INSIDER SCOOP: Keynote Speaker John O'Leary

Mar 23, 2021

The Salvation Army of Kent County’s seventh annual Red Shield Event is coming up virtually on April 14 and we are excited to have you join us. Not only will this evening be celebrating how our programs have served during the pandemic, we will also have the incredible opportunity to hear a deeply inspiring and moving message from bestselling author and speaker John O’Leary. 

Before reading more about John’s incredible story, he has a personal invitation for why you need to tune in at 6:30 p.m. on April 14. 


Why did The Salvation Army of Kent County select John for this event?

John came referred to us from a Grand Rapids Advisory Board member who attended one of John’s talks four years ago and the message still resonates with him. Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted our plans, he was scheduled to join us in person at our Red Shield Event in 2020. John’s message about facing adversity is perfect for the times we live in as so many people are facing hardships and unexpected life changes. His emotional storytelling, unexpected humor, and authenticity make each of his presentations truly transformational.

John’s Story

A St. Louis native, John was a curious nine-year-old boy in 1987. Playing with fire and gasoline, John created a massive explosion in his home and was burned on 100% of his body. He was given less than a 1% chance to live. His unlikely recovery meant a journey of pain and loss that could have easily been insurmountable. However, far from being an example of someone who simply endured tragedy, John is a luminous example of thriving through adversity.

This epic story of survival was first showcased in his parents’ book, “Overwhelming Odds,” in 2006. It was this book that first invited John to embrace his miraculous recovery and share it with the world.

Watch Major League Baseball’s video that features the bond John developed with St. Louis Cardinals and Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck during his recovery.

“On Fire” and “In Awe”

John is the author of two No. 1 national bestselling books. 

His first book, “On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life,” shares John’s amazing story of the day he was burned, the heroic actions of his siblings, the saving power of his parents’ love, the efforts of the medical staff and the impact of friends and strangers. Through these encounters, and the lessons they taught, John discovered how to shift from being a “victim” to a “victor.” “On Fire” shares John’s seven choices that will empower you to be a victor in every moment. Prepare to transform your life from dull to extraordinary, tragic to triumphant, and merely successful to truly significant.

His second book, “In Awe: Rediscover Your Childlike Wonder to Unleash Inspiration, Meaning and Joy,” was published in May 2020. We once raised our hand to answer every question, and jumped into new experiences boldly, excitedly, and without fear. Now, too many of us find ourselves caught in a life of dogged responsibility and mind-numbing repetition; we are disconnected and burned out. In this book, John gives us the tools to help us rediscover the child-like qualities of wonder, expectancy, immersion, belonging and freedom that allow us to live life more fully, power past today’s perceived challenges and reignite our lives. Strengthened by the past, and empowered for the future, “In Awe” shows us how to seek fresh insights, reach for new solutions, and live our best lives.

John’s Live Inspired podcast is top rated on Apple Podcast and has more than 2 million downloads.

Live Inspired

John inspires 50,000+ people at 100+ events each year. He speaks to companies and organizations across industries, such as sales, healthcare, safety, marketing, finance, faith, education and insurance.
Consistently described as “the best speaker we’ve ever had,” John receives nearly all of his engagements from referrals. His schedule is a testament to the power of his message and who he is as an individual. 

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