She is a graduate of York University – graduating cum laude as a Member of the Dean’s Honour Roll. Gordon is the proud recipient of over 60 academic scholarships and awards, and recently received A Diamond Jubilee Medal Award from His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Wales. She is also a motivational speaker, and founder of the Tammy Gordon Foundation, assisting minorities, youth, the economically challenged, and people with disabilities.
With such accolades, it is hard to imagine that it all began with what was a terrible moment in time.
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Tell us about the moment that changed your life?
My skiing accident in 2002 basically changed my life forever because I am now paraplegic. At the time, I was looking at getting a basketball scholarship. I am now confined to a wheelchair. It was a big turning point for me, but I also believe everything happens for a reason. I am blessed. I didn’t die in that accident and I have been able to accomplish things since then. I’ve been able to touch a lot of lives, and to show and encourage youth that no matter what you face, don’t give up. If I as a person with a disability, have been able to accomplish so much, then you as an able bodied person can achieve so much more. So don’t give up no matter what you face in life.
How were you able to change your way of thinking? How were you able to say I am not going to let this hold me back?
I had a strong support system of family and friends. My faith in God played the biggest role. In my moments of being frustrated and being depressed, I would turn to him. I would read my bible, and pray. I would get clarity and have a sense of peace knowing that everything was going to be okay. One particular passage kept me going: Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This scripture is a major source of strength for me till today. It urges me to never give up because God is with me.
Did you ever get angry at God? If yes, how did you begin to deal with that anger?
No. I never got angry with God. I knew he wouldn't give me more than I could bear, and he has used me to be a blessing to a lot of people young and old through my accident. I've been able to encourage youth to never give up no matter what life throws at them.
How did things begin to turn around, in terms of looking forward and coming up with the foundation?
When I was in rehabilitation I was able to finish my high school credits, and went on to York University. It was at York that I held my position representing students with disabilities. I was nominated to be the activist for them at the access York meeting. I had the opportunity to speak with them, and hear their struggles –the financial part of it. They weren’t able to afford tuition or their textbooks or even transportation to and from university. Some of them said that they had to defer and wait a couple of years until they had more money; others were ready to give up and just say ‘forget it’. They couldn’t go through the struggle because they were going through depression – it was really bad. I brought it up to my mom, we thought about it, and said ‘let’s start a foundation where we can give scholarships specifically to students with physical disabilities.’ There are a lot of scholarships out there for disabilities e.g. the blind, the deaf, and learning disabilities, but there weren’t specific ones for physical disabilities. I am a person with a physical disability so I thought it was perfect to have a foundation based on that. We offer scholarships ranging from $500 to $2,000 to physically disabled students enrolled in degree programs.
Could you tell me one or two testimonials that have come out of this foundation?
There were six different scholarship entrants last year, and now they’ve turned around and are ambassadors for the foundation. They have gone to their schools giving out brochures of the foundation -- promoting it. They are letting their fellow classmates know that this made an impact. They were able to pay off the rest of their tuition. They were able to buy textbooks. They didn’t have to worry about being needing money because this foundation was able to help them, and they are also able to apply again this year. It was a great joy and pleasure for me to hear that once they got this scholarship, they were ready to turn around and give back. They were able to reach out to their fellow classmates, letting them know that there was a foundation out there geared specifically to help them.
What would you say to people who have given up on their dreams because doors have been closed on them?
Never give up. You will always hear “no” in life, but don’t give up. You don’t let that stop you. Keep pushing. Keep persevering, and you will success in the end. Once you put your mind to it, nothing can stop you, and the sky is the limit.