3 minute read

Sheer Will

Will Kirkaldy talks perseverence with 2,500 students across CT

Kids are open to a whole host of influences, they are an open book ready to be written. From their parents to their schools to the social media trends, who gets to influence what gets written is important – we want to instill values like perseverance and strength through adversity. Will Kirkaldy had no other choice but to persevere, and from his lived experience he told his story to students throughout the state.

As part of the continuing partnership between CCM and Dalio Education, schools around the state participated in the speaking tour “Sheer Will,” where Kirkaldy encouraged students to find the right path. More than 2,500 students heard Kirkaldy’s message that was presented in 15 venues across the state - from public high schools and middle schools to after-school programs and social service providers -- from May 16-20.

A former NBA prospect, he first picked up a basketball to get away from bullies in his neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Wearing jeans and not even having a pair of suitable sneakers, he made the team in 4th grade, setting up a path of success.

But adversity didn’t stop there. Despite a promising high school career, he would stand accused of rape that occurred during a recruiting trip to Syracuse. Though offered a plea bargain that would force him to admit guilt, he proclaimed his innocence and, eventually, all charges were dropped. Unfortunately, his largest battle would still be to come. He struggled to find a spot on a college basketball squad before being accepted by West Virginia University. His freshman year he was travelling back to campus when he fell asleep as a passenger in the car. The next time he woke up, he was told by doctors that they would have to amputate his leg.

After telling the doctors they needed to do everything they could to save the leg, he went through months of excruciating rehabilitation before an infection necessitated amputation. Determined more than ever, he got up and running on a prosthetic leg as soon as he could.

Today you can see him teaching the sport that saved him from going down the wrong path, keeping up with people half his age.

And he’s passing that info to students around the state. With engagements in Bridgeport, Hamden, Hartford, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Stamford and Waterbury, Kirkaldy spoke to the struggles that so many children have at this critical crossroads in their life.

Sometimes the path you choose is your own, sometimes you are guided, and this is why knowing who your influences are is so important. What values they instill and how they can help in troubling times. Will Kirkaldy has experienced it all, and through him, Connecticut students will know how to decide if they are on the right path.