Helias Catholic High School had a motivational speaker come and inspire Helias students this past Thursday, November 10, in the school’s old gym. A Helias community member expressed to the administration and Mrs. Quinn that John O’Leary needed to come to Helias and share his story with the student body. After reviewing the 2016-17 school year calendar, Helias decided that they should give Mr. O’Leary a call and see if he was free to share his story with the student body of Helias. With openings in his schedule, Mr. O’Leary made the trip down from St. Louis, MO to Jefferson City, MO.
Mrs. Quinn vets speakers for Helias.
“Typically I go to different conferences and listen to speakers to know if they are legit or not,” said Mrs. Quinn “because no one wants to sit and listen to a bad speaker for a long amount of time.”
Mr. John O’Leary had begun his presentation by getting the Helias student body excited for what he was about to offer them. He introduced himself, told the students where he lives, which is St. Louis, Missouri, told them that he attended Desmit High School when he was their age, and then graduated from St. Louis University. Having the knowledge of the Crusader football team having played Desmit High School earlier this year and had beaten them, Mr. O’Leary congratulated the football boys on their victory. Many students smiled, and then Mr. O’Leary moved on with his presentation.
“I am delighted to be with you Crusader’s,” said John O’ Leary, “today as we talk about your lives, to talk about school, talk about your faith, and talk about what God has planned for each one of us here today.”
In the middle of O’Leary’s presentation, he began to tell the student body his story. He began telling them as a child he was an adventurous boy who liked to try new things. One day he decided to light a flame in his parents’ garage, then pick up a can of gasoline, and then the fumes from the gas can consumed the flame and caught his whole body on fire. O’Leary had third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body, with many surgeries and amputations to come thereafter. He told the students, “all I could think about is that my dad was going to kill me,” thinking his dad would kill him for burning down part of the house. But his dad came to the hospital and the first thing he told his John was, “I love you.” Going through that tragic event at the age of nine, it changed O’Leary’s life forever. Later O’Leary knew that his calling from Christ was to share his story worldwide and inspire people that they “can’t choose the path they walk in life, but they can choose the manner in which they walk it.”
Towards the end of the presentation, O’Leary gave students his cell phone number and told them to text him their email addresses and he would send them a 1-week Spark challenge.
As the presentation came to an end, Mr. O’Leary ended with playing the piano for the student body. He chose the song “Scientist” by Cold Play to play, because the refrain is “nobody said it was easy,” which means to O’Leary that though life is not always easy, we all are worthy and our life is worthy.
Concluding the assembly, the students broke away to go back to lunch or class. Throughout the gym, hallways, and the staircases, many students talked about how he was one of the better speakers that Helias has had come. Many students had been inspired by John O’Leary, which was his goal.
“I loved the assembly today,” said Chloe Kleffner. “I felt bad that he went through that experience, he made me realize that I sweat the small stuff too much, not realizing there’re people who are going and went through way worse things.”