Past Speakers

Power of Possibilities

2023 Speaker

Michael Kutcher, Guest Speaker

From the moment of birth, Michael Kutcher has overcome challenges and conquered obstacles that most people never even catch a glimpse of. Born on February 7th, 1978 as the unexpected twin brother of actor Christopher “Ashton” Kutcher, Michael met his first of many challenges at delivery. Entering the world notably smaller than his twin at less than five pounds, Michael was hardly responsive and struggled to take his first breath. Thanks to both outstanding medical care and his indomitable instinct to survive, Michael pulled through his first days and weeks, although not without lasting adverse effects. By age three, Michael was battling significant developmental delays, caused by irreversible neurological pathologies. He was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy before he entered Kindergarten. His medical triumphs and perspective on Cerebral Palsy have led him to work directly with Reaching for the Stars, A Foundation of Hope for Children with Cerebral Palsy as an advocate and public speaker. His determination and passion have even brought him as far as Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., where Michael has worked to raise awareness for local and national fund raising initiatives. Michael has also brought his profound story and message to the Center for Disease Control as well as the National Institute of Health. Michael’s message is one of inspiration, hope and appreciation. Having overcome unthinkable challenges against extraordinary odds, Michael is living proof that perseverance and unwavering positivity can surmount even the most seemingly impossible of obstacles.

2022 Speaker

Zack Gottsagen, Guest Speaker

In 2019, Zack Gottsagen debuted in his first starring role in the feature indie film, The Peanut Butter Falcon. Zack has been widely praised by film critics for his authenticity, comedic timing, improvisational skills, and wholesome charm. As a child, Zack was the first student with Down syndrome to be fully included in the School District of Palm Beach County. He was also involved in one of the first Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) litigations represented by the ACLU against Little League, resulting in mandatory training of all coaches and assistant coaches in including children with disabilities nationwide. His passion for theatre led him to audition and be accepted into the Middle School of the Arts and Dreyfoos School of the Arts, where he graduated with honors. Zack is a strong advocate and meets with state and national legislators working on various legislation affecting people with disabilities and other pertinent human rights issues.

Watch Zack Gottsagen’s speech at our 2022 virtual Power of Possibilities event.

2021 Speaker

Holly Robinson Peete, Guest Speaker

Holly Robinson Peete is an Actress, Author & Humanitarian. She was featured as our Guest Speaker at the first hybrid Power of Possibilities on May 13, 2021. From her role on 21 Jump Street to her current family docu-series For Peete’s Sake, Holly Robinson Peete has consistently used her celebrity status as a platform to advocate for issues dear to her heart. Following her father’s battle with Parkinson’s disease, she and husband Rodney Peete – a former NFL quarterback – formed the HollyRod Foundation. In 2005, they extended the Foundation’s mission to provide support and resources to those affected by autism when their eldest son was diagnosed with the condition. Today, Robinson Peete is arguably one of the most sought after and prolific autism advocates in the US.

Watch Holly’s speech at our 2021 virtual Power of Possibilities event.

2020 Speaker

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., Guest Speaker

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world. Her fascinating life, with all its challenges and successes, was brought to the screen with the HBO full-length film Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes. Dr. Grandin inspires and motivates others through her story. She developed her talents into a successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer, one of very few in the world. Dr. Grandin currently works as a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and speaks around the world on both autism and cattle handling.

Watch Temple’s speech at our 2020 virtual Power of Possibilities event.

2019 Speakers

Kurt Warner, Guest Speaker

Kurt Warner, two-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl Champion, joined us as Guest Speaker for the 11th Annual Power of Possibilities event on March 21, 2019. His gridiron accomplishments pale in comparison to the dedication he devotes to the community. Warner believes that all people, regardless of ability, have a purpose and call for their life, and are able to participate in meaningful and challenging activities, establish personal relationships, and contribute to society when provided with appropriate supports and opportunities.

Inspired by their son Zachary, who is blind and has developmental disabilities, the Warners founded Treasure House, a supportive living community for young adults, focused on independence, respect and community integration. Their vision for the future is to replicate the model and help individuals with intellectual disabilities realize their full potential. “People are going to forget that I won a Super Bowl, but they’re never going to forget the kind of impact you had on them personally,” said Warner.

