Local disability activists lead Abilities Expo’s community outreach efforts through ambassador program
Abilities Expo has appointed Ambassadors—members of the local community of people with disabilities—to spearhead community outreach initiatives. These individuals will meet face-to-face with rehab institutions, independent living centers, local manufacturers, service providers and local associations to generate excitement and increase attendance at each event.
Meet the impressive individuals who have chosen to represent Abilities Expo to the Community.
National Parent Ambassador
Karen Kain—a parent of a medically fragile, vaccine-injured child named Lorrin for fifteen years—teaches parents how to enjoy their children no matter their abilities. She shares how she bridged the gap from special needs to mainstream experiences in all arenas of life: best friends, slumber parties, concerts, camping, beauty pageants, Girl Scouts, school dances, musicals and endless travels.
Karen is committed to helping children who are living a unique life experience by supporting their parents. In 1994, Lorrin was severely vaccine injured and at that time Karen’s world fell apart. Life as she