Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A trip to say goodbye

"A Symbol of Acceptance"

Today I spent the day with my friend, Steve, and some of his buddies. I met Steve during my undergrad at University of Illinois when he hired me as a "personal assistant" or "PA" my junior year of college. Steve lived at a place on campus called Beckwith Hall, a fully accessible housing option created for students with significant physical disabilities. Beckwith hires people, like me, to provide assistance to the students living there with any of their daily living activities. Beckwith provides a place for people with disabilities to learn how to be independent. It's a great transition for students who had previously lived at home and not had experience with living independently. Beckwith helps these students gain experience with living independently by having them hire, train, and manage their own personal assistants. It also provides around the clock workers to help with meal times and any other random needs that the residents might have.

The majority of my time working there was spent with Steve. We became great friends and I learned a ton about Disability awareness, acceptance, advocacy...and much more. Through Steve, I also met his sister Annie, who also had SMA and lived at Beckwith. Annie and Stevie were a dynamic duo. They were both had such vibrant personalities, were full of life, and could always make me laugh. Both were really passionate about whatever they did and both had entrepreneurial spirits. One of the projects they started while we were in school was "Rock for Research". This project brought bands together for benefit concerts for disability related causes. They had just started this endeavor when I started hanging out with them and so I was able to take some part in promoting the concerts. The two of them spearheaded so many projects that promoted disability awareness and empowerment. Both of them are natural leaders and role models and I was blessed to have them in my life.

This past January, Annie passed away from a medical complication. The news was abrubt and extremely shocking. Although I hadn't seen Annie in a couple of years, I had followed her through blogs, facebook, and her 3Elove (see website below) project. She was a woman with a big heart and a mission to change the world. My life will forever be impacted by the way she lived.

After Annie's passing, her brother and some friends decided to take a month long roadtrip to remember Annie and embody some of the things she valued (having a free spirit, stepping out in boldness, trying new things, overcoming challenges, loving life, etc.) They are calling it "A Trip to Say Goodbye" (see website below).

One of their stops was Dallas, so I got to spend today with Steve and all the guys at the Arboretum. We had a picnic, toured the DeGolyer mansion, took pictures with the gardens, and sprinkled some of Annie's ashes (I think illegally, but who's gonna know...except for you).

It was a fun time seeing Steve, catching up with one another, and recounting old memories. I realized how quickly time passes and yet how naturally you can fall back into a friendship. Steve and I hadn't seen each other in almost 3 years, but after hanging out I felt like we hadn't missed a beat. Seeing him reminded me of my passion of disability awareness and spurred me on to get active in my community to educate people about disabilities and encouraging people to live life to the fullest.

Me and Steve at the Dallas Arboretum.

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