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ANACONDA — Despite a rare birth defect that stunted development in his arms and legs, Gabe Murfitt grew up playing sports and music in school.

Murfitt, 22, may stand at

3 feet 7 inches tall with arms only three inches long, but he never let his differences keep him off the basketball court — or baseball diamond, or marching band, or even the ski slopes.

Now an inspirational speaker, Murfitt visited Anaconda from his Seattle-area home on Wednesday to talk with kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Deer Lodge County about overcoming obstacles.

The message is C-L-E-A-R: courage, leadership, endurance, attitude and respect. Follow those values and they will lead you to success, Murfitt said.

“You all have something that you’re going through,” he said. “When you have a situation in life that’s maybe a little different, you have to learn to adapt.”

Joined by his service dog, a black Labrador retriever named Ruth, Murfitt showed off the unique ways he moves around and is able to take care of himself.

The kids particularly marveled at Ruth, who understands 50 commands and is able to turn on lights, open doors and pick up anything Murfitt might drop.

Murfitt’s mother, Gigi, an Anaconda native, also explained how Ruth helps Gabe in social ways.

“Sometimes, people are afraid to come up to him, but they will go up to pet Ruth,” she said.

Gabe and Gigi Devine Murfitt, an Anaconda native, recently wrote and published a book together based on C-L-E-A-R, with stories to help encourage others facing adversity.

“My Message is C.L.E.A.R.” hit bookshelves last month. Portions of the proceeds go to benefit the nonprofit Gabriel’s Foundation of HOPE – Hope, Overcome, Persevere and Encourage – to benefit families dealing with a disability.

“That’s been the focus of everything we do,” Gigi Murfitt said.

Gabe Murfitt hopes his lessons will encourage everyone to live their lives to the fullest, he said.

“I don’t think my arms and legs are like this by accident. I believe I was created on purpose,” he said. “You were all created on purpose, to go forward and do something with your lives. I just encourage you to keep going, and keep staying positive.”

— Reporter George Plaven may be reached at 496-5597, or via email at george.plaven@lee.net. Follow him at Twitter.com/@George_Plaven.

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