Woman born with no legs shares success story

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 22, 2010

One could never accuse Clarissa Horn of failing to put her best foot – albeit an artificial one – forward in life.

Horn, an Abbeville native, was the featured guest speaker at the 17th annual Coving-ton County Com-mittee on Employ-ment of People with Disabi-lities recognition luncheon on Thursday.

The CCCEPD group strives to promote and coordinate public and private efforts to enhance the employment of people with disabilities. It provides information, training and technical assistance to business leaders, organized labor, rehabilitation and service providers, advocacy organizations and families and individuals with disabilities.

The committee also recognized Andalusia High School’s Sonja Hines as its educator of the year; Dr. Faith Drumheller of the Opp Veterinary Hospital as its employer of the year; Eugene Birge as its professional of the year; and Eric Crawl of Andalusia as its employee of the year.

Event organizers described Horn as a prime example of how the program can benefit both the community and individual.

Born without any legs, she spoke of receiving her first set of prosthetics at age 4 and overcoming adversity to succeed in life.

“I finally found out that being normal is in the eyes of the beholder,” Horn said. “We are who God made us to be. In 1998, I graduated from high school and got my associates degree from Wallace (Community College) in office administration. I was excited about life, getting a job and having a family.

“When I went on job interviews, I was always honest about my disability,” she said. “I let them know firsthand that I was handicapped, that I had artificial legs. You could tell then, the interview was going great until that point. They said they’d call, and I’m still waiting.”

However, it didn’t take Horn long to realize she had to take matters into her own hands. By then, she had a small daughter who was attending the Head Start program. She volunteered, but said she grew bored.

“It wasn’t for me, volunteering,” she said. “I was bored. I wanted to work. I always said I wanted my child to get an education, get a good job, but I knew they wouldn’t do it if I didn’t do it for myself.”

Horn elected to go back to school; however, it wasn’t long before opportunity, well, kicked in her door.

“One day, I was taking my other daughter to school at Head Start and the director stopped me and said, ‘You want a job?’ I said, ‘Yes. I will do anything you want me to do. Anything.”

Horn’s “anything” turned out to be a program called HIPPY, or Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, which is a parent involvement, school readiness program that helps parents prepare their 3- to 5- year-old children for success in school and beyond.

“Now, I own my own house, my own car,” she said. “I am ecstatic with the way life is going, and it’s all because one (business) decided to hire someone with a disability. You have to remember that just because the things in life slow you down, it doesn’t mean you have to stop living.”