Cam Calkoen: Beyond limits

Cam Calkoen

When Cam Calkoen was born, doctors prophesised for him a life filled with wheelchairs, dependence and restrictions. He was born with Cerebral Palsy. And also with a courageous will to ignore his supposed limitations.

From a young age, Cam showed a willingness to challenge the limitations others set for him. “My first dream was to ride a bicycle,” Cam says, “Now as a seven year old kid with Cerebral Palsy this was pretty scary for my Mum and Dad to watch, but it was my dream and through achieving it I became stronger, fitter, and more mobile.”

Once he achieved this first goal in spite of other people’s doubts Cam realised that he had a simple choice to make in life and asked himself one question – “Do I focus on what I can’t do or do I focus on what I can do?”

Cam chose to focus on what he can do.

Through hard-work, dedication, and the power of dreaming big, Cam went on to represent New Zealand on the world stage, competing in international events for both 100 and 200 metre sprints, and being recognised as one of the top ten athletes in the world for his discipline.

Doctors told Cam he would see much of life from a wheelchair

His success in athletics lead Cam to his next dream – mentoring. “As a young man (21 at the time) I realised that I was fortunate to have the mentors that I had, giants that included politicians, business professionals, athletes, actors, news readers, doctors, environmentalist, teachers, artists, and more. My mentors created channels of information, guidance, networks and opportunities that encouraged me to look past myself to develop a bigger picture. I began to think how cool would it be if this network was available to young people with disabilities who also aspire to make a world of difference in their life through achieving their dreams.

Never one to let a great idea go unrealised, Cam took this spark of inspiration and turned it into a reality. Carabiner Mentoring was born. The programme links young people with disabilities who show passion and perseverance towards a specific goal to mentors who have experience in that area. Cam explains, “A Carabiner is the link that connects a rock climber to their rope, giving them the support, guidance and confidence to reach the pinnacle of their mountain. Take away the rock face and replace it with any professional or recreational goal and Carabiner Mentoring supports that young person to stand on the top.

From birth, Cam was classified by what he could not do well. He broke free from these restrictions to become a world-class athlete, motivational speaker, and founder of Carabiner mentoring: “In focusing on what I can do I have created a life where Cerebral Palsy is so much a part of who I am that if there was a magical cure to take it away I would have to think twice about taking the medication as I can’t see my life going in any better direction. I have turned what was once perceived to be my biggest weaknesses (the way I walk and the way I talk) into my biggest strengths.”

I leave you with some final words of wisdom from Cam: “When it comes to dreams it does not matter how we enter this world or what may happen to us on this journey as to whether we achieve or not. What matters is what we see in our minds and feel in our hearts and when we connect the two, anything is possible.

Visit Cam’s website to connect with him or click here to find out more about Carabiner mentoring.


About Cassandra

Hi, I'm Cassandra. I work in fundraising, love travelling, and am fascinated by how we can inspire one another to greatness and spread human kindness. Connect with me on twitter @cassandra_nz


  1. Thank you so much for sharing Cam’s story. Very inspiring. If we could all find our ‘cam’ spot within and let ourselves shine the world would be a better place!

    • I totally agree. Cam is a very inspiring individual. His new challenge to himself is to become a motivational speaker (I met him when he gave a talk at a work function of mine) and he’s well on his way.

  2. I met Cam and in the few minutes we had to speak, I found him to be inspirational by example and motivational in his speaking! It was great to read the back story of the man I met!

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