I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Michael Crossland to find out about his latest accomplishments, and he has had an amazing 2012. Many of you will know Michael’s story, which was shared in FOCUS 12 months ago. Michael was diagnosed with an incurable cancer at just 11 months old and only given 3 months to live.
Spending many years in hospital, fighting through a cardiac arrest before his 12th birthday, representing his country for 10 consecutive years in the sport of baseball, having an incredibly successful career in the finance world, sharing his amazing journey on Australian Story … but it’s what Michael has been able to achieve since that really inspires.
In 2012, Michael has presented in front of over 250,000 people around the world. He has signed a book deal, film producers have begun shooting a documentary about his life, he was named the Canterbury Bulldogs’ “Secret Motivational Weapon” on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and Rugby League Week. He was on the front cover of FOCUS, a successful Smile with Mike tour throughout Australia, featured on a TV show in Fiji, was the Make a Wish for a young cancer patient in Adelaide, has his own online radio show in America and has been presented with the Australia Day Ambassador Role for the 3rd consecutive year!
Michael returned home to Australia in late August after a hugely successful speaking tour throughout the USA, speaking to the New York Mets Organisation, the victims and their families of the 911 attacks and filming a documentary about his humanitarian work rebuilding an orphanage in Haiti.
When I speak to Michael about his accomplishments, I get a huge sense of humility, no big ego … just a man who is happy with life and feels blessed with the opportunities that come along!
We asked Michael about some profound times experienced throughout 2012.
Michael told me about a phone call he will never forget: “I was in the middle of my Australian speaking tour in May and received a phone call from a lady who was at an event I spoke at 2 years prior. She informed me of a young boy named Kai (5), who was diagnosed with cancer. She asked me if there was a possibility of me flying to Adelaide, presenting and donating my time at a fundraiser to help with medical costs etc. I was honoured; however, I was in the middle of a speaking tour and couldn’t go straight there. I informed her that my tour (domestic and international) finished in September, and I could only make it then.
“A short time later (in June), I received a call from the Make A Wish Foundation, who told me that Kai had been transferred from the oncology ward to the palliative care unit and had only two weeks to live. I was heartbroken by this boy I had never met. She told me it was Kai’s wish to meet me before he died. I only had 2 free days before I left for the USA for 3 months and was hoping to spend this time with my wife, as I had only spent 2 weeks with her since we married. I called Mel and told her of the situation, and she said to me that I must go.
“So I flew to Adelaide. When I arrived, this little fragile boy with no hair came running through to me, drugged up on morphine to take some of his pain away and literally jumped into my arms. It was one of those days that will remain in my heart forever.
“Six weeks later whilst on my tour throughout America, he passed away! The tears I have in my eyes are of sadness, but also of joy, knowing I had the great blessing of spending a special piece of time with Kai and that he is now pain free.”
Michael still can’t believe that he has these experiences, and words can’t describe how it makes him feel inside. Talking of emotional topics, Michael presented to the children and families of the 911 attacks in New York late last year, and their stories were also life changing for Michael.
“I was speaking to a gentleman after my event and he shared his journey being on the 47th floor, being told to stay in his cubicle, to stay calm and not move. He went on to say: “There was something telling me to get out, take the stairs and run”. He ran down 47 flights of stairs and whilst in the stairwell, he heard a massive explosion and assumed that the building was about to crush him, but he kept on running. When he finally reached the ground floor, he ran outside and saw what looked like a war zone. He looked over and saw that the explosion he heard earlier was the 2nd tower that had been hit. He ran from the building and heard a loud slapping noise. He got far enough away, turned and saw that the slapping noise was sadly people hitting the pavement, trying to escape the burning building.”
Michael says: “These stories should be reminders to people that life is such a gift; we need to embrace it and enjoy it whilst we can. Our lives can be turned upside down with just one phone call, one bad decision, one act of terror, and it may never be the same again. I am a strong believer that it’s not about the amount of years you live on this earth, but rather what you fit into those years in making the world a better place that really matters.”
Michael and his friend Simon O’Dell travelled to Haiti in August and filmed a documentary of Michael’s humanitarian work. They helped rebuild a new roof, shower and toilet and provide beds and mattresses for all the children at the Love Orphanage. They also hand delivered some beautiful quilts made by some lovely ladies in Coffs Harbour and knitted blankets from the special ladies at Boambee Gardens. Michael said, “To see the smiles on these beautiful children over something so simple, something that we all take for granted every day, like a roof over our head, food in our stomachs, a blanket and clean drinking water is unbelievable.”
Michael is passionate about his humanitarian work in Haiti and is planning another trip that will see him and his fellow Frontier project team head back over to build the top storey of the orphanage, an outdoor undercover play area and kitchen at the school that he and his team helped build in January last year. They will be holding a Hope 4 Haiti dinner at the Osprey Restaurant (Coffs Harbour Education Campus) on 23 February. Tickets are only $50, and for this you will be spoilt by a mouth-watering 3 course meal, entertained by some amazingly talented local artists and be the first to view the documentary of Michael’s humanitarian work in Haiti. There will also be raffle prizes, lucky door prizes and a live auction.
Tickets are available from Soul Café Jetty, Coffs Harbour Yacht Club, Beauty on the Promenade, Edwards Vintage Modern Boutique in the Cinema Arcade, Sawtell Surf Club or online at www.stickytickets.com.au/10111
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.
This article was published in issue 29 of Coffs Coast Focus