Stephanie Decker Profile

  • She became a national hero after saving her children during a tornado that flattened their home and crushed her body.

  • Her experience regaining her independence and ability to walk make her as an outstanding role model of exercising mental toughness and overcoming adversity.

  • As the founder of a non-profit that helps children with missing limbs play sports and get the prosthetic technology they need, she inspires others to discover and commit to a cause that is bigger than themselves.
  • Stephanie Decker became a national hero after she saved her children, shielding them from the falling debris of their collapsing house with her own body while a freak tornado engulfed their small Indiana town. Though she lost both legs, her spirit and determination remained unbroken. The admired mother has continued to inspire the country through her remarkable recovery and her relentless advocacy to create opportunities for children and adults with missing limbs.

    After being told by experts that she would be wheelchair bound the rest of her life, Stephanie made a 110% effort and was walking with the use of prosthetics within a year of the devastating tornado that had crushed her and her house. In collaboration with President Obama, she convinced the U.S. military to give civilians access to the X3, the most advanced prosthetic technology at the time, a move that has enabled numerous civil servants such as firefighters and police officers to return to their jobs. As the founder of the Stephanie Decker Foundation, she has given children with missing limbs the opportunity to participate in able-bodied sports and advocated legislature in the Kentucky House of Representatives that would require insurance companies to provide equal coverage for all high-tech artificial limbs.

    An in-demand and highly acclaimed keynote speaker, Stephanie uses her experience to show how each one of us has the power to overcome adversity. She has inspired a wide range of audiences from women’s cancer advocacy organizations to corporate executives and senior management. In 2015, Successful Meetings ranked her in its highly selective list of “Most Reliable Keynote Speakers,” a small group of speakers who “go the extra mile to deliver outstanding presentations while being easy to work with and providing exceptional service.”

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      As an average spring shower turned deadly in Henryville, Indiana on March 2, 2012, 37-year-old wife and mother, Stephanie Decker, found herself faced with that split second, life-altering dilemma that most people pray they will never have to experience. A category 4 tornado was speeding toward her home, leaving nothing but massive destruction in its path. As she scrambled to rush her children to safety, her home began to collapse all around her.

      Shielding her 8-year-old son Dominic and her 5-year-old daughter Reese with her body, Stephanie moved back and forth to prevent bricks from hitting her children as her legs were crushed in the debris. Gone as quickly as it arrived, the tornado had rendered her helpless and bleeding in a huge pile of rubble. She urged her children, who were unharmed, to run and get help. With tremendous courage and the determination to survive, Stephanie prayed as she issued a heartfelt message to her children on her cell phone.
      After a miraculous rescue, Stephanie was taken to the hospital, where doctors determined she would need both legs amputated. Though her body was broken, her spirit remained strong.

      Since the accident, Stephanie has been featured on: The Today Show, The Ellen Degeneres Show, ABC World News Tonight as “Person of the Week”, USA Today, USA Weekend, and People Magazine. She was featured in Successful Meetings’ list of “Most Reliable Keynote Speakers” who surpass expectations. She was also named as one of the L’Oreal’s 2014 Women of Worth Honorees and nominated for the 2015 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award for her foundation work.

      Stephanie Decker has become a true symbol of survival and overcoming adversity. She has used her story to bring awareness for the Stephanie Decker Foundation, which supports two major areas:

      1. Children with prosthetics: Stephanie is passionate about children and sports. She has made it a mission to help children with prosthetics enjoy sports and the same athletic opportunities as others.
      2. Accessibility to leading-edge prosthetic products: Stephanie considers herself fortunate to have access to the latest high-tech prosthetics. However, there are many people without access. Stephanie has set out to help those people receive access to cutting-edge technology, which will help them with their mobility (she has also worked with the Kentucky legislature for this).

    Stephanie Decker Speaking Videos

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    Stephanie Decker's Speech Descriptions

    From her gripping tale of survival in a category 4 tornado to her journey regaining the ability to walk and run after losing both legs, Stephanie Decker provides the inspiration and motivation your team needs to take on challenges. Audiences shift between laughter, tears, and determination as she interweaves her experiences with takeaways on mental toughness, perseverance, teamwork, and goal setting. Stephanie will inspire you to fight through the pain to get what you are looking for while embracing life and any battle you may be facing now or in the future.

    Courage in the Storm

    Since the tornado that took both of her legs, Stephanie Decker had to rethink and rebuild her life as she knew it. Using her own story, Stephanie helps an audience find their inner hero as well as recognize the everyday heroes all around us. She provides the inspirational message to help attendees develop a “can do” attitude to face their own challenges.

    Stephanie Decker on Speaking

    I want people to walk away and feel like whatever is going on in their life, they can make a change, make a difference in their paths, and find their purpose – their “WHY” in life.

    SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn/take away from your presentations?