Nancy O’Dell, Moderator

Nancy O’Dell, Emmy Award-Winning Journalist, has proven to be a force in all areas of her career as a host, author, producer and entrepreneur. With more than 20 years of experience, O’Dell is the co-host of Entertainment Tonight, contributes to CBS This Morning, and is the go-to anchor for live TV specials. In addition to her work, Nancy is passionate about inclusion and respect for all people, including those with intellectual disabilities. “Growing up, my best buddy was my Aunt Ellen, who was born with Down syndrome,” says O’Dell. “Because of my memories of her, to this day, she remains my inspiration for promoting inclusion for individuals of all abilities.”

2018 Speaker

Patrick Dempsey, Guest Speaker

Patrick Dempsey, award-winning actor, joined us as guest speaker for the 10th Annual Power of Possibilities event on March 8, 2018. Dempsey, best known for his role as neurologist “McDreamy” on the hit television show Grey’s Anatomy, was diagnosed at the age of 12 with a learning disability.

In a conversation moderated by ABC TV News Anchor Dion Lim, Dempsey shared how growing up with a learning disability built perseverance in how he approaches life. “You have to keep working. I have never given up,” he says.

Dempsey has a personal connection to AbilityPath’s mission of creating a world where people of all abilities are fully accepted, respected, and included. His philosophy on giving back and paying it forward is that “healthier communities and happier people drive a commitment to the efforts and organizations that positively impact our world.”

2017 Speaker

Colin Farrell, Guest Speaker

Colin Farrell, award-winning actor joined AbilityPath for our annual Power of Possibilities event on March 23, 2017! He recently starred in The Lobster, a prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival.

Farrell has a teen-age old son with Angelman Syndrome – a neuro-genetic disorder with symptoms including intellectual and developmental disability, seizures, and jerky movements.

He shared: “When James took his first steps at age four, I nearly broke in half! He has enriched my life, but I don’t want to minimize the trials that so many families go through; the fear, consternation, frustration, and pain. When you’re the parent of a child with developmental disabilities, it’s important to feel that you’re not alone.”

2015 Speakers

Holly Robinson Peete, Guest Speaker

Holly Robinson Peete, best-known for her acting roles on 21 Jump Street and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, is an actress, author, talk show host, and the voice for her son with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Holly says “I wouldn’t change my son for the world, but I would change the world for my son.” Holly and her husband Rodney Peete, former NFL quarterback, formed the HollyRod Foundation and have become philanthropists and activists for their son and others affected by autism.

 

 

David DeSanctis, Guest Speaker

David DeSanctis co-starred in Where Hope Grows. The film won the Heartland Film Festival Audience Choice Award and was an official selection for the 2014 Dallas International Film Festival. David co-anchored a news program in high school which fueled his interest in acting. Today, David spends his time speaking for non-profits and developmental disabilities groups around the country about his personal journey of living with Down syndrome and is actively involved in Special Olympics.

Where Hope Grows director, Chris Dowling, also joined us for this special event. Chris has a long history of directing, producing, and acting, and recently completed a documentary titled Asperger’s Are Us. Olympics and Best Buddies. Where Hope Grows is “An unexpected journey [and] an unexpected friendship,” and will leave you inspired

2014 Speaker

Anthony Ianni, Guest Speaker

Anthony Ianni is a basketball star and anti-bully advocate. At the age of four, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), a disorder on the Autism spectrum. His parents were told not to expect much; he may not graduate high school, he would never graduate from college, participating in athletics was unthinkable, and that living in a group institution was likely for his adult life.

By 24 years old, Anthony is defying expectations and changing the game. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Michigan State University. He is the first known athlete with autism to play Big 10 basketball, and helped his team win two Big 10 championships, a Big 10 tournament title, and was a member of the 2010 Final Four team. He has won several awards including the 2012 Unsung Player Award and was a finalist for the 2013 Detroit Pistons Community Game Changer Award.

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