Dreaming BIG with Leigh Caldwell
Leigh Caldwell is the founder of Happy Feat Inc.; a non for profit community organisation that focuses on providing a fun, encouraging and supportive environment for people with special needs and ‘differing’ abilities. Leigh’s founding story of Happy Feat showcases that any ordinary, everyday, down-to-earth person can achieve anything with determination and absolute passion! We were grateful to be joined by Leigh at our Townsville Altitude Day, where her story opened the hearts and minds of students in the room.
We asked Leigh a few questions about what it takes to dream BIG:
What was a dream you had in high school (or Year 9 specifically)?
At school, I can’t remember having any specific goals but that’s probably because it was so long ago!
Can you share with us a goal that you have achieved and what it meant to you to achieve it?
When I began Happy Feat over 11 years ago, my goals were:
– For people with ‘differing abilities’ to gain acceptance and inclusion in the community.
– To highlight all their “Ability”
– To give them experiences they’ve never had in their lives.
And I’m thrilled to have achieved every one of these dreams and changed many lives.
To have Guy Sebastian want to dance with our Happy Featers at THREE of his concerts is the pinnacle of acceptance and inclusion. In fact, Guy is now OUR GROUPIE! Our members have performed at the Cowboy’s home games and Dance for Daniel Balls three times. Bruce & Denise Morcombe absolutely love our Happy Featers. It was a crazy idea, but we also took 70 of our group to Newcastle to perform at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympic Games. Many declared this was the best four days of their life. After sharing this adventure with a film crew, they produced an inspirational documentary that went on to win ‘Best Documentary’ at the QLD Multi Media Awards. But I think the highlight for me is watching our Happy Featers’ confidence grow and how willing they are to now take on any challenge. They’ve been able to take that confidence into their everyday life and it’s actually changed their lives.
Leigh and the Happy Feat dance crew
The Happy Feat dance crew performing with Guy Sebastian in 2016!
While chasing dreams there are moments of highs and lows (mountain tops and valleys if you will)… what motivates you to continue chasing that dream when you’re in the valley?
I’ve never been one to follow a well-worn track, I make my own path. And sure, that path hasn’t always been smooth. In fact, there have been times where it’s been so rocky, I’ve taken some pretty impressive tumbles, been battered and bruised, even stumbled over the edge and spent time scrambling in the valleys. But there have also been times when that path has led me to the most euphoric peaks, where you feel like you are on top of the world. And to share that spectacular view and experience with others, has been life changing.
Time spent in the valleys is a great character-building opportunity and it’s important to recognise how you feel while you’re down there and to accept that it really is OK to feel like that. But, then you have to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and get back on the path again. If I hadn’t got back up EVERY time I was knocked down, all these lives wouldn’t have been changed.
What piece of practical advice would you give to young people who want to start, or are in the process of chasing a dream?
There are four really important things to always remember:
‘Believe and you can achieve.’
‘Nike – just do it.’
‘Always take something good out of a bad experience.’
‘Get back up EVERY time you’re knocked down.’
All dreams, big and small, are valuable. What are 5 dreams you are currently chasing?
When I began Happy Feat over 11 years ago, I started capturing all the amazing moments and extraordinary transformations in a very rough journal. Being painfully private, I never once considered sharing this with anyone. That was until I had an ‘Aha moment’ and realised this journey could inspire others to follow their dreams and to get up every time you’re knocked down. Two critically important messages. Not knowing the first thing about writing a book hasn’t stopped me and I’m hoping to launch it at the end of 2021. This inspirational and entertaining story is called, ‘Hope, Grit and Gratitude.’
Another HUGE dream I’m hoping will come true towards the end of 2021 is so top secret that I’m unable to share any details at this stage. But I will say, “Watch this space!’
Another dream that’s a constant ‘work in progress’ is continuing to nurture our Happy Featers, keep building their confidence and helping them to achieve their dreams.