World Record Rower Revisits the Atlantic

by Rachel Smith
Angela Madsen
There are only nine women in the world who have rowed two oceans, and Angela Madsen is one of them. There is only one woman who has rowed two oceans and completed a rowing circumnavigation of Great Britain; there is only one Angela Madsen, a paraplegic woman who rows across oceans.

On January 8, 2011, Angela will be among 16 highly motivated crew members attempting to break the 33 day world rowing record. They will depart from Agadir, Morocco and row to Port St. Charles, Barbados in the West Indies. For more information on the expedition, visit

Angela is thrilled to be a part of this historic experience, but then she does love a good challenge. Her perspective has always been one of optimism and strength. She says, “Disability is not a death sentence. It does not reduce or diminish someone’s capacity for anything that life has to offer, it only makes other people think that it does.”

Angela sustained a spinal cord injury in 1993. She had surgery on a back injury, which she’d picked up while serving in the military. By all accounts, it seems that during the surgery, if it could go wrong it did, and what should have been a fairly straightforward 4-hour procedure turned into a 10.5-hour disaster. But sadly it didn’t end there and the lengthy time spent in hospital after the botched operation resulted in Angela losing everything and being forced to start over from scratch. 

It took some time, but with the support of family and friends, Angela adjusted to her new life. Being introduced to wheelchair athletics aided Angela’s transition and helped to show Angela what life still offered her.

Featured mobileWOMAN - Alexandra McArthur - Ms. Wheelchair America 2011!

Alexandra McArthur - Ms. Wheelchair America 2011
A native of North Carolina, Alexandra McArthur was born in 1987. Her 23 years of life have offered her challenges and triumphs. As a child growing up in rural NC, Alexandra used her imagination to entertain herself and her family. She spent her days running around the farm creating make-believe games.

Alexandra and her sister, Park
In second grade, her sister, Park, was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Soon after, Alexandra was also diagnosed. As her family struggled with the news, Alexandra only felt excitement. At the age of seven, she relished the idea that it made her more like her older sister. Her disease and resulting disability has shaped Alexandra’s life in many ways, but she believes it has made her more mature, adaptable, adept at engaging with others, and appreciative of every day. Dealing with her disability and how others have responded to it has put Alexandra in a position to relate to others and problems in a unique way. Alex has been forced to embrace physical awkwardness, take pleasure in breaking stereotypes, and make the most of every moment.

Anti-Bullying Speaker Gabe Ford Shares her Strength

by Cheryl Price
Gabrielle Ford's memoir
“To the world you may be my dog, but to me you are the world.” Gabrielle “Gabe” Ford expresses this heartfelt sentiment about Izzy, her beloved Black and Tan Coonhound who passed away in May 2009. While many dog owners and pups indeed form a tight bond, the connection between Gabe and Izzy certainly went deeper. At a time when a medical diagnosis and bullying left her in a deep depression, Gabe was introduced to Izzy and soon gained the inner strength to embrace her own life. Now at 30 years old, Gabe is a confident woman, an author and national anti-bullying speaker. When asked what got her to this point in life, Gabe immediately answered, “Izzy.”

Gabe grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan and experienced a fulfilling, carefree childhood. She loved to dance and participate in sports. Then suddenly, when she was 12, Gabe began to walk off-balance and her speech started to slur. Gabe recalls, “I was a little more clumsy than what I was before, but I still thought I was a normal 12 year old.” Her family became concerned, and soon Gabe was taken out of school and brought to doctors and hospitals for multiple tests. After misdiagnoses, it was finally confirmed that Gabe was suffering from Friedrich’s ataxia, a rare disease that causes nervous system damage, movement problems and leads to impaired muscle coordination. Says Gabe, “My world had been turned upside down. I didn’t want anything to be wrong.”