Most of us can’t imagine rappelling down a twenty-story building. Such a feat requires fearlessness, athleticism, and leadership. But in 2011, Marco Pasqua did exactly that – in a wheelchair! Pasqua is a beacon of strength, positivity, and inspiration: a true HPR Hero.
Pasqua’s parents found out shortly before his birth that he would be born with cerebral palsy. They moved from Vancouver’s Commercial Drive to its sister city of Surrey. More affordable housing meant they could purchase a home with enough space for whatever life was going to throw their way. The type of cerebral palsy Pasqua has is called spastic triplegia – that means it affects both of his legs and his right arm. Because the condition leads to muscle contraction, he has difficulty extending his right arm and legs. Compounding that issue is a surgery he underwent at 13 that involved breaking the bones of both his legs to improve the alignment of his feet. The surgery was successful for its intended purpose, but it also meant that he lost a great deal of muscle mass. This is especially problematic at such a crucial age for muscle development.
But Pasqua has never let his disability prevent him from pursuing what he cares about. In fact, he considers it a blessing. It was because of his disability that, at the age of ten, he discovered one of his greatest passions – public speaking. “Around 1992, I participated in Timmy’s Christmas Telethon. It raises money for disabled kids and their families, and is in support of the BC Lions Society and Easter Seals Canada,” he says. “I started out in the background, as one of the kids who would stand in the background, getting all excited when Santa came out.” The next year, the host asked young Marco to say a few words for the camera. He was so impressed with Pasqua’s stage presence that he invited him to be one of the organization’s main ambassadors the following year. Pasqua was giving radio interviews, speaking at charity events, and flying all over the country – at the age of ten! “It spring-boarded my passion for using my voice for good,” he says. “It showed me how you can use the media, and now social media, to make the world a better place.”
Since then Marco has excelled in more fields than many people will in their lifetimes. As an athlete, he’s won twenty gold medals in the BC Summer and Winter Games. He attended the Art Institute of Vancouver, and worked a demanding job in video game design until he was laid off in the 2010 recession. But, with his inexhaustible positivity, he considers this yet another blessing in disguise. “I was working eighteen to twenty hour shifts, and there were multibillion dollar contracts on the line,” he says. “It was a lot of very high stress situations, so when I was laid off, my wife was thrilled!
She was glad that I’d have time for what I love to do, which is speaking and inspiring people.”
All of Pasqua's work ties back to self-worth, self-advocacy and mentorship. Pasqua pursues those goals through keynote speaking, webinars, one-on-one mentoring, and independent consulting. “I call myself an inspirational, not motivational, speaker,” he says. “People are motivated by different things. My job is to help them find whatever it is that motivates them. I’ve been scrutinized by a lot of other speakers who say I give way too much information away for free. I say that’s not the point. The point is that people feel like they get something from hearing me speak that they can walk away with.” Pasqua works hard to recognize the various challenges people face, assess what is needed to overcome it, and how to put one’s positive energy into action to help reach any milestone.
His entrepreneurial efforts aren’t the only way Pasqua’s been involved in the business world. He’s also been part owner of Reality Controls. This tech company uses motion and voice control to make computers and other forms of technology more accessible to the disabled. With the company’s technology, people with permanent disabilities, particularly low dexterity will be able to use vocal, motion or hand controls instead of a keyboard and mouse. Pasqua has also worked with a website much like Yelp and Tripadvisor, but it rates the accessibility of destinations from the perspective of someone with a disability.
Pasqua’s work has inspired many people to change their lives for the better. He describes one case of an anonymous individual, who also has cerebral palsy. He approached Pasqua after seeing him at a conference, and asked if there was any chance Pasqua could mentor him pro bono. On top of his disability, he was suffering from depression and difficult interpersonal relationships. Pasqua agreed to help, and even today, still checks in with this individual every two weeks. Today, he has overcome his depression, and is working towards post-secondary education in his chosen field.
Stephanie Jala, a guest at Pasqua’s TEDx Stanley Park presentation, also has glowing words about Pasqua. "The word inspiring isn't enough to encapsulate who Marco is for the world. Marco was a featured speaker at TEDx Stanley Park. His ability to capture and move us was uncanny. Simply by his warm and positive outlook, he is someone you naturally gravitate towards.”
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