In Australian culture, heroes are often portrayed as sportspeople or millionaires. They might be a cricket player scoring a double century, a footballer scoring a hat-trick of tries in one match, or an IT technician developing a new generation of smart phones … But the real heroes are those normal, everyday people who are faced with extreme challenges and adversity, but never give up. They fight, they stand strong, and they come out on the other side with a smile on their face and a story to tell.
Michael Crossland is a prime example of a true hero. Michael faces extreme challenges every day of his life, but he stands tall and ensures that his courage and his positive outlook on life inspires other people across the world.
Michael has an absolute passion and belief in people’s ability to change direction and become who they truly want to be and achieve success. This passion stems from his own story …
Before Michael was even one year old, he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer of the central nervous system – a tumour had taken over half of his tiny body. The chance of Michael surviving was virtually non-existent. He started chemotherapy at 1 year old and by his second birthday, doctors had basically given up all hope. His only hope was taking part in a drug trial program – a program of which Michael was the only participant to survive the treatment. Although he survived, he was left with some permanent scars – only one lung, a damaged heart and a sensitive immune system.
Before his teenage years, Michael had already experienced heart attacks, and by his mid-20s had spent lengthy stints in hospital, as well as contracting both bacterial and viral meningitis.
Michael was told from an early age that school and sport were not options for him, and he certainly was not expected to survive the many bouts of illness he has experienced. But here he stands – 27 years of age, having had both a successful professional and sporting career.
From childhood, Michael’s only wish was to lead a normal, healthy life and to be able to do all the things that other kids his age took for granted. So began his dream – and with it, the determination to make it a reality, no matter the size of the obstacles that lay ahead.
Michael’s childhood dream was to play baseball in America, and while he was in hospital as a child, his mother bought him a glove and ball so they could play catch. Michael says it’s what made him feel like a normal kid.
At age 12, Michael began playing baseball for the Coffs Harbour side, and at 15 he was drafted into the Australian Expos Baseball Team. Michael then went to the USA on tour and was drafted by a Texas baseball team at the young age of 16 and offered a scholarship to play college ball in Texas.
This feeling of accomplishment and defying the odds only added fuel to Michael’s fire.
Michael’s story was aired nationally in 2002 on Australian Story, and that same year he was nominated for Young Australian of the Year. Michael also became and ambassador for Camp Quality and the Cancer Council and coached his old baseball team and toured America with them.
Michael quickly climbed the corporate ladder, forging a hugely successful career in finance with GE Money in Sydney and Westpac in Coffs Harbour. But the long hours, high demands and extensive travel that this entailed eventually took its toll, and in 2010 Michael took a break from his career to overcome the exhaustion.
This ‘career break’ led him to find a career doing what he truly loves – helping others. Michael is now a regular guest speaker for corporates, schools and universities throughout the world. His inspirational story of courage has inspired so many people to achieve ongoing positive change in their lives.
Michael has received letters and emails from people across to world who have heard him speak, telling them that they have been encouraged to defy their own odds and, in some cases his words of inspiration have made his audience realise that suicide is not the only option.
Michael gives a lot to charity – he gives his time, he aids in fundraising, and he is a huge believer in the direct injection of funds and assistance to people and communities in need.
His passion to inspire and help others through direct injection has recently taken him to the devastated country of Haiti.
In January, Michael spent two weeks in Haiti, where he is helping to build a school for a group of orphans. The children he met there have lost everything … their families, their homes, everything. And while Michael was in Haiti to help and inspire them, he says that these children managed to touch his own life.
The children at this orphanage were crammed in to tiny rooms, not even a bed to themselves, and literally no roof over their heads. Michael says that one boy told him that, at night, he wasn’t sure if it was raining or if the boy in the bunk bed above him had wet the bed.
“Moments like this make me realise how lucky we are to have a warm, dry place to sleep and live,” says Michael.
But Michael insists that the people of Haiti, despite their everyday challenges, still have hope and happiness and an unwavering spirit. One morning while they were in Haiti, Michael and his group were walking up the side of a mountain. Six hours into the eight hour trek up to the top of the mountain where the school is being built, Michael began to struggle, but the locals refused to let him go it alone. The women and children behind him, who were carrying heavy cargo (food and supplies) on their heads and backs, helped to carry and push Michael to the top of the mountain.
Like Michael, the people of Haiti will never give up.
Michael plans to return to Haiti later in the year to help fix the orphanage attached to the school, but he still needs to raise some more funds.
“We’re planning a fundraiser in March to raise the rest of the money,” Michael says. “We only need $2,500 – a little goes a long way over there.”
Michael Crossland sets an example for all of us. He’s a man who has faced (and still faces) extreme challenges in life, but he never gives up. And despite his own obstacles, he always puts others before himself and gives so much to people in need.
A true inspiration. A true hero.
Details of Michael’s fundraiser for Haiti are yet to be confirmed, but will be announced online in the coming days.