can!” go to

More ways of Teaching Love

Other parts of the Teach Love campaign include the PALS program, in which Principal Meiller spends time with the students praying and building community.

Some of the activities focus on being kind and collaborative.

Each class is also reading the book Be Kind by local author Pat Miller.

Inside, she signed it with, “Thank you for your 10,000 acts of kindness.”

There will also be a self-esteem presentation later in the school year.

In the summer, IHM Parish will be hosting a Love Begins Here mission trip, in which many middle schoolers are expected to take part.

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