Lindsay Hilton was born without lower limbs on her legs or arms, but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming a CrossFit sensation, company spokesperson, and award-winning adaptive athlete. This summer, she added motivational speaker to her long list of accomplishments when she broke numerous barriers for the girls of Camp Simcha Special.
“When I was little, my parents told me I could do anything, although I might have to adapt it,” Lindsay told the audience of 130 girls and close to 300 staff members. “They were right.”
Hilton said that she grew up determined to be like everyone else. Today, at 31, she has pretty much succeeded in her goal. She lives in an apartment, drives a car, spends a minimum of five days a week at her CrossFit gym, and works as a business account manager.
Hilton has been involved in sports since she was a child. A soccer, rugby, and field hockey enthusiast and player, she credits her parents and coaches for their encouragement. “I had great coaches and teachers who were always willing to make things work for me. They encouraged me to take risks,” she explained. She became an inspiration and hero to millions when a video of her attempting pull-ups at her gym went viral, amassing more than six million viewings.
Hilton’s message reverberated around the camp’s social hall. “Just try. You shouldn’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back. There is no sense in being scared. If I had been scared or thought, “Oh, it’s not for me, there’s no way I can do this, honestly, my life would be so different.”
“Just try” is at the heart of Camp Simcha Special, Chai Lifeline’s overnight camp for children and teens with chronic illnesses. “Camp Simcha Special is a place where campers are encouraged to do new things knowing that we’ve got their back,” said Shaindy Lowenthal, the program director. “Here they learn that success starts with the belief that they can be successful, and that we will help them find a way to accomplish their goals.”
At the end of Hilton’s remarks, the girls were filled with questions. Many are concerned about looking different and being the target of bullying. Lindsay answered honestly. “People are going to look. Don’t let it hold you back.
“I can’t wallow in the fact that I don’t have arms or legs, because there is nothing that I can do to change the outcome.”
“Lindsay Hilton’s message really resonated with our campers, even though their lives are so different from hers,” said Rivkah Reichmann, Camp Simcha Special’s associate director. “They held onto her every word.”
One camper summarized the inspirational address. “You don’t know what you can do until you try. If you say no, you’re closing a door that may never open again.” She was with a group of friends; when was asked whether Hilton was right, the entire group became animated. “You bet!” they exclaimed. Then they went off to their next camp activity.
It was the perfect Camp Simcha ending.