Tom Turner, Advocate for The Spina bifida Youth Adult Alliance and Brand Ambassador for Tee-Talent, turns a life with Spina bifida into an inspiring story that will change hearts.
Tom Turner is known as a social butterfly. He was born in Canandaigua, New York. He has Spina bifida, a birth defect where the spinal column fails to form properly resulting in varying degrees of disability. Tom is paralyzed from the waist down. He earned his degree in 1994 in Broadcast Journalism from Finger Lakes Community College. He also received a certificate from The American Broadcasting Institute a distance learning center that specialized in voice over training and broadcasting. He shines a light on what a life with Spinal Bifida is about from his point of view.
- You had been working at our family business, Turner Automotive in Victor, NY. Tell us about your experience.
Turner Automotive in Victor is a Corvette and Specialty car dealership where I was responsible for all of our e-commerce, selling cars and car parts over the internet. I was there until my fathers passing in 2013. As much as I was saddened to leave it was a necessary end due to the fact that without my father’s leadership it was just too different for me so I moved on. Currently, I am a “Brand Ambassador” for a social enterprise called “Tee-Talent” Designs. They produce t-shirts and promotional items and the best part is they hire individuals with disabilities for their workforce.
- You don’t let your disability define you, what defines you?
I think what defines me are things such as my work ethic, the way I treat my friends and family, and the way I conduct myself around others.
- What are your hobbies?
I love to go to the D.I.R.T. stock car races on Saturday nights, this has been a long-standing tradition with my father and I and since his passing. I have done my best to keep the tradition alive in his memory. I also love to go to live music concerts and love to socialize with others.
- What is your favorite movie?
Ah! That’s an easy one! “Murderball”, which is a documentary about the 1994 Paralympic Rugby Team and their quest to go for Paralympic Gold in the 1994 Paralympic Games. I was actually fortunate enough to meet the Captain of the team Mark Zupan a few years ago and for someone who lives and breathes this movie, this was similar to meeting the pope or the President of the United States.
- Who inspires you?
My family is my inspiration, they have taught me the value of a hard day’s work, how to treat people, and how to value friendships.
- What do you believe is the biggest misconception that people have regarding individuals with disabilities?
I think the biggest misconception people have with regards to individuals with disabilities is that we are not able to have productive lives, get married, and work hard and earn a living all of which could not be further from the truth
- What’s your favorite song?
I would have to say my favorite song is “I’m the Man” by Aloe Blacc, as it is an anthem for perseverance.
- You work for a T-shirt company. How did you get involved? What do you enjoy most about the business?
I became involved with “Tee-Talent” after reaching out to the founders about the possibility of doing some marketing and promoting their brand, and they happily accepted. What I love about the business is that individuals with disabilities have an opportunity to work, and be creative.
- Do you belong to any organizations?
I belong to The Greater Rochester Spina Bifida Association, The Center for Disability Rights, Rochester Young Professionals, and The Spina Bifida Youth Adult Alliance.
- Do you believe you are an inspiration?
Not at all, I’m just a guy living his life, however, if I’m able to be an inspiration to someone that’s a bonus.
- If you could have one wish what could it be?
If I could have one wish, I would wish that all individuals with spina bifida could have the best quality of life possible.