Monday, November 18, 2013

Volunteer and Advocacy

The past few months have been kind of hard with figuring out how I want to spend my time.  I graduated high school spring of 2005.  After that, every semester from fall of 2006 to spring of 2013 I attended college (including some summers).  However, this fall semester I chose not to go back and to take a break.  I have my associates in communications from Normandale Community College and attended one semester at St. Thomas University to get my bachelors in communications.

Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011

Over the past couple years I’ve had the privilege of being an active part of my community.  I won Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011 in which gave me an opportunity to attend events and advocate for people with disabilities.  I did speaking engagements and went to various events promoting my platform, making multiple connections and inspiring others.  I also flew on an airplane for the first time since my accident to attend the Ms. Wheelchair America competition in Michigan, where I won 4th runner-up.

Since 2006, I’ve done motivational/public speaking to over 25 different schools, organizations and events.  My goal has always been to share my life story, educate others, and to show the abilities of people with disabilities.  By speaking, I teach others not to take things for granted, never give up and to live life to its fullest.  I’ve spoken to physical therapists, nurses, engineers, others with disabilities, the public, schools etc. (anywhere from 1st to 12th grade).

Aside from motivational speaking, I’m on a couple of Board of Directors.  Currently I’m on the BOD for Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota and Midwest Special Services.  I attend meetings and state my opinions along with making decisions about the different nonprofit organizations.  I’m also on committees within the Boards.  It feels great to be able to have a voice in such great organizations helping others.

I was a volunteer at Gillette Children’s Hospital.  In 2006, I worked with kids in outpatient doing crafts and watching them colored.  It was cool because I had my own table set up.  They could come over and spend their wait time keeping busy.  I love to see what creative talent came out of every piece of artwork.  As of now, I am a volunteer at Gillette’s Lifetime Clinic.  My job description is to work with people using speech recognition software.  The clinic hasn’t needed me for a while on that specific of a topic.

Eric LeGrand telling his story and answering questions.

Lately, I’ve had the pleasure of doing a lot of volunteering, advocating and attending events.  Last month on October 5, I attended a kickoff event for new members put on by the Minnesota Spinal Cord Injury Association (MNSCIA).  As stated on their Facebook page, “The Minnesota Spinal Cord Injury Association (MN Chapter of NSCIA) is an advocate for people affected by spinal cord injury/paralysis in Minnesota by being the central point of access to resources.”  On November 15, they co-hosted an event I attended that featured Eric Legrand.  He is a former Vikings player who sustained a spinal fracture during a football game.

Speaking at Ridgefield Middle School-November 15, 2013

Also over the past couple months I did motivational speaking to a middle school and high school.  I love being able to talk to the kids and tell them that anything is possible and not take things for granted because you never know what’s going to happen.  After I speak, I always have a question and answer session in which they really respond to.  It also helps me for speaking in the future to know what’s important and what kind of things they want to know.  I’m hoping to do more speaking soon.

I’m very proud of all the things I’ve been able to do to help out others in my current situation.  And although I’m not going to school as of now, I know my accomplishments and achievements have not gone unnoticed.  I’m going to continue expanding my knowledge and helping people in need.


Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Compile Post: Anniversary Day

This is a compile post of past journal entries with added new content:


Throughout life you will learn
that sorrow will not remain.
You will see that it is
like a butterfly emerging
from its cocoon to make way
for greater things.
-Corrine DeWinter

When a caterpillar spins a chrysalis, does it know its life is going to change and that it's going to turn into a beautiful butterfly? When a baby is born, does it know the path that it's going to live and the life-changing moments that may occur? Change happens every day whether it is good or bad. People die, give birth, get jobs, lose jobs, graduate high school or college, etc. Some is just simply change and some is life-changing. Like an accident that changes you from an active teen to being paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

Today marks the 11 year anniversary of the accident that changed my life.  This day doesn't frighten or scare me; I don't get sad or depressed; I don't think why me or about all the "what ifs". I just live and thank God that I am still living and still hear on this earth able to live my life with this change. The accident did change my life, but it didn't change me. I'm still the same person I used to be. I still want to love and be loved. I still need friends and family to support me. I want to be an advocate for others with disabilities like me; others who have faced similar changes. I also want to show people not to be afraid of change. Because of this change I live my life differently.

My accident has definitely altered my outlook on life.  I feel very fortunate to be alive and don’t take anything for granted.  I value my life and my things more and try to do good for others.  It has had a profound effect on me.  I am a better person today because of it and have learned a lot over the past years. I’ve also met some wonderful and amazing people with whom I never would’ve met if this hadn’t happened to me. 

Every year on this day I choose to celebrate life. I always say happy anniversary to me.  It wasn’t a tragedy or a disaster; it didn’t ruin my life or destroy me to pieces; I’m not broken, damaged, or shattered about it; I didn’t have a meltdown or blame anybody else for it.  It was simply what I call it-an accident.  It was an obstacle in my life that I had to overcome.  A challenge in which I had to accomplish and believe I have done so to the best of my ability. It may be hard at times, but I'm happy and that's all that matters.

I've always felt that there was a reason why the accident happened and I survived. Maybe it was to help people in my situation or open someone's eyes to what it's like living with a disability. Whatever it may be, I'm glad that I did.  Word of advice: don’t take things for granted, you never know what can happen.


"New beginnings start as the seed of a flower does, buried, unseen, but destined to bloom.
-Corrine DeWinter