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Steve Cunningham is totally blind, and yet has achieved truly remarkable feats of mental and physical strength and determination.
He now passes on to others, his knowledge of the qualities he has developed. So often people do not realise what their capabilities really are, or how far they can stretch themselves. They actually fear going past the comfort zone, and finding out the limit of their own inner strength. Steve will change that defensive mind set into positive action.
The world disappeared from Steve Cunningham’s view one sunny day when the green and picturesque Malvern Hills became shrouded in a sinister, creeping grey mist that clouded out his vision.
What little had been left of his failing eyesight was now terminally obliterated. He was totally, irreversibly and permanently blind. Aged 12, lonely, confused, and housed in the Lickey Grange School for the Blind in Worcester, all he could see was one long black tunnel.
One of five children from a working class family whose parents were in the throes of a distressing divorce, Steve found himself in a black world. Never again would he see the Malvern Hills, but even more horrifying for him, his days as a promising junior footballer with Aston Villa were over, blacked out as effectively as were all the visual delights of a youngster growing up. Surely all of this would be a recipe for a one-dimensional existence of assisted meals, radio, TV and talking books, or as he puts it “making baskets and selling matches”.
However Steve Cunningham has never made a basket or sold a match. After a traumatic period of readjustment he simply set about getting on with his life without the luxury of eyesight. To him that meant tackling virtually everything that a sighted person could undertake and succeeding with a panache that makes him a role model for other similarly or lesser-affected people.
Steve offers his message of an uplifting tale of triumph over the cruellest of adversity, and even more exhilarating and uplifting because it is neither fictional nor far-fetched.
When the wretched despairing aftermath of the fretful day had eased, Steve set about exploiting his remaining four senses of sound, smell, touch and taste to the full, while adding a few abstract qualities to his repertoire, including faith, instinct, self belief, a sense of humour (especially a sense of humour) and a get-up-and-go courage that has seen him overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
In tandem with his pursuit of sporting achievement he also passed all of his examinations at Business College, made impressive progress in his career with Barclays Bank and has raised substantial funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Far more importantly he produced two beautiful daughters, Megan and Katie, on whom he has never been able to feast a pair of admiring eyes.
Areas of Expertise
An encounter with Steve Cunningham will never be forgotten. He provides a new perspective to any situation, inspiring real change in others through his belief, strength and character of determination.
Although Steve lost his sight at the age of 12, he has not allowed this disability to hold him back. Those that know Steve would not define him by his disability but celebrate his vision, enthusiasm, aspirations and success.
Steve speaks with humour and wit recounting his experiences in achieving whatever he has set his mind to. He inspires and entertains while making you re-evaluate your own goals, ambitions and limits.
As a successful fundraiser, business college graduate, former employee of Barclays Bank and a proud father of two daughters Steve also holds three world records. He is the holder of the blind land speed and powerboat records and was the first blind person to fly a plane around the UK. Steve will be taking on two new challenges in 2006 – London to Paris / Paris to London in a helicopter as well as a motorcycle challenge around a well known UK race circuit.
A keen footballer who had many opportunities to fulfil his dream as a child, play for his team and possibly play for his country, one day that dream seemed to disappear but Steve didn’t let his blindness stop him. His sheer determination and ambition made the dream happen. Steve has captained the England Blind Football team and has been a member of the England Blind Cricket Team.
His success in so many areas shows that with the right focus, drive and belief you can fulfil your aspirations and achieve more than you previously thought was possible.
“…I have been lucky in life and have enjoyed success at both a personal and professional level. Through my career I have met and played with some of the greatest players the game of football has produced. Great characters and strong personalities, people such as my old friend and skipper, Bobby Moore and International legends like Pele and the “Kaiser”, Franz Beckanbeur.
I can honestly say hand on heart though that nobody has inspired me in the same way as England International, Steve Cunningham. His story is an inspiration and his personal drive and ambition quite outstanding. A great motivational speaker, Steve Cunningham is a hero in every sense of the word…”
Sir Geoff Hurst MBE
“…for me and the rest of the team his presentation was an amazing experience…”
Dean Holdsworth, Bolton Wanderers
“…you know exactly where you are going, and how you will achieve all of your goals. You lift others to levels they previously thought were unattainable…”
Bernie Shrosbree, Benetton F1
“…delegates described the day as interesting, enjoyable, thought provoking and entertaining, exactly what we wanted…”
Dave Stanley, Personal Number Company
"...you give people real focus for probably the first time in their lives..."
Mike Finigan, Director of Advanced Performance
“…Steve provided us with an inspirational message, and a thrilling view of how to make things happen, against all odds…”
Brian Spratt, Automotive Distribution Federation
“…I first heard Steve at the Banbury Breakfast Club. 7.30am is a tough time to light up an audience, but suddenly here was a man showing us that anything is possible. In a world that seems to tell you what not to do all the time, here was someone who was only interested in what you can do. And what you can do is infinitely more than you think it is…”
James Arkle, Banbury Breakfast Club
“He made us laugh and cry at the same time. He struck the right chord throughout, rekindling half-forgotten aspirations and ambitions for all of us”
Ruth Andre, Rotary International
“I thought his candour; charisma and character were an amazing combination. I couldn’t tell how long he spoke for, whether it was thirty minutes or three hours – time just stood still. I am going through a tough time in my personal life at the moment and hearing Steve has reminded me to take comfort in the fact that I can see, and the comfort that brings. I have told so many people about the ‘extraordinary’ After Dinner Speaker we had – I have retold his stories and had my friends in tears of laughter and in silent admiration. Pass on my congratulations to Steve for compiling such a great speech, it really made the conference for me”
Graham Broome, A member of the Association of Manufacturing Managers
“Your candid presentation was greatly appreciated and was the talk of the company for a good while. Its amazing what you can do when you decide you wanted to do it”
Simon Ralphs, Genrade
"Steve's motivational messages are a constant reminder that every day we can make a difference, if we set ourselves stretching objectives. Steve's achievements are truly awe inspiring and I have no hesitation in recommending him."
Martin Leuw, Group Chief Executive, Iris Group Limited
"We have had the privilege of working with Steve on a number of occasions and he has provided a great deal of motivation and inspiration to us all. The Orange culture is one of ongoing innovation and creativity and Steve reminds us to keep challenging ourselves and try new things. Feedback from our employees who have listened to Steve's remarkable life story has been extremely positive and I have no hesitation to recommend his services."
Simon Davis, Community Affairs Manager, Orange UK
“You made us look at our lives in a totally different light. Our guests were impressed by a very impressive man”.
Vicki Spearing, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals
“You have never yet let me down. Your audience, my clients, cannot wait to put your thoughts into practice. You inspire through your courage and your personality.”
Mike Clynes, MCA Directors Ltd