Bernardo Yorba Middle School Hosts Kevan Chandler as an Inspirational Speaker

Bernardo Yorba Middle School Hosts Kevan Chandler as an Inspirational Speaker


Bernardo Yorba Middle School hosted guest speaker Kevan Chandler on an online zoom assembly. Kevan spoke about his experience being diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) when he was young, and, in 2016, designing a backpack so he and his friends could travel Europe, leaving his wheelchair at the airport.  


Kevan was invited by Principal Fisher to do a motivational speech about his travel to Europe while being carried on a backpack. Principal Fisher first heard about Kevan’s story when she was traveling with her family and Kevan’s story was becoming popular online. Mrs. Fisher states, “I first heard about Kevan and his journey this summer while on vacation with my family. He was trending online and the story captured my heart.” After Kevan’s story caught the attention of Principal Fisher and Bernardo Yorba’s school PBIS (positive behavior intervention and support), they directly asked Kevan if he would be the inspirational speaker for the first week of the school welcome activity.


Kevan’s friends Tom Troyer, Phillip Keller, Luke Thopmson, Robbie Barnes, and Ben Duvall all went to Europe with Kevan. Kevan knows Tom Troyer, Phillip Keller, and Luke Thompson from growing up in North Carolina when the four of them joined a local music scene together and became friends. Robbie and Ben were mutual friends and grew closer to the four over time. Ben and Kevan now live in Indiana together as roommates.     


Kevan and his friends first had the idea of the makeshift backpack when they went urban spelunking (traveling through sewers). Kevan had always wanted to travel Europe but it was never handicap accessible. Kevan and his friends went to REI and bought two child carrier backpacks (in case they broke one in the process). The group then started to work with a local company to make modifications to the chair. 


Kevan and his friends have started to inspire a lot of people. In an interview with the Matador Messenger, student Hallie Jones stated, “He was really inspirational because he made me want to achieve the dreams of being a better person.” Kevan and his friends currently have a book and a movie inspired by their journey.