My name is Zack Pollack. I’m 20 years old and a junior at Emerson High School. I’ve been challenged by Cerebral Palsy since birth. I am a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair, I’ve lost most of the function in my arms and legs, and I have difficulty reading and doing arithmetic, but I am a bright, personable, optimistic, friendly person. I consider myself to be articulate, and I am dedicated to inspiring people – particularly young people – and motivating them to be better human beings.
When I was younger I underwent several surgeries, including an extensive and very risky 10-hour spinal surgery in 2008 to correct a severe curvature in my spine. The difficulties I endured prior to, during and immediately after my surgery were life threatening. However, I survived and recovered, and during my long and difficult recovery, I had an “aha” moment where I realized something. I realized that life isn’t just about living; it’s about living with a purpose. If you believe in your strengths, your weaknesses will disappear and your strengths will prevail. It’s not about what you can or can’t do; it’s about how you do it.
It’s important to believe that your strengths can turn your dreams to reality if you let them shine through and work hard to achieve your goals. I feel my purpose in life is to motivate people to believe in themselves regardless of their hardships and to persevere with their dreams. With this belief you can overcome your difficulties and achieve anything you put your mind to.
So with encouragement from my friends and family, in January 2013 I decided to begin a "pro bono" public speaking career. I have spoken to many different schools, including numerous elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and college classes. I visit inner-city schools, I speak to students considered “at risk,” and I also speak at private schools. I have spoken to assemblies of several hundred students, as well as small groups in classrooms. I have spoken at political fundraisers, synagogue dinners, and other “adult” events besides school presentations. I speak about a number of themes, including inclusion of people with disabilities; extending friendship and help to all classmates; stopping the pervasive problem of bullying; the power of positive thinking; never giving up; the importance of education; and the importance of Faith. I emphasize that I love my life.
Even though I have CP and I am wheelchair bound, I’ve done some great things in my life and had many amazing experiences. I spent five years learning my Haftorah for my Bar Mitzvah in 2006, which was a tremendous, community-wide celebration. More recently, pushed in my wheelchair by my best friend Michael, I completed the 2011 ING (Half) Marathon held in Miami, Florida as part of a group dedicated to helping people with special needs. I earned a gold medal, helped raise money for Camp HASC, and was the subject of an NBC television news story. I also completed the 2012 Miami Rock-n-Roll Marathon and 2013 Bahamas half-Marathon, to raise money for an amazing organization called Kids of Courage, an amazing all-volunteer organization dedicated to helping disabled youngsters and young people suffering from serious illness, attend special travel camps and weekend getaways. As part of Kids of Courage, “campers” travel across the country each summer to experience life and to learn to live with more independence, as part of an 8-day adventure; in 2013 we went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We have also been to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Vermont, and are planning our next trip, to San Diego.
I am also part of an organization called Yachad. This national group is dedicated to inclusion, and brings mainstream students together with their severely challenged peers, for frequent weekend getaways and parties. In 2012 I was fortunate to visit Israel and spend the summer traveling throughout that beautiful country, making lifelong friends and memories, with a division of Yachad known as Yad B’Yad.
Here is a video about me:
FROM ZACK’S FATHER: ZACK NEEDS YOUR HELP
Our amazing son Zack was born three months pre-mature and he spent months in the neo-natal intensive care unit, defying the odds to survive. My wife had suddenly developed a condition known as pre-eclampsia, and Zack had to be delivered immediately. Before the delivery, the non-Jewish obstetrician actually took me aside and told me the baby was sure to have serious difficulties and if I wanted, she could make sure the baby didn't survive. I angrily told her if the baby didn't survive I would report her, and she immediately changed her attitude and began trying her best to save our son.
When Zack was born, all my close relatives were still alive and I had no one to name him after. We named him after the millions of Jews who died during the Holocaust who never had anyone named after them. Hence, the name Zechariah, which means "God's remembrance."
Zack needs your help. He is entered into the National Mobility Awareness Month Local Hero contest, a national online voting contest, to win a needed new wheelchair van. He is asking that you show him your support by voting for him online. Here is the website with link to registration and voting: www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com.
When you go to the website, click on either "vote now" at the top of the page, or "vote for your local hero" towards the bottom, you will see "Find a Local Hero," and then type in Pollack in the last name search box and hit search. Zack's photo and story should immediately come up. Next to the photo is an orange box with "login" and "vote now." Each email address that registers is allowed to vote once per day. Registering is quick and easy and only has to be done one time; you will be emailed a password which your computer or smartphone should remember for future voting (check your spam if you do not get the emailed password). Voting can also be done through Facebook. Once you have logged in search again for Zack's photo, click on it and then click on the box in the middle of the voting section that says "bonus question." Answering this question about mobility issues correctly each day, gives each voter an extra vote.
After answering the bonus question (hopefully correctly!) proceed to check the type of voter (for example family/friend) and then click to register your vote for Zack. Please consider taking a moment from your day, to enter a daily vote for him, each day through May 9th. Also, your help in forwarding this link to your friends and family would be greatly appreciated.
Anyone interested in arranging for Zack to speak at their school or function should contact his father, Larry Pollack, at LMPatty@aol.com.