I love Jen for so many reasons, but mostly because she is a tomboy like me! She loves to be girly and glamorous while roughing up the boys playing Power Hockey. And she has the most gorgeous hair I've ever seen- Addison thinks she is Rapunzel! Jen has made a huge difference in the lives of people with disabilities, and she will continue to do so in the future. Meet Jen!
|Visit Jen's Facebook page here.|
- Tell us a little about yourself?
Let’s see… well, I’m 32-years-old (fastly approaching 33; which happens to be my favorite number, so maybe that means it’s going to be a super fantastic year!). I have two older brothers, who taught me to be tough and probably helped me developed my witty, sarcastic side. I have two precious furbabies named Gizmo and Daisy. I also have a Beta fish named Ellen DeGeneres. I’ve worked since I was 16-years-old. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with an emphasis on Public Relations and an Associates of Applied Science in Health Information Technology. I’m very much of a city girl, having lived in the Minneapolis suburbs my whole life. As long as I’m within 5-miles of a Target, I’m good. Despite my obviously girlie outward appearance and general personality (I love anything pink and/or sparkly!), I’m a very feisty, determined individual. I’m really good at holding my own when I need to (as Kellie Pickler sings, “There ain’t nothin’ wrong with woman that got a little backbone”). Once I set my sights on something, there’s no going back. I’m not easily defeated.
- Tell us about your disability?
I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II and was diagnosed when I was 18-months old. My brother Steve also has this. It’s a genetic disorder affecting the motor neurons and where muscles lack the SMN protein, thus essentially causing a poor connection between my nerves and muscles. Because of this, my muscles don’t receive nerve signals as strong as they should and they don’t get used to their full potential, thus causing them to atrophy.
- What is your platform?
My platform is “The Importance of Being Active.” I’m so, so passionate about this! Having been very active my entire life, I feel it’s so important to get out and do something. It can be anything… playing sports, traveling, going to school, getting a job, volunteering, going for a walk… whatever gets you out of the house! Finding something to do gives you a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging, which really helps you have a healthy frame of mind. It also shows society that people with disabilities are capable of being productive and contributing to society.
- What are your favorite activities?
I have three favorite activities…
First and foremost, I absolutely love playing PowerHockey! In September I finished my 17th season with a Championship win. I’m a four-time Defender of the Year. It’s primarily a male-dominated sport, although I’ve been a little successful lately with recruiting other gals, and I love to be just as competitive and tough as they are. If it’s not rough and tough, it’s not fun and it’s not hockey!
I also absolutely love to travel! I’ve found exploring beautiful parts of the world and experiencing unique activities are very enriching. While it’s not necessarily easy for me, it’s very, very well worth the effort and going outside of your comfort zone. I wish I could travel more often. I’ve been to eight countries including Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, St. Marten, St. Thomas, Belize and Honduras. I have a long list of places I still want to get to.
Lastly… and if you had asked me this 14 years ago, I definitely would not have answered with this… but I looove getting out and speaking to people and groups! I’ve done it my whole life, but in the last few years I’ve really grown to love it. I feel it’s important for me to share my story, experiences and knowledge with others, to educate and inspire. And, as much as (I hope) I educate and inspire others, they educate and inspire me.
- What is something we might not know about you?
Hmmm… I’m one of the people new Target employees meet during training! Almost a year ago, Target cast me as one of, I believe five, models for new materials to train employees on the ADA. I was hired for both print and video; I’m on the cover of a brochure and appear in a video.
- What are your future plans?
I have too many to even know where to begin! I tend to dream and think big!
- What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome?
I have never been one to ever consider that I need to overcome anything. I don’t really consider obstacles, if you know what I mean. When you have lived your whole life with a disability and with a very positive, encouraging family, you don’t really see anything you need to overcome. Things like graduating high school, going to college, graduating college and getting a job are all things I was just going to do like my able-bodied peers. Sure, I have had some unique challenges and health struggles to work with, but I don’t feel that I’ve ever needed to “overcome” anything.
- What is the best advice you would give to someone with a recent injury/diagnosis?
Attitude is everything. Yes, you are going to have good days and some bad days, but so does everyone else. Being positive is power. When you think things are bad, remind yourself that things could always be worse and there are others out there who are having it far worse than you. With the right frame of mind and with the right attitude, anything is possible.
- Anything else you would like to share?
I love Starbucks? Just kidding. Ok, maybe not really. But, I just have to say that participating in Ms. Wheelchair USA has been an amazing and wonderful experience. I’ve met so many wonderful and inspiring people through it. I love my Ms. Wheelchair USA family!
|Jen was the Second Runner Up at the pageant and also won the Press Award for her amazing video, which can be viewed here!|