Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Guest Blogger: Jake Winlow

Even though I've only know Jake for a few years, I feel like I've known him forever. Both he and his parents are some of the most genuine, down-to-earth people I have ever met. Throw in the awesome beard (eat your heart out, Duck Dynasty!), and his love for the outdoors, and it's easy to see why I enjoy hanging out with Jake. He and his Dad, Charlie, have rigged up some pretty great equipment over the years to allow Jake to continue to enjoy accessible outdoor recreation, which just so happens to be my passion, so I am really excited to not only introduce you to my friend, but also to share with you some of the pictures he sent me of his awesome four-wheeler and his hunting set-up. Meet Jake!

Jake and his parents, Charlie & Pat

  • Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Jacob Winlow.  I am 29 years old and I was born in Riverton, Wyoming.  Throughout my life I’ve lived in Alaska, North Dakota, and finally returned right back here to Wyoming.

  • Tell us about your disability?

I was involved in a single vehicle rollover accident near Williston, North Dakota on August, 8 2009.  During the accident my head hit the roof of the passenger compartment causing the C6 vertebra to slide on C7, “kinking” my spinal cord.

  • What is your platform/motto in life?

My motto in life, hmm that’s a tough one.  No one has ever asked me that.  I’m pretty certain of one thing though, I don’t have a platform in life.  That just sounds way too involved for me.  I guess my motto can best be summed up by the Arthur C. Clarke quote:  The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible”.  I just try to always push myself a little harder or a little further whenever I do something.

  • What are your favorite activities?

My favorite activities include four wheeling, hunting, camping, watching hockey, and just relaxing in front of the computer.  I went hunting for both deer and elk in the fall of 2013.  The elk hunt was in the Hyattville, Wyoming area and was made possible by the Wyoming Disabled Hunters.  The deer hunt took place on a neighbor’s farm near my house.  

Sweet ride!

Jake elk hunting in Hyattville, Wyoming
  • What is something we might not know about you?

During my time in Alaska I was an avid archer.  I took first place statewide in my age group in multiple competitions throughout the last few years I lived there.

  • What are your future plans?

My future plans are pretty simple at this point.  I plan to stay in Wyoming, try to stay healthy and continue doing the things I enjoy.  I’m always working to improve upon my physical limitations whether it be with adaptive equipment or exercise and physical therapy.

  • What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome?

The biggest obstacle I have had to overcome is without a doubt my loss of independence and the fact that I must now rely on others to help me with things I once did on my own.  I work hard to try to become as independent as possible and will continue to do so, but I realize there are many things I simply can not do without assistance.

  • What is the best advice you would give to someone with a recent injury/diagnosis?

I know the phrase is probably over used in these type of situations, but in all honesty my best advice is, “It gets better.”  I know I got tired of hearing it sometimes after my accident, but when I look back on those days it is certainly true.

  • Anything else you would like to share?

No, I think that’s about it.  Thank you, Ashlee, for the opportunity to be a guest blogger.  

P.S.- It's Jake's birthday on the 29th. Happy early birthday, Jake!!! 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Guest Blogger: Jen Onsum

As promised, I will be opening my site to several guest bloggers over the next few weeks. The first is my friend, Jen Onsum. I met Jen at the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant last July where she represented her state as Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota USA. She will be representing Minnesota again this year, as she was recently named Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota USA 2013-2014! Congrats to Jen!

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!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Quick Update

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas with family and friends. Our lives have been crazy busy, but I wanted to post a quick update about some of the exciting things that are happening.

You may remember my post about speaking at the TEDx event at Central Wyoming College in Riverton last October. The individual videos are up on YouTube, so if you would like to view my video, here is the link. I was honored to be a part of this conference, and I was pleased with how it all turned out. Enjoy!

I am currently scheduling speaking events for the next few months. Two local ones are:

  • Breakfast Series: Tuesday, January 14th, 7:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m. 
    • "All Things Are Possible"
    • Free Breakfast & Presentation 
    • NWC CTD - Park County Complex 
    • Register here 
  • Powell Valley Community Education: Tuesday, April 8th, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
    • "Overcoming Obstacles & Challenges"
    • Free Presentation
    • NWC Fagerberg Building, Room 70
    • Register here
Here is the catalog for PVCE- another great photo credit for Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn!

As promised, I will be sharing my site with some of my friends as guest bloggers starting this week. Stay tuned for more events and information as well!