Motivational speaker Brett Eastburn opened a can of soda for one of his first demonstrations at the South Tahoe Middle School assembly Thursday.
The crowd of 900 students gathered in the multipurpose room reacted with roaring applause.
What seems like the simplest task for most people was at one point very difficult for Eastburn, a man without fully developed arms and legs.
“When you say ‘I can’t,’ you’re right,” He told the audience. “Because you’re not even going to try.”
Eastburn, who was born with a defect known as quad-membral limb deficiency, said the purpose of the event is to show kids that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to — a lesson he had to learn at a very young age.
“I knew I had a message to get out,” he said.
Principal Beth Delacour said the school chose to invite Eastburn because he delivers a strong message and promotes a positive attitude.
“We’re trying to make sure our kids know they can do anything they set their minds to,” she said, “and they shouldn’t let anything get in their way.”
Students laughed as Eastburn told jokes and cheered as he performed a number of demonstrations aimed at inspiring the audience.
Eastburn tossed footballs into the crowd, drew detailed pictures of a cartoon cat and chopped a piece of wood in half with one limb.
In between demonstrations, students were given a chance to ask Eastburn any question they wanted, including whether he can jump hurdles.
“I let them smack me in the head,” he joked.
For students like sixth-grader Kelea Hadaway, 11, the message was loud and clear.
“You can do anything you imagine,” Hadaway said after the show.
Soroptimist International of Tahoe Sierra sponsored the event, which fit into the organization’s criteria for supporting one school assembly each year, board member Wendy David said.
“For the last five years at least,” she said, “Soroptimist has been supporting one all-school assembly each year that addresses topics such as good decision-making, self-esteem, body image — a lot of those things students are really dealing with as they become teenagers.”
David said the organization was happy to support this year’s assembly because it teaches students not to let personal differences or circumstances stand in the way of their goals.
“I imagine it’s going to be one of those assemblies that they will bring with them forever,” she said.