By Richard Rhinehart
Holbrook, New York, January 16, 2015 – Brooklyn, New York native Tony Lombardo understands the challenges faced by healthy individuals when they develop a serious illness or are severely injured. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1987, the former cross country runner is now the director of Let’s Hear Your Story, a social impact organization and web site that collects and posts intense survival stories.
At the time of his diagnosis, Lombardo thought his life was over. At such times, Lombardo now recommends to “find yourself an emotional Hercules or Herculiana,” a mentor, someone who can teach survival skills through example. “Emotional stamina is what it’s all about.”
With thoughts of suicide from a life living with MS, Lombardo discovered he was inspired by individuals like Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and U.S. Navy Corpsman Robert R. Ingram, a Vietnam veteran who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. These individuals, as well as his wife, family and friends who “never turned their backs” helped him move to a better frame of mind and take on his life’s unique challenges.
In 2007, with writer Craig Schuab, Lombardo wrote “On Both Sides of the Fence,” a “how-to” book about overcoming challenges that we encounter with life. “How do you survive the worst times imaginable?” is the book’s message, he said. Though book sales have never been exceptional, the experience helped him take his life to “a higher level.”
Through increasing involvement in public speaking and local activities in New Jersey, Lombardo realized that inspirational survival stories from individuals who overcome personal challenges and life-changing incidents can be therapeutic to others facing their own challenges. Creating the non-profit organization Let’s Hear Your Story, Lombardo launched a web site that allows individuals to post their own short stories of overcoming life’s adversities. The stories then inspire others who visit the site.
“I am not shy when it comes to talking to the public about my organization and web site,” Lombardo said. “I’m always on the lookout for great survival stories.”
With no sponsorship funding for his organization, Lombardo depends on the media to spread the word about the web site and his ongoing search for inspirational stories about survival. “What got you through the bad times?” is what interests Lombardo.
Through a column in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst Bean and other local media, Let’s Hear Your Story has grown to more than 30 stories. But, he wants to see many more stories posted in the coming months and beyond.
To help increase his story count, he is currently working with a local New Jersey high school to include Let’s Hear Your Story as an extra-curricular activity. He’s also reaching out to other non-profit organizations to help increase awareness and participation. With World T.E.A.M. Sports, he is hopeful that many of the participating injured athletes will be inspired to tell their story. Posting content is free, and can be done anonymously if desired.
While using a motorized wheelchair for mobility, the 62-year-old grandfather doesn’t look back at the “emotional pain” he experienced at his darkest hours after his diagnosis of MS. Instead, he’s “always in the mood to learn new survival skills” through stories.
Plus, he reports, “Humor gets you through so many bad times. It is God’s ’emotional safety valve’ to mankind.”