Gary Guller spun a tale of trials, tribulation and perservance to a packed room of Safety+ attendees during the VPPPA symposium's second day in New Orleans.
The inspirational speaker described what it took to lead a group of physically and cognitively challenged individuals to scale Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain located in Nepal. Guller's presentation resonated with the crowd of safety professionals, many who are responsible for leading a team of employees to build a safe workplace.
"I knew that if I had the right people on my team, and we came together on this goal and vision, I believed we could accomplish this," he told the audience.
At age 20, tragedy struck Guller when he lost his arm and a close friend during a climbing expedition. He credited his grandfather for pushing him to keep exploring after the treacherous experience.
"I'll never, ever forget what my grandfather said. He said, 'Gary, you ned to relight that candle you had as a kid. If there's not a person in the world that climbed mountains with one arm, be the first," Guller recalled.
Later, during a motivational speech in Dallas, a man in a wheelchair asked Guller if he could join him on his adventures. This inspired Guller to take a full team of 30 individuals, a majority who had physical or cognitive challenges, and a support staff of 350 Sherpas, doctors and others to climb the world's tallest mountain in the Himalayas. After spending two years of meeting with CEOs, the flood gates opened to fund the expedition.
"It was a collective force of people achieving something, raising awareness and inspiring others," Guller said.
On April 6, 2003, Guller led the largest group of people with disabilities to reach Mt. Everest's base camp at 17,500 ft. Shortly after, he became the first person with one arm to arrive at the mountain's 29,029 ft. peak. The video details Guller's final ascent to reach the "top of the world."