    DECKER: I want people to be inspired, to let go of their “some days”, and take action toward creating the life they want to live today. I am human, I am not perfect, and I don’t achieve every goal that I have ever set out to do. People relate more to my vulnerabilities than they do to anything else. They realize “Hey, she’s not superhuman after all. I can do this.” In fact, if people take one thing away from my talks, I hope that’s it. I want people to walk away and feel like whatever is going on in their life, they can make a change, make a difference in their paths, and find their purpose – their “WHY” in life. Hopefully, we will cry a little and laugh a lot along the way.

    SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How do you prepare for your speaking engagements?

    DECKER: My husband laughs at me when it comes to this! Our house is an open floor plan, which means my office is smack dab right next to the family room and kitchen, an arrangement that doesn’t lend itself to a great deal of privacy. That’s why a few weeks before I give a speech, you will usually find me locked in the bathroom to get away from the 2 dogs, 2 kids, and 1 husband! There is never a quiet moment around my house and I know many can relate; sometimes, the bathroom is the only place to get a little time to myself.

    Finally, it was show time, my husband was a nervous wreck for me, and I knew the rest of the staff was, as well. Most were banking that there was no way I was going to be able to pull this off.

    SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?

    DECKER: I have had some very interesting situations. Speaking about opening up to your vulnerabilities, I am not sure I have shared this story with anyone other than my agent. Joe (my husband) and I went to California for a TED talk I was presenting. This was my first one and I was pretty excited since these can make or break your career in speaking. I had someone help me prepare, but as a result, the order of events and language had changed quite a bit in my speech to the point where the presentation wasn’t really MY WORDS.

    At any rate, I thought I was pretty well prepared and that I was going to do great. We went for a rehearsal where we only had a few people in attendance: a speechwriter, producer, camera guys, and my husband. I got on stage and it was an EPIC FAILURE. I was for a lack of a better word, speechless – and being a speaker, that is not really an option. The speechwriter took me outside to talk and tried to be supportive. I am sure that everyone was thinking, “Wow, who brought her in to speak? She’s going to be a disaster.”

    Joe and I went to do dinner and I was stressed. I only had that evening and the next morning to get it together and I was back at the drawing board, trying to get back to my presentation that I had done in the past, and then create a more condensed version.

    Finally, it was show time, my husband was a nervous wreck for me, and I knew the rest of the staff was, as well. Most were banking that there was no way I was going to be able to pull this off. After all, most TED speakers have their talks and times memorized well before they even get to the venue. To further turn up the pressure, the gentleman before me was riveting. He did some crazy things with balls floating around the room. I remember watching him, thinking to myself “Great, I have to go after him? He was a hit!”

    My turn came. I remember getting out on stage. All eyes were on me, and I nailed it! The audience was truly captivated with my TED talk, so much that I received a standing ovation. The looks from the speechwriter, producers, and camera crew were priceless and as I left the stage the gentlemen who was up next said, “Great, I really have to go after you?” It ended up being one of my favorite talks that I have done; however, it was a little eventful to get to there.

    SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?

    DECKER: Personally, I feel I can reach a broad-spectrum audience. My story, passion, mental toughness, perseverance, power of positivity, goal oriented talks give me the ability to reach many different groups of people: conferences, businesses, corporate events, athletic groups/teams/events, religious institutions, insurance companies, doctors/hospitals/medical groups, diversity groups, and school/universities. My message is a great fit for events that focus on health and wellness, fitness, psychology, personal growth, body image, confidence, teamwork and team-building.

    Being buried and trapped in 9 feet of rubble, legs severed & bleeding profusely put me “back in the game”.

    SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote speaking topics are your favorites and why?

    DECKER: That’s a bit difficult to answer; I enjoy all of the groups that I talk with. I guess if I had to pick a favorite it would be talking to athletic and sports groups. Being an athlete it’s very easy for me to relate, because there’s this psychology in sports that you need to give it all you have got, even when you feel like you have nothing left to give. I thoroughly enjoy motivating a team or group because I am a competitor at heart. It’s odd, but I never realized how important of a role that athletics played in my life until I was put in a situation of survival. Being buried and trapped in 9 feet of rubble, legs severed & bleeding profusely put me “back in the game”. That’s an aspect that many athletes don’t understand until they are faced with unimaginable adversity or tragedy.

    SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements?

    DECKER: A nation latched on to our quiet family of four in rural Henryville, Indiana and never went away. The headlines were everyday of every week; I felt like I was being interviewed non-stop. Early on, I realized the impact that this had on women, mothers, children, amputees, and the list kept growing. I needed some way to divert the media attention from being “about ME” to “how I can help others.”

    Imagine how often do we hide behind our insecurities. How many other people in the room have the same insecurities as we do?

