Episode 49 Transcript

Published: Thursday May 30, 2024

Building Success | How a Teenager is Turning an AVM Diagnosis into a Successful Lego Business

Turning Challenges into Opportunities: Samuel Benifield-Chivore’s Inspirational Story


Alycia Anderson: Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia. I’m Alycia Anderson to kick off this episode, I wanted to read a small part of an e-mail that I received from a mother. Her name is Benita Benifield. She is a global retention marketing manager at Etsy and she attended my virtual keynote, the e-mail said.

Hi, Alycia. Last year I had the opportunity to listen to you speak during our virtual call at Etsy my son is 15 and he listened in too.

Samuel’s disability started to show up when he was three, which affects one side of his body. He started to hide his hand and his leg at one point in his life, and after your virtual lecture, he started making little goals.

Like he wanted to practice the trumpet again. He wanted to tell his story on Etsy. He wanted to not miss school for 1/2 of a year, and he wanted to try out for the school play.

The e-mail ends with, so I want to thank you without your inspirational words. I don’t think he would have accomplished all of this.

He was always an honor student, but you gave him a new freedom.

This is why I am doing what I’m doing. Benita, thank you so much for joining and our guest of honor also, Samuel Benefield-Chivore, thank you for spending some time and sharing your story with our audience.

Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Hi, Alycia. Thank you for having me.

Benita Benifield: Thank you, Alycia. It’s great to be here.

Alycia Anderson: Samuel, you’re an entrepreneur. You’re an actor, you’re an honor-roll student. You have a long list of accolades that you’ve achieved, and you’re young.

You’re 16, right? You’re still in high school?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: I’m actually 15 almost 16.

Alycia Anderson: 15 almost 16. And you’re in high school.

Can you share with our audiences a little bit about who you are, maybe a little bit about your disability?

Whatever, you’re comfortable with to kind of paint the beautiful picture of who you are as a human.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes, like I said, I’m 15, almost 16.

I was born with a brain AVM, or Arteriovenous Malformation of the brain.

But at age 3, I started showing symptoms.

At age 6, I started losing uh right side, and after that, a few hospital visits, and lots and lots of therapy my family signed me up for lots of activities because I couldn’t do physical activities like sports or gym.

Alycia Anderson: So, your disability shows up, you start to lose some of the motor function on the right side of your body.

So, I think that showed up a little bit or a lot in your hand and in your foot, I believe you have to use like a brace will help you walk and to navigate school and life.

Is that true?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Well, yes, but with… with like therapy I have regained some of my mobility on my right side, but if I’m tired or I have a bad day, I may trip.

Alycia Anderson: I know family support in this path has been huge. Your mom is a huge advocate for you and empowering you.

How has the encouragement and the support of your family, your mom, helped you in reaching some of these significant goals?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes, my I just said my mom is my biggest support.

My mom is very pushing. And pushing me towards, like, setting little goals for myself and I’m like, OK.

And after hearing your talk of…, I started taking her words seriously and started setting up little goals for myself.

So, she’s a big help.

Benita Benifield: Well, it’s not just me. We you have a lot of family that…

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes.

Benita Benifield: …gets you support.

Alycia Anderson: Mom, what is some of your advocacy been?

Benita Benifield: It has been very interesting and like I said, I have the support of my sister, my mother and even his sister.

We all support him as much as we can, so if I can’t do something, somebody else in the family will help us.

But we in the beginning, we wanted to make sure that the school understood his disability and what he can and cannot do, and that was sort of difficult because not a lot of people understood AVM’s. Understood how many or why he received so many headaches and he may or may not be able to attend school.

Or he may be out for a certain amount of time. That was part of it.

Also, gym classes at that time, gym included everyone. Like all the grades, I believe they had like… I’m going to say 4, but it might have been a couple of more classes. So, that’s a lot of kids to be in a gym class and you know, just having him… and me being worried all the time, I kept on speaking up.

And, at that time they decided to give him a para-aid, and that aid has been with him since 1st grade all the way up to now, to make sure that she’s there, making sure that if he has a headache or if he’s not having a great day.

You know she can put him to the side and say, OK, let’s take a break.

She actually knows when there’s something wrong with him. Way before he does sometimes.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yeah.

