When Richie Parker was 15 years old, he found his dream car. A beautiful 1964 Chevy Impala SS. For most car enthusiasts, driving a polished 1964 Chevy Impala SS is like a dream come true. For Richie Parker it was more than a dream. Richie was born with bilateral Amelia, a non genetic birth defect in which limbs are never formed. He was told by doctors he would never drive, ride a bike, or be able to perform the daily activities that you and I so easily take for granted. Most of us would see this life obstacle as a chronic barrier, accepting our disability and preventing us from doing what those around us find so simple. Staring in the face of these odds, Richie Parker allowed his misfortunes to help cultivate a lifetime attitude of creativity finding solutions to each and everyone of these tasks.
15 years later, Richie Parker opens the door of his classic car, buckles his seat belt by using his chin and shoulders. He then starts the engine by turning the key with his toes and uses a specialized driving system that allows him to operate and control an automobile using nothing but his feet. Through this fierce determination and creativity, Richie has conquered similar systems in which allow him to ride a bike, open the fridge, and even use a computer.
“When we were trying to figure out how I could modify a car, I was told by a few different people, ‘Well, if there’s a bus in your area, or if there are taxi cabs, then that’s all you need to do. You just use that as your transportation.’ But that just wasn’t me,” Parker said about getting his 1964 Chevy Impala adapted with foot steering.
After conquering his dream to drive an automobile, Richie did not stop there. Having a lifelong passion for cars and a developed skill of engineering solutions to everyday problems in his own life, Richie went on to graduate from Clemson University and later applied for an internship at Hendrick Motorsports. It was there that Engineering manager Rex Stump, provided Richie with an opportunity that even Richie himself hadn’t ever dreamed of.
“I think I had about 20 resumes that I went through before I settled on Richie’s,” said Stump. “I knew he could do the things that I needed him to do it was more a question of how.”
Richie’s internship was supposed to only last ten months but eight years and five championships later, Richie Parker still works as an engineer for Hendrick Motor sports designing body components, chassis systems for all four of the organization’s race teams. For Richie Parker, his disabilities helped cultivate him into one of the most fascinating engineering talents this world has ever seen.
Richie Parker did not let emotional and physical anguish get in the way of his dreams. Instead he embraced it as an opportunity to show those around him the power of human resiliency. It’s through our challenges and life’s obstacles that make us who we are. Are they fun, absolutely not. But it’s in our response in which define who we are as people and create inspiration for others to achieve unimaginable things in life. Put your head down, do the best job possible and together humanity can conquer the impossible.
“I wouldn’t say that there is a whole lot in life that I can’t do. There are just things that I haven’t done yet.” – Richie Parker