Survivor. Author. Speaker.
With a clear but simple mission of helping and inspiring others, Stefanie Schaffer is an experienced Motivational Speaker known for making a memorable impact. Her unique life experiences combined with exceptional insight and contagious enthusiasm makes her perfect for a large variety of audiences and events.
Stef Strong: The Full Story
A Lasting Impact
Stefanie’s Story -
At twenty-two years old, Stefanie’s life was forever changed.
While on a family vacation, visiting the Bahamian island of Exuma, the Vermont family set out on a highly-advertised boat tour. One that would bring them around the island, enjoying the sights, and ending with the small boat arriving at the famous Island of Swimming Pigs of Exuma. However, the family never arrived to this fascinating island. Only minutes into their voyage, the boat exploded.
In fact, the boat exploded beneath the very seat that Stefanie sat upon, causing a varying array of injuries, many of them life-threatening.
Their story was not an easy one to overcome. The family had to get creative, using scraps of materials to transform into life-saving medical aid, and commandeering a parked pick-up truck when there was no ambulance to be found. Since this day, Stefanie has continued to fight, for her recovery, for her future, and as she puts it, “To make that one day mean so much more than by what it has taken from me.”
And that day did take much from her. Stefanie went from being a thriving, carefree, and healthy young adult to becoming a bilateral amputee, paraplegic, and so much more, all in an instant.
It was believed Stefanie wouldn’t make it out of the water that day - but she did. It was then believed she wouldn’t make it to the first hospital that was only a drive away, or to the second hospital in Nassau Bahamas, and certainly not to any hospital in the United States. But every step of the way, she proved these beliefs wrong.
After many surgeries, Stefanie laid in a coma in a Southern Florida hospital and was given an improved percentage of 50/50 chance of her waking again. But she did this as well.
When she awoke, she had a new reality to face, one filled with daily challenges. But she now credits these challenges for her growth and her new mindset. She recognizes the importance of, and the value of, challenging yourself. She can often be heard saying; “The goal of life isn’t to avoid challenges, or failures, altogether. The goal is to constantly improve how you react to these scenarios.”
After enduring more than forty surgeries, in just over a two-year time span, she has gained mental and physical perseverance that is truly unwavering.
Her first testament to overcoming obstacles was her graduating from college with Magna Cum Laude Honors, even as she carried her laptop through hospital rooms, finished her courses online, and credits the use of many multi-colored highlighters as she managed a challenging brain injury.
She then went on to begin utilizing her degree of Health Promotion as she became an ambassador for the American Red Cross - filming commercials for them, speaking at their events, assisting with fundraisers and sharing her story in hopes to inspire blood donations to increase. She’s also promoted other non-profits focused on healthy living such as Come Alive Outside; where she tailored her message to a younger crowd of school children and educators.
She’s a requested motivational speaker for businesses, non-profits, and schools of all ages, and each time she shares a unique message specifically created for the crowd before her.
As she speaks of the many times she was told she would never walk again, it is a thrill, to see her before you, walking forward with the aid of two slim crutches within her palms.
Stefanie has also held on to her athletic calling. She was once a Varsity level athlete and now feels the fire of competition as she pushes along miles of road with her hand-cycle, and feels a thrill as she speeds along the groomed cross-country skiing trails from her new sit-ski.
Most of all, Stefanie is proud to have seen that she is not defined by what has happened to her, but she is defined by how she has responded to it all.