    SPEAKING.COM: How do you keep your audience engaged and actively listening during your keynotes? Do you use case studies, personal stories and/or in your speeches?

    DECKER: My story is compelling. I open with a video that enthralls and captures the attention of the entire audience as they feel the vibrations and sounds of a tornado in the room. It’s quite amazing to look into the crowd and see they are engaged from the very beginning. The audience and I then go on this roller coaster of emotions together: we cry, we laugh, we cry some more, we laugh some more, and then I give them the tools and teachings from my own personal experience along with how to put those into practice in their daily life.

    I am currently working on a new topic of discussion that I am excited about rolling out. I’ll give you a little inside peak; as audience members come into the room, they take a name badge. On that name badge they write one thing they don’t like about themselves or that they are insecure about. As they look around the room and begin to talk to others, how will that activity change the way they view their insecurities? Imagine how often do we hide behind our insecurities. How many other people in the room have the same insecurities as we do? Do we feel less ashamed now that we see that other people struggle just like we do?

    It’s an interesting topic for me considering we live in a world where we feel we have to be perfect, when in fact NONE of us are. I’m going to stop right there, because I don’t want to give too much of my new presentation away!

    SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients achieve?

    DECKER: At one of my recent speeches a gentleman came up to me with a full page of notes! He wanted to show me everything he wrote down; in fact, he had already text messaged his son giving him some of my advice and quotes. It was a “wow” moment for me. I had finally gotten to this point in my career where I could truly help someone else achieve their goals. Keep in mind, I usually get a response from women who are mothers, grandmothers, aunts, or sisters, and early on that had been a big focal group for me; however, now there are professional businessmen taking notes. It took some time, but I feel that I have developed my career as a motivational speaker to help people across the board as opposed to just one specific group. Exclusive Interview with Stephanie Decker
    Inspiring Mental Toughness, with Stephanie Decker
    In this interview, Stephanie Decker discusses:
    • How she and her family rebuilt their lives after surviving the collapse of their house in a category 4 tornado.
    • Do's and don'ts for supporting someone going through a difficult situation.
    • Her mission to improve the lives of people with missing limbs.
    Read the Full Interview

    "“Comfortable” would be a good word to describe my life prior to March 2012. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up."
    - Stephanie Decker

    What People are Saying about Seeing Stephanie Speak

    Rating Entries

    Truly insightful. If you're looking for someone to talk on digital business models, Stephanie is a great choice.


    “Stephanie was awesome. She delivered a great speech and answered many many questions from the attendees.”
    –Indiana Electric Cooperatives

    “Everything with Stephanie was wonderful! She is just simply delightful and I was honored to meet her. We haven’t done evaluations but plan to yet today. I don’t need to see the responses though. I know that our audience LOVED her! In fact, I would be quite surprised if we don’t end up having some of our member hospitals wanting to book her for internal groups. Many attendees said that it was the best conference they had attended and this was the 42nd annual event!”
    –Indiana Hospital Association

    “If you’re looking for a true “inspirational story”, you should book Stephanie. Her personality, perseverance, and dedication to help others is so real! The FPPTA membership was touched by Stephanie’s message!”
    –Florida Public Pension Trustee

    “Stephanie is a fantastic speaker who captivates an audience and inspires everyone that she talks to. Her story is an amazing testimony of the power of strength and a mother’s love. She has taken her experience and paid if forward for the good of others and made it a great lesson for all that have the chance to hear her speak.”
    –American Red Cross of Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Region

    “Stephanie was just wonderful…her story, although tragic, truly exemplifies the power of the human spirit. She was an inspiration to all.”
    –Barnabas Health

    “Stephanie was received very well. She is a great speaker, and made a huge impression on our audience. She exceeded our expectations by a long shot.”
    –Indianapolis Power & Light Company

    “Stephanie is a courageous person who inspired our team with her story of action to save her children and her commitment to rebound from her injuries. She has turned her situation into an advocacy for others. Stephanie’s positive attitude and dedication are motivational to everyone who meets her!”
    –Mike Woerner, Vice President, Human Resources, Thorntons, Inc.

    “You know an audience has been inspired when they line up after a speech to greet, shake hands and hug the speaker.”
    –Gary R. White, President/CEO, Kentucky Broadcasters Association

    “It is a rare speaker indeed who can make the audience both laugh and cry, but Stephanie Decker did just that — again and again. Her story is both tragic and a blessing, but the way she has chosen to live her life since the Henryville tornado destroyed her home and changed her life forever is truly inspirational. She can move an audience in ways very few speakers can.”
    –Bill Lamb, President, WDRB-TV and WMYO-TV

    “If you’re looking for a true ‘inspirational story’, you should book Stephanie. Her personality, perseverance, and dedication to help others is so real! The FPPTA membership was touched by Stephanie’s message!”
    –Florida Public Pension Trustee

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