Benita Benifield: Or when he’s pushing himself. So, it’s pretty much making sure that what he needs he has.

So, if it’s an art class, if it’s, you know, he can’t do sports, play chess, musical classes, you know, you name it.

If it wasn’t for him, or if someone told him he couldn’t do it.

I made sure and I figured out a way how he can do it.

Alycia Anderson: I love that and that was so important for me in my life too.

My parents had to advocate pretty loud for me to be included in certain activities and integrated in mainstream opportunities.

And because I think the easy answer is specifically for disability, especially for something like AVM, which feels like you know, it’s not spinal cord injuries, not the girl in the wheelchair.

It’s a unique disability that has its own layers and challenges, and I think a lot of times the easy answer is like, no, no, no, it’s not possible.

And it does take the advocacy of your parents and your allies to kind of find spots for you. In spaces where people might say no or think it’s not possible until you learn to advocate for yourself through the lessons of your mom, you know through the lessons of your aunt and the people around you.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: If it wasn’t for my family, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you.

Alycia Anderson: Same for me. If it wasn’t for my family, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you either.

So, I think that’s like the power of community, you know, and the power of love. So and the power of belief in the ones that that you love and that are in your in your circle. So, that’s beautiful.

What would have made you exactly say, Hey, Samuel, come sit on this Etsy keynote?

Benita Benifield: So, I’m a part of accessibility and disability at Etsy and you know, I heard your keynotes and I heard some of your lectures before.

And I was like, you know what? This is a great opportunity.

He was home, and I said, you know what? You’re coming downstairs, you’re going to listen.

And he was like, OK, and he just came downstairs and he listened.

And he, like, really listened.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: [chuckles] Yes.

Benita Benifield: So it was, it was really amazing to see that his face lit up and we were in the same room. But I was watching from my laptop, and he was watching from the large screen.

And I was just like, wow. He listened, so…

Alycia Anderson: What was the thing that motivated you?

Like… what was the spark?

Do you remember?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: I guess you have a disability, but then you do all this stuff.

Which really motivated me.

Alycia Anderson: I… Again, like it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life, for somebody to say this just helped my son, and now he’s got all these goals.

So, you get off the keynote, you make a bunch of goals and you start achieving them.

Can we talk about some of your achievements?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes.

So, right after your talk, I said, hey, let me try to trumpet again.

So, I’m playing my trumpet and she not knowing, not hearing me play my trumpet in about, like, two years at this point.

Walked in my door and said, hey, are you playing the trumpet?

I’m like, yes.

Alycia Anderson: I believe the story goes in my memory.

You put the trumpet down because the kids started to stare at you because you were playing with your left hand and it… you were adapting in a different way and it made you uncomfortable.

Is that true?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes.

Benita Benifield: During that time, it was during the pandemic and I guess the kids was able to see virtually. On the screen that he was playing with the left hand, it wasn’t as visible when you’re in class and everyone is playing.

So, he decided to put it down.

Alycia Anderson: I think that that’s a perfect example of, especially when you’re in school, just have… It’s so many insecurities and you know, you’re very conscious about what other people are thinking.

And so like, it’s so incredible that you did that.

I’m so proud of you.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Thank you.

Alycia Anderson: Let’s take a quick break. You’re listening to Pushing Forward with Alycia.


Alycia Anderson: Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia. I’m Alycia Anderson, Samuel Benifield-Chevore, thank you for spending some time and sharing your story with our audience.

Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia.

I want to talk about you just being casted as the teen angel in Grease.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: So, I found out that they was doing Grease, and I was like I gotta sing beauty school drop out.

Because I always wanted to sing beauty school drop out, and it… it’s just something about that whole scene just moved me.

Alycia Anderson: And so, you try it out.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes, I tried out. I got the part and I killed it.

Alycia Anderson: Oh my gosh, I’m so it’s such a cool moment.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: If I would tell myself. Five, even three years ago that I would be up on stage singing and dancing in front of an open house!

I would laugh in your face because that seemed ridiculous in my opinion back then.

Benita Benifield: His part himself and his teen angel part, they actually created a little cloud for him to sit on and instead of him just walking through they had someone push him because it was in act two.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yeah.

