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Former Salt Laker wheels out positive feelings for disabled

Eddie Thompson "takes what was given him and makes the best of it."

Born with crippling cerebral palsy, the former Salt Laker and resident of Hawaii since 1983, arrived Friday in Salt Lake City during a cross-country trip sponsored by Abilities First, Honolulu, to raise awareness regarding the potential of people with handicaps.But Thompson, 52, also had another reason for coming to Utah on Father's Day weekend -- his father, Paul E. Thompson is a retired Salt Lake businessman who will turn 90 on Sept. 8. He also wanted to renew acquaintance with boyhood friends.

"Never, never give up on people with disabilities," said Thompson, who has difficulty speaking because of his handicap.

He is accompanied by Richard Miano, a Waikiki photographer and president of nonprofit Abilities First, and others in a support team. They flew from Hawaii to San Francisco, rented a van and traveled to Utah, stopping en route so the former Utahn could visit relatives in Sacramento, Calif., and Reno, Nev.

In Salt Lake City and other cities, Thompson rides his three-wheeler around downtown and other areas, following a pattern set in Hawaii. There he usually rides 20 miles a day.

"We walk, we ride. We accompany Eddie all the way," Miano said. "We are riding in many cities to raise awareness of what challenged people can accomplish if they don't give up." He and others in the group are not paid.

The determination to carry on despite physical hardship seemed to be instilled in Thompson at an early age. At birth doctors said he would only live about eight days. But through his own determination and the support and help of his parents (his mother, Dorotha, a strong supporter of education and other services for people with cerebral palsy, is deceased) he was able to succeed.

Thompson has no balance and can't walk without a walker. Although Thompson has difficulty speaking, Miano said his friend has strong mental skills. "His accomplishments have been tremendous."

In Honolulu, Thompson lives independently in an apartment. He wants to do everything that he can himself and is an inspiration to others, according to newspaper accounts written about him.

Thompson, Miano and the other visitors left Salt Lake City Tuesday and were to make stops in Colorado, Missouri, Boston and Washington, D.C. Also, they will travel to Connecticut where Thompson will participate in an athletic event for those with cerebral palsy.

He left Utah on an upbeat note and with advice for others with hurdles to overcome:

"Get out and enjoy your life -- no matter what the challenge."