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Spurred on to succeed

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2014
Cam Calkoen

BIG DREAMS: Takapuna man Cam Calkoen is stepping away from his work at the YES Disability Resource Centre to focus on a career in motivational speaking.

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The two things doctors said would cause him the biggest hardship have instead become the roots of Cam Calkoen's success.

Mr Calkoen was born with cerebral palsy and has limited mobility and affected speech.

But these very disabilities have inspired the 29-year-old to forge successful careers in athletics and motivational speaking.

"We don't get to choose how we come into the world, but we get to choose how we live our lives," he says.

The Takapuna man has won national and international athletics sprint titles and placed in the top 10 at the world championships.

In 2007 he retired from sport to focus on his work at the YES Disability Resource Centre.

After 10 years, Mr Calkoen is now stepping away from the Albany office to focus on his public speaking career.

The YES Disability Resource Centre is a hub of information for people with a disability living in North and West Auckland.

Mr Calkoen was instrumental in its establishment and will continue on as ambassador.

"The definition of disabled doesn't do any justice to the people that wear that badge. It means broken, but there is not one broken person out there. There are uninspired people."

From an early age Mr Calkoen has pushed the boundaries and says he is now aiming to further his speaking career in the United States.

"It's about letting go of that thing that's comfortable in life.

"The United States is one of the most competitive environments to be in."

Mr Calkoen says he is booked for two to three speaking engagements a week with audiences ranging from 10 to 2500 people.

"I'm trying to get more people to think about the legacy they can leave.

"Success isn't about going ‘yep I'm CEO of a company', it's about passing some of that success to others so they too can fulfil their dreams."

Mr Calkoen is founder of Carabiner, a youth mentoring programme that connects young members to the people they look up to.

He says the programme was inspired by a letter he received from Jeremy Wells, aka Newsboy, when he was a teenager.

"At the time I was struggling a bit with feeling really different. Mum wrote a letter to him explaining how much I looked up to him and he wrote back. What he said really changed my life - he said that difference is a good thing."

Go to camcalkoen.com for more information.

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