Benita Benifield: So, by that time he would have been exhausted, so they just pushed him around while he was singing, which was great, and his sister said that… what did your sister say?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: I don’t remember, but it was something like Oh my God, I didn’t know you can sing while, like being pushed that must take a lot of skills!

Alycia Anderson: Ohh, so you have an Etsy store which would make sense knowing your mother’s background.

It’s called Samuel’s Bricks.

This was like a side hustle or a hobby that you turned into a part-time job correct?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes, yes.

Alycia Anderson: Tell us a little bit about the creations that you’re making and what your response has been from your customers.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: This has all been like. So fast.

But over a year ago, I was I was adamant that yes, when it hit summer, I’m going to get a job.

I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.

And then I was so adamant that my family said, you know, why don’t you open up an Etsy store selling little Lego scenes?

And I’m like, hmm, you may be on to something.

Alycia Anderson: Why Legos?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: I always loved Legos ever since I was a kid and in the hospital, I couldn’t really do much so.

I always used to build Legos and uh. Yeah.

Benita Benifield: Yeah, even like they will, he will go into the hospital and they would just have a…

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes!

Benita Benifield: …bag or a box of Lego for him to build.

He would wake up from surgery… there was a Lego right there for him to work on.

So it was…

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yeah, that was… that kept me occupied for about the whole visit.

Benita Benifield: Yes.

Alycia Anderson: Can you describe some of the creations or the stories that you’re telling through your Samuel’s Bricks business today?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes, I’m really telling little stories that you can give to friends or family during Christmas, events, graduations you know Valentine’s Day.

And it would be like a heart… a little heart scene or a graduation, a little gift, or just someone… just some mini figures sitting outside on a picnic.

They’re all personalized, so if you have an idea, there’s probably a chance that I have it on there.

Alycia Anderson: How do you handle the moments when people are doubting you or they’re having skepticism about your abilities?

And what advice do you give to other kids that might be going through it?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Well, if you would ask me the same question like three or four years ago, I would probably say a whole different answer than I’m going to say right now.

But it truly is something when you… when people say you can’t do something and you prove them wrong time after time.

Alycia Anderson: What does that do for you and your self-confidence?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: It’s so… so, like… it is so achieving in a way.

Alycia Anderson: It’s empowering, right?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes, it’s so empowering.

Alycia Anderson: And it takes a lot of bravery to try for that first time. To go pick up the trumpet again and not put it down, ever again.

And have that moment. And then you go, oh, I can do that. I did do that.

What’s next!?!

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yeah, it’s just like this jump off of a Cliff. It seems hard at first, but when you truly jump off of it then you get the easy time.

Alycia Anderson: So, looking into the future, you’re going to be 16 soon.

What are your biggest aspirations and goals?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: UM, so I don’t want to start playing… like all the aggressive sports like football, or, baseball, basketball.

Alycia Anderson: You gotta pick it up.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: But I would play stuff like tennis… you know, other smaller sports that’s more manageable.

Alycia Anderson: I like it. We’re going to get on the tennis court together.

Congratulations on pushing fear to the side and pushing forward.

I mean, that is the total theme of this podcast. And you you’ve totally done it.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: And I like to thank you for being that light.

Alycia Anderson: So, Samuel. What is the pushing forward moment that you want to leave with our listeners?

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: So, my pushing forward moment, I really want to glean into this listener’s head is… no matter your disability, you can still achieve greatness if you set your mind to it, OK?

Alycia Anderson: I don’t know if you can beat that, mom.

Benita Benifield: And for all those parents out there and grandparents and just caregivers.

I would say that although you may be helping or raising a child, who may or may not have a disability, it’s OK.

They will push forward and keep going and no matter what… things will work out and they would do it in their own way.

Alycia Anderson: Those are very complimenting, pushing forward moments and powerful.

They both gave me the chills.

Thank you so much for being here today.

Samuel Benifield-Chivore: Yes, thank you so much for having us.

Benita Benifield: Thank you, Alycia.

Alycia Anderson: Thanks to our community for listening to this conversation, and we will see you next week.

This has been Pushing Forward with Alycia, and that is how we roll on this podcast.