When you're born without limbs, a sense of humor is paramount.

That's one of several messages speaker Craig Dietz had for Spring Grove Area Middle School students Thursday.

Dietz, who came onto stage in a motorized wheelchair but spent much of his talk walking around on the floor, said he gets by with "a strong sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself."

Dietz was born without any arms or legs in St. Marys, Pa., in 1974, and has since created a career as an attorney and athlete while making a point to teach others about how even with his physical limitations, he's made a goal to live life without relying on others.

Dietz said his sense of humor helps out when a fast food employee embarrassingly offers to feed the Harrisburg resident his hamburger, or when he gets the "poor man in the wheelchair" looks.


Dietz jokingly fell on his side, saying when he weighed more he felt like a Weeble-Wobble.

Laughing at people because they are different isn't right, he said, but it is important to be able to laugh at yourself.

His favorite moment might be working at a haunted house playing the "victim" of a chainsaw murderer. People were baffled at how his fake bloodied stumps were missing limbs, he joked.

Having confidence and determination helps too, he said. He's been able to do the swimming portion of the Pittsburgh Triathlon, gaining ESPN coverage for it. He's even swum faster than more than two dozen swimmers who don't have physical handicaps, he added to applause.

Bowling leagues, skiing and hunting are some other activities he's able to enjoy with some modifications. And yes, he can drive too, thanks to a computerized van that includes control buttons mounted in the headrest, among other modifications.

Dietz, who also spoke at the high school, works as an attorney for the city of Pittsburgh.

There's one message he wanted students to know, he said, one that he's learned by overcoming what many might think are impossible hurdles.

"Each of you has the ability to define your own potential as an individual," Dietz said.

- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdispatch.com