November 14, 2011
BISMARCK, ND - As a youngster, John O'Leary was fascinated by fire - so much so, that after watching a group of older boys pour gasoline on the sidewalk and light it with a match, he decided to give it a try himself. O'Leary, a 9-year-old at the time, lit a piece of cardboard near a five-gallon can of gas in his family's garage. The resulting explosion threw his body across the garage and changed his life.
His parents were not home but three of his five siblings were. While on fire, O'Leary made his way to the front door. His brother tackled him and rolled him in the snow. While John was smoldering, his little sister repeatedly ran into the burning house, bringing one cup of water at a time and throwing it in his face. All three risked their lives to save him.
From the moment the fire started, throughout the stages of his prolonged recovery, O'Leary has used every breath of his near-death experience to inspire and empower others across the world to dream again, re-ignite their passion and take positive action. On Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, 11 a.m., in the McDowell Activity Center (MAC), O'Leary will share his remarkable story of hope, courage and faith at the annual University of Mary Prayer Day celebration.
University of Mary students are admitted free to Thursday's event. Others may register on-site at the McDowell Activity Center, beginning at 10 a.m. However, advanced online registration is strongly recommended at (http://www.umary.edu/prayerday). The fee for the entire day (including lunch) is $10. You may pay at the registration table on Prayer Day. To learn more, contact Kristi Wanner at (701) 355-8102 or [email protected] A lunch will be provided at noon. It will be followed by workshops at 1 p.m. and a Eucharistic liturgy at 2:15 p.m.
As you will hear from O'Leary, despite being burned on 100 percent of his body and given less than one percent chance to survive, he has beaten those odds through attitude, heart, spirit and faith in God.
O'Leary tells the story of himself lying in the hospital with his eyes swollen shut and unable to talk. He could hear a familiar booming voice that sounded like his hero Jack Buck, the St. Louis Cardinals announcer. But thought it was only a dream when he first heard it.
"Kid, you've got to hang on," Buck told O'Leary.
Now, O'Leary's not just surviving - but thriving. He overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to become a college graduate, business owner, hospital chaplain, the ambassador for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, an international speaker, husband, father and he was the first inductee into the Energizer "Keep Going" Hall of Fame in 2006.