No mountain too high for determined double amputee

Redefine Possible

January 1, 2013

Overcoming more than just everyday obstacles to “redefine possible,” Spencer West wowed the world by conquering Mount Kilimanjaro. 

At two feet, seven inches tall, American-born Torontonian Spencer West towers head and shoulders above the crowd, blatantly testing the limits of what’s possible by taking on challenge after challenge to show us all what can be done. An early-aged double amputee, he hadn’t noticed he was different until he was in kindergarten, around others who weren’t used to seeing anybody like him. While not having his own two legs to stand on came with trials of will beyond the obvious physical obstacles, Spencer’s outstanding upbeat attitude led him to discover that it also came with triumphs, when he realized the value of his story was in its power to inspire others. Spencer has handily overcome everyday tests of his determination and he wowed the world in June 2012, by conquering Mount Kilimanjaro. During his ascent, he was already thinking about what would be next, as he constantly strives to “redefine possible.”

Spencer West at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

When Spencer’s friend Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children (FTC), suggested the challenge to him, it was a perfect fit for his unending embrace on making life as good as it gets for himself and for everyone. For many of us, able-bodied as we may be, the thought of scaling mountains is astounding if not foreboding. Spencer made it his goal to not only climb Kilimanjaro, but in doing so, to raise awareness for Free the Children and $500,000 in financial aid. With the funds, FTC will provide reliable water sources for families in Kenya, whose grueling daily treks to get theirs, are what many of us would consider an obstruction tantamount to climbing Kilimanjaro without legs.   

“Redefine Possible: The Story of Spencer West” is a documentary film commemorating highlights of the Kilimanjaro journey, as well as other dazzling experiences from his life. It’s a compelling portrayal of Spencer’s determination to overcome personal and global adversities alike. In the words of Canadian author Garry Ryan, “The really remarkable thing about extraordinary people is how ordinary they are.” What’s most remarkable about Spencer is how ordinary he thinks he is, which is how he makes us re-think the boundaries of what we all can or can’t do. What’s more astonishing, is how Spencer overcomes the greater tests of will, to climb figurative mountains just as readily.  As he so humbly says, “I just use the gifts I’ve been given to try to make a better place. You can do the same. It’s about recognizing your power and using the ‘gifts’ you’ve been given.”

Spencer’s next project is to raise funds for FTC’s water initiative by walking from Edmonton to Calgary in the summer of 2013.  He’s calling on all who are open to redefining possible to join him on this journey to provide more people with clean water. For those of us who cannot be on that walk with him, Spencer invites us to help move the intangible mountain of poverty by putting our two cents (or more) into the FTC “We Create Change” penny drive, or by purchasing a Water Rafiki Friend chain, to finance the infrastructure and maintenance of a potable water system for 100,000 people in communities in Kenya.  The purchase of each $10 chain provides clean water for one person for one year!  When you think about it, before Free the Children figured out how to do it, who would have thought that was possible? 

Action Items

1. Get more inspiration and motivation from Spencer by reading his biography, Standing Tall: My Journey, by “liking” his Facebook page:, and by watching his appearance on CTV’s W5:

2. Donate your pennies to the We Create Change penny drive (

3. Purchase a $10 Water Rafiki Friend Chain at

About the Author(s)

Kathleen Betts

Kathleen Betts is a mother of four, freelance writer, and contributing author in "The Path to Riches in Think and Grow Rich."

1 Response to "No mountain too high for determined double amputee"

  • […] inspired and fulfilled person. I know this from personal experience. My day started by reading this wonderful story on Good News Toronto. It’s about a double amputee, Spencer West, who climbed Mount […]

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