Brandon Farbstein, 16: High-School Student, Public Speaker and Community Activist 

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Scott Elmquist

Like a seasoned orator, Brandon Farbstein lets audiences into his true self. He is relatable and sincere, with a depth that goes beyond his years.

Those abilities were on full display in April at the annual TEDxRVA forum, which allowed an audience to see the struggles of someone with a rare form of dwarfism. He moved many listeners to tears, felt a surge of newfound self-confidence and inspired others with his ability to reduce a mountain of an obstacle to a mere hill.

A student at Deep Run High School who stands 3-foot-8, Farbstein spoke of defying a doctor’s suggestion to consider a wheelchair. He says he worried that by using one at such a young age he would lose the ability to walk.

Instead, Farbstein figured an ideal mobility tool would be a Segway. He started a fundraising campaign called Help Brad Move, which raised $5,000 and eventually allowed him to purchase two smaller versions of the device.

“The bottom line is,” he told the audience, “don’t let other people, even a doctor, dictate the experience you are going to have.”

Farbstein has tackled 10 speaking engagements since the TEDxRVA talk. He seems to be a natural, with talents as a performer honed in productions of SPARC, the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community.

“I didn’t realize just how many people that I did reach,” he says about the experience. “My proudest moment was being a speaker for the event. I was honored to be myself. I was honored to be in my body and to be right there, right then.”

It also motivated him to step forward as a key voice in the fight to establish an independent, stand-alone, regional children’s hospital in Richmond. Last month, he helped urge City Council to pass a resolution of support.

Farbstein says he wants anyone who hears him to have take-aways.

“I want them to realize that yeah, I have this crappy condition and it causes me a bunch of medical issues, physical pain and emotional pain every day — but I’m not letting any of that stop me,” he says. “I’m not letting anyone tell me you can’t do it, you won’t do it. ... I want them to see the potential to get out of the boundaries that they feel.”

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