SMYRNA, Tenn. — When George Dennehy was a young boy, he never dreamed he would spend his career as a motivational speaker and musician.
But the armless teenager has spent the last couple of years sharing his story and encouraging others, and he'll be on stage at the ONEless benefit dinner to speak Nov. 7.
Dennehy's story begins in a poor orphanage in Romania. Born without arms, his condition was "viewed as a curse," he says. So his parents turned him over to the orphanage, where he became malnourished.
A newsletter from Bethany Christian Services shared his story and eventually, Dennehy was adopted by a family in America.
Early on, he says his parents noticed musical abilities in him.
"When I was 8 years old ... my mom decided to sign me up for cello lessons and I started playing," he says, admitting that he "didn't really enjoy it."
His first teacher helped him adapt his disability in order to be able to play with his feet.
"She actually learned to play cello with her feet. She wanted to see if it was possible to do it. She made up foot exercises to do. ... We came up with a lot of stuff to bounce off each other and it was a work in progress and trial and error," he says. "She helped me tremendously."
One of the first modifications to playing the cello was done to the bow in order to make it easier to manage with his toes.
"Most people play cello sitting down in a chair, but I sat on a stool and had the cello sitting on a stand that a friend from church made that held it in place above the ground. Little things like that made it easier for me," he says.
At the beginning of high school, when the cello became "not so cool" to play, Dennehy took up playing guitar and "picked it up pretty fast."
"It was a blessing, though, to learn cello first, because it's the hardest of all to play," he says. "The only difference in the guitar is I'm holding a pick and I'm playing cords."
He was able to figure out his own way to adapt to playing the guitar. but Dennehy uses a standard guitar. "I play in the same tune as everyone else," he notes.
Learning to play music hasn't been an easy road. He was shy at first and self-conscious.
"I did face challenges of being different and not knowing if I was ever going to make something of myself, and having those doubts and hearing those lies. Nobody was saying (negative things) to me; it was me saying it to myself," he says. "I just think the Devil was trying to lie to me."
But every time he got on stage to perform or play music, he could see how the audience was in awe of his abilities and that gave him confidence to pursue his career.
"Music is definitely that hope that maybe there is something for me to do," he says.
So this past year, Dennehy decided to take his music and motivational speaking on the road full time.
"This is where I'm supposed to be," he says.
Dennehy says his primary message is one of being able to overcome.
"Despite what situation you're in, anything is possible. It is so easy to want to give up and throw in the towel in life sometimes. But we shouldn't do that. There's more that is meant for us," he says. "God has a purpose for every one of us."
He touts the Bible verse of Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans to prosper you and protect you, not to harm you; plans for a future and hope."
"She always made me pursue it and never give up on it like I wanted to do so many times. I'm glad (I stayed with it)," he says.
Eventually he branched out to guitar, piano and bass, along with a few other instruments.
Information from: The Daily News Journal, http://www.dnj.com
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