Tim Piccirillo had all of Moffat County High School laughing as he bounced down the aisle and toward the stage Wedneday in the auditorium.
He poked fun at some students, shook their hands and stood in the spotlight talking about what a nerd he was in high school.
He had their attention when the subject matter turned serious.
The crowd grew quiet when Piccirillo told them he had Tourette Syndrome and was subject to severe physical tics that jerked his body into strange positions and made his school years a living nightmare.
"There I was, lying in bed, chewing holes in my cheeks, tic-ing like crazy," he said. "I was in bed 20 hours a day, slept four hours a day. It was awful. It was miserable. But this : this saved my life."
He was holding up a tiny, red foam ball.
Piccirillo is a motivational speaker who travels the country talking to students and teachers about understanding their potential and setting goals to stay on track in life.
He visited MCHS for a morning assembly and a smaller leadership workshop at lunch with the leaders of school organizations.
Piccirillo is now a full-time public speaker, but his childhood dream, despite his condition, was to become a magician. His little red ball - and countless tissues, handkerchiefs and coins - became a bridge to his future goals.
"What do you want to do, where do you want to go?" he asked the students between magic tricks with the red ball. "What will your little red ball be?"
Later, at lunch, about 40 students sat in an outdoor amphitheatre on the east end of the school eating bag lunches.
Many of them are a part of student council. Some were Future Farmers of America leaders, and others were captains of their respective sports teams.
All were asked - and agreed - to take part in a small leadership workshop with Piccirillo.
Here, Piccirillo went more in depth into leadership, success and responsibility for one's own future.
He gave students his own formula for success, as well as those of people like Bill Gates and Colonel Sanders, whose ambition drove them to the top.
But, he warned them to be wary of a love of money.
"This is not success," he said, holding up a $1 bill. "This is just a scorecard. It's not any measure of success."
He then turned the $1 bill into a $20 bill and back into a $1 by folding it into pieces.
April Atheridge, a junior, was one of the students invited to the leadership workshop.
"It was amazing," she said. "He talked very personally to us."
Although the message was something she and her peers have heard before, it got through to them, Atheridge said.
"I think we really got what he was saying," she said. "I don't know what it was, but he just put it differently."
From tic-ing in his bed in a small town in Pennsylvania to being a successful magician and motivational speaker traveling all over the U.S., Piccirillo knows what it means to follow dreams and realize expectations.
He said he is grateful to be able to talk to students, because they need to be reminded to have direction in today's complex world.
"It's different for kids now," he said. "I grew up in a time when we were safe. We had nothing to worry about. But now, we're all vulnerable. What's the divorce rate? Fifty percent? A lot of students are coming from single-parent homes, or have disabilities. I think it's important for them to hear the message that each one of them have this thing inside of them called potential."
But, one of the keys to success, he said was to continually set each goal higher than the one before.
"When I was trying to get into the (magic) industry, I thought the end all be all was to be a magician," he said. "I thought that was all there was. But, now I get to be a magician and still impart a message."
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793, firstname.lastname@example.org.