Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

First Leg of the Traveling Tour

I apologize that it has been so long since my last blog post. I was gone for almost two weeks traveling, which I will share more about, and when I returned home, I got to visit our local ER and eventually have my gallbladder removed due to a massive gallstone. Fun times! I am thankful that it happened after I returned home, and that the surgery and recovery went smoothly. Here is a (gross) picture of the stone that tried to ruin my month:

The doctor said it was the biggest stone he had ever seen. I like to do things right!
I had an amazing time in Indiana/Ohio on the first leg of my travels for my Crown & Camo Tour. I flew in to Cincinnati on Saturday, October 19th, picked up my rental car, and drove to Indianapolis (Sadly, this day was one of my worst flying/traveling experiences in my life. I will definitely be writing a post on flying/traveling in a wheelchair at a later date). During the week, I stayed with my Mom and stepdad, Charlie. I spoke at their church, Pleasant Heights Baptist Church, on Sunday morning. What an amazing experience! The people were so open and friendly, and I was incredibly honored to be able to share my testimony during the Sunday morning service. Lunch was a blast with family and friends, I was able to meet a great friend later for dessert, and Sunday night we got to watch the Broncos/Colts game Sunday night (I don't want to talk about it...).

I enjoyed shopping/browsing Nashville, Indiana (Brown County) on Monday with Mom and Charlie, where my tire on my wheelchair decided to go flat. Pesky cactus left over from my hunt! Fortunately, it happened after we had finished our shopping, so we hit a bike shop on the way home and had the innertube replaced.

I was scheduled to speak at the Civil Rights Symposium for the Civil Rights Task Force for the US Attorney's Office on Tuesday, but due to the government shut-down, the conference was cancelled right before I left Cody. They will be rescheduling the conference for sometime after the first of the year, so I am hoping that I can make it back to represent the disability aspect of the symposium. I was able to have lunch downtown Indy with some of the ladies on the Task Force, which was great. Plus- I got to go shopping after lunch at Circle Center Mall- bonus! We met friends at Steak 'n' Shake for dinner that night (My 2/3 trips before I left- love that place!).

 Wednesday was a very special day for me. I was invited to return to my high school, Bethesda Christian School, to speak in several chapel services and enjoy an alumni luncheon. I started the morning with the upper elementary chapel, followed by the lower elementary, and finally the junior high/high school group. What a blessing! The kids were all so responsive and asked great questions after I spoke. It was encouraging to see how much everything has grown in the 10+ years since I graduated, and to know that the school continues as an opportunity for children to receive a quality Christian education. The luncheon was amazing as well, and I was able to see many of my former teachers and classmates. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

With some of the young people after the junior high/senior high chapel.

I drove around town for a while to see what had changed since I have been gone, and caught up with some old friends. We went out to dinner that night with my step-brother and his family. I haven't eaten out so much in my entire life- but it was good!

On Thursday, Mom and I were able to meet some friends for lunch and do some more shopping (also a theme for the week). I needed a formal outfit for an event on Saturday, and we had so much fun trying on dresses! I miss shopping with my Mom!

We met two of the ladies from the CareStar Indy office for lunch on Friday. CareStar is a care management service provider based out of Ohio. They are an amazing company, and a major sponsor of the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant. The organization generously flew me in for my visit, and it was wonderful getting to know their staff. On Saturday I drove back to Cincinnati to speak at their 25th Anniversary Gala. I was a beautiful event, and I can't say enough great things about CareStar, the people that work there, and the amazing things they do for people with disabilities.

Not too great at taking selfies- but had fun getting dressed up!
On Sunday, I drove up to Stow, Ohio, and dropped off my rental car. Lowery Lockard (Director of the Dane Foundation/Director of the pageant) and her son picked me up and took me to The Staybridge Suites. This is the same hotel where the pageant was held in July. Gorgeous, accessible accommodations and the staff is so friendly and helpful! I had such a great time catching up with the ladies who would be competing for Ms. Wheelchair Ohio the following weekend, as well as their families and some of the pageant volunteers.

On Monday morning, Lowery and I headed for City Hall to meet with Stow Mayor Sara Drew and two other city officials about the SOAR park (more on this at a later date). After visiting this boundless park during the week of the pageant, I knew that I wanted to work on a similar project back home in Cody. Everyone was gracious enough to share their knowledge and experience of building the wonderful park there in Stow so that I could take the information back home to Wyoming. I am so looking forward to seeing this dream become a reality for the children and families in Cody!

After lunch we drove to Redeemer Christian School in Cuyahoga Falls so that I could speak to the kids. Another great group with awesome, honest questions! I love speaking to kids about my story, as well as how to interact with people with disabilities. We can all learn something from the honest innocence of children!

I was able to meet with some of the staff of The Dane Foundation, the non-profit that presents the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant every year, for lunch on Tuesday before flying home that evening. Such an amazing trip, but I was also so excited to get home to Russ & Addison! I won't be traveling again until after the first of the year, so I will keep everyone posted on my plans. More updates to come!

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