Video: The Story of Richie Parker, Hendrick Motorsports Designer
We here at Power Automedia want to introduce you to Richie Parker. As a body designer and engineer for Hendrick Motorsports, Parker has made a tremendous journey from his humble beginnings in Beaufort, South Carolina. And it’s a bit more breathtaking when you consider Parker’s condition.
Parker was born in May, 1983, to parents Tracy and Lottie. Unexpectedly, Richie was found to have a non-genetic birth defect that left him with bilateral amelia; in other words, he was born without arms.
It was a truly bittersweet moment for mom and dad, as Lottie recalls: “I’m thinking: how are we going to get through this? How would he eat, how would he open doors, how would he do just the normal, everyday things? But [after] I saw Richie, there was no question after that.”
Tracy and Lottie were steadfast in their support for their son, raising him to be as independent and normal as humanly possible. Several modification were made to household items like the refrigerator, which had a strap hooked in that the Richie would loop around his shoulder to open the door.
A heartwarming and touching example was the bicycle that Tracy made for Richie as a kid, raising the handlebars and welding special extensions that settled into his shoulders. These and other examples shined a light on what ingenuity and engineering could do as life skills.
But perhaps his greatest achievement of young adult life was getting to drive a car. His perseverance and resolve to overcome obstacles, combined with the well-meaning but empty advice of others to ride buses and taxis, fueled Parker’s desire to drive: “I always wanted to drive. I was told by a few different people, ‘Well, if there’s a bus in your area, or if there are taxi cabs, that’s all you need to do; just use that as your transportation.’ But that just wasn’t me.”
In 1998, at age 15, Parker found the car just for him when he laid eyes on a red 1964 Impala SS. Mother and father convinced the owner to sell the vehicle, and to this day, fifteen years later, it’s still Parker’s cherished treasure. “It’s meant a great deal to Parker as a source of independence and pride,” his father states; and it definitely shows as we see Parker go to work on the exhaust.
Said Rex Stump, engineering manager for Hendrick, “There were about 20 resumes that I went through before I settled on Richie’s. I knew he could do the things he needed to do, it was more a question of how.”
Parker answered that question when he showed his remarkable dexterity, being able to navigate his computer workload using his feet. So outstanding was his performance at the company that what was originally meant to be a 10-month internship has now passed the 8-year mark, with Parker now serving as a chassis and body component designer.
Stories like these can put things in perspective for the rest of us. When we might think we have it hard sometimes, and wonder how to make it through the day, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that others must overcome a great deal more to get where they are going. Richie Parker is truly an inspiration to us all. What have you overcome to get to where you’re at today? Share your story with us below in the comments section.