Vitalis Lanshima epitomizes what is best about Louisville, Kentucky. As a young man of twenty-five trying to find his way in life, Louisville represented a new beginning for him. He had lost his arms in an electric shock accident thirteen years earlier, crippling any hopes he had to steer himself and his family out of poverty. In 1989, Vitalis was training for an athletic competition when the crossbar he was holding with both hands inadvertently touched an electric, high-voltage power cable and he was electrocuted. He experienced third-degree burns that melted his fingers together, rendering his hands useless. After several surgeries to repair damaged nerves and restore function, gangrene set in, leading the doctors to settle for amputation.
For five years, Vitalis relied on his family and friends for his daily care and needs. Staying true to his progressive instinct, Vitalis opted to empower himself, learning to complete his daily tasks. He understood that what he needed was a hand up and not a handout. With empowerment came aspiration. Vitalis enrolled in 7th grade at the age of eighteen. He also began to work hard to become a world-class athlete. In 2000, Vitalis set two world records at the Paralympic Games in Australia. Subsequently he was awarded a scholarship by Bellarmine University to become the first international Paralympic athlete recruited by any college in the United States. Although he arrived in Louisville without any money or family connections, he was motivated by a simple powerful idea, that in Louisville, if he worked hard and remained steadfast he would be successful and play his part in building a better society.
In 2004, Vitalis was nominated for the Laureus World Sports Award. His performance and zeal earned him accolades and admiration from the local and international media. He is a recipient of the Rotary Club of Louisville International Scholarship, and was awarded Bellarmine University’s Lenihan Award for Leadership & Community Service for three years in a row. When Vitalis graduated from Bellarmine, he went to work as a research analyst for a research firm. Although he prized his job at Thoroughbred Research, the faces of the children he met in schools across Jefferson County through his work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes continued to tug at his heart. He quit his job and went back to school to become a teacher.
Vitalis has served with enthusiasm in various academic and community leadership capacities. He was the chairperson for Conway Middle School Advisory Council and served on the school’s Site-Based Decision Making Council (SBDM). He previously served on the Kentucky Education Association and Jefferson County Teachers Association Board of Directors.Vitalis was the co-chair of Mayor Greg Fischer’s Disability Policy Committee during the 2010 campaign and served as Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign liaison to the educators across Kentucky. He is a Kentucky Colonel and a graduate of Leadership Louisville’s Bingham Fellows Program. Vitalis is a member of Young Professionals Association of Louisville. Vitalis currently serves as a member of the Metro Democratic Club Board of Directors and is the Louisville Young Democrats’ Finance Director.
Vitalis is a doctoral candidate in educational leadership and has a Masters in Business Administration. He an adjunct professor at Bellarmine University teaching courses in social entrepreneurship. Vitalis has been married to Beth Streble for eight years and they currently live in eastern Jefferson County.