By Jenny Addis
With 2012 behind us, I want to thank each of you for supporting my "Hey Jen!" column, whether you're an avid reader and/or interact by writing in questions and commenting on the context. Without you, I couldn't do what I love to do...write! As well as, sharing my experiences with others, physically challenged or not. I'm excited to welcome 2013 and continue writing my column for an amazing magazine and our dedicated MW readers!
Reflections ~ 2012 Highlights
January ~ My usual getaway includes, blue waters, sandy beaches & temps no less than 80 degrees, so I found myself in an unlikely "state"... on a cattle ranch in South Dakota! As my career as a Motivational Speaker grows in WI. it was an honor meeting Gary & Leann Hardie from Seneca, SD. Leann was drawn to my story and felt my message needed to be shared. Soon after, Joel Price, Superintendent of Faulkton School District, invited me to speak to their students & communities at large. Although, we fought WI. weather conditions, 4 flights & a damaged wheelchair before reaching SD...it didn't deter us. I spent the next few days meeting every Faulkton student, parent & member of the community. My deepest gratitude goes out to everyone that made this opportunity possible!! What was business, turned out to be "my" pleasure!!
February ~ Many of you supported the Bohn Lake Accessible Hiking Trail Project in Waushara County. Since, it continues to host school hikes & events throughout the year including its annual winter hike. Our attendees enjoy a night of family fun in the snow with a candlelit trail, hot chilis & cocoa, a bonfire & music by the Clauson's. As the Membership Coordinator, I play a part in the planning process for events, including our 14th Annual Candlelight Sweetheart Event - Hike, Snowshoe & Ski scheduled for February 2, 2013.
March ~ God blessed me with the ability to reach out to others through my writing & speaking. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my success story, as a C5-C6 quadriplegic, at conferences throughout the state. As an advocate, my hopes are to inspire others, promote positivity, make change happen & better the quality of life for others in similar situations.
April ~ It’s my mission to educate society on the consequences drinking & driving can have on innocent victims. For over a decade, I have been working with Alcohol & Other Drug Addiction Programs, such as speaking on Victim Impact Panels, which are in place to inform offenders on the impact their behavior has on others. I also speak out to youth groups, such as "Peers to Peers", students trained as Peer Listeners & educated on how to assist their fellow classmates with pressures youth face today.
May ~ One of my many "firsts", in 2012, included adaptive kayaking. A group of us enjoyed an adventurous day on Mirror Lake, led by Andy Janicki, Wisconsin's former Accessibility Coordinator for the DNR. Andy, a quadriplegic himself, leads numerous day trips throughout the year along with Kevin Carr, owner of Creating Ability. Kevin travels hundreds of miles with his truck & trailer loaded with kayaks he adapts. Andy & Kevin are dedicated to sharing this gift of freedom with others. I also attended a Shooting Sportsman's Workshop for women with disabilities. I shot 3 types of rifles & a crossbow for the first time. It was a blast!!
June ~ My 5th year on the runway & modeling in the Fashion Show for All Abilities. This community awareness event promotes accessibility, calls for respect & courtesy to all persons in the community & specifically in a retail setting. Join us for the 7th Annual Fashion Show for All Abilities on May 17, 2013.
July ~ Our community lost many young lives, over the summer, due to drugs, alcohol & other tragic car accidents. I found myself compelled to attend funerals & vigils expressing my condolences to these families & loved ones. We remembered two teens by increasing drug & alcohol education outreach, within the fragile community, to promote living alcohol & drug free.
August ~ As always, I enjoyed our annual adaptive waterskiing event on Okauchee Lake. Thanks to Independence First, Bruno Independent Living Aids & National Seating & Mobility, along with support from the Oconomowoc community. I can't express enough gratitude to the dedicated volunteers & organizations that sponsor these life changing events. Without you, our lives wouldn't be as fulfilled!
September ~ My advice column, "Hey Jen!” gives me the freedom to share personal obstacles, achievements & successes with my readers. I was compelled to write, "Don't Break my Legs...Handle with Care!" due to an airline's inaccessibility, lack of empathy towards wheelchair users & my broken wheelchair. I wrote many guest articles & began a new blog spot for Muskego Patch, my hometown's online newspaper. In 2013, I will continue to share my knowledge & experiences to empower & inspire others in all walks of life.
October ~ Go Team "This Is How We Walk 'n Roll" Go!! Bryon's 5K Run/Walk/Roll, one of many annual events benefiting the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation, was a huge success! There were 400 runners, walkers & rollers with a total of $27,000 raised. Team Jenny never ceases to amaze me! It had nearly 50 participants, 35 runners & walkers of all ages & a fundraising goal that was superseded. Thank you once again for your support by participating, donating and/or cheering us on. With your dedication, we are that much closer to "A Cure"!!
November ~ I had the pleasure of spending a morning with Molly Fay & Tiffany Ogle, Hosts of TMJ-4's The Morning Blend. We chatted about how I became paralyzed, what I had to overcome to get where I am today, dating & much more. It was an amazing day!! Stay tuned for my next visit tentatively set for January 2013.
My friends & family joined me for the Jefferson Award banquet. I was extremely honored to receive such a prestigious award created by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Robert Taft, Jr. & Samuel Beard. Its purpose is to honor individuals for their achievements & contributions, through public & community service, in order to inspire & encourage others to get involved.
December ~ Amongst the hustle & bustle of the holidays, our country was faced with another tragedy; one of the saddest to date. Our world, as we knew it, was jolted & scarred forever. It didn't matter where you lived; we all became connected to Newtown, CT. This unspeakable shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary stole 26 innocent victims...20 children & 6 teachers. We'll never be able to fathom such a horrific act, but it's important to remember that we can learn & move forward with vast arms to embrace our children, kinder hearts towards each other, stronger knowledge to make change happen & faith there will be a better tomorrow. As it states on a sign near Sandy Hook Elementary tonight, “Our Hearts are broken…Our Spirits are Strong”.
As you can see...it’s been an AMAZING year! It’s hard to believe that on March 16, 2013 I will be tackling my 16th year in a wheelchair; as a quadriplegic. Wow! Sometimes it seems like I’ve lived a lifetime in these wheels & other days like it was just yesterday. People ask me often whether it gets easier as time passes. I’ll be honest…yes & no. Functionally, I still have no use of my legs, hands, fingers & very limited movement in my arms. I need caregivers to help me with my daily cares, so dignity & privacy is still non-existent. My nerve pain is as much there as ever. With that said, I think my 2012 Highlights reveals a great deal about how I’m coping. It’s not easier, but I work hard at overlooking all the negatives & obstacles that go along with my injury & embraced it. A good rule of thumb that I try to follow is reminding myself that there is always someone worse off than me. Plus, I hold my hope & faith close to my heart!
May God Bless us all & look over us throughout the New Year.
*A Special Thank You to every school & teacher that brought me into their student's hearts, parents that allowed me in their family's homes, children & youth of all ages for inspiring me each day, my supportive readers that motivate me, the organization's dedicated to making the world a better place & to every individual that has ever volunteered their time. You have given us something we once lost, made us smile, laugh again & a sense of freedom from our disability. Please know how much each of you have changed our lives & touched our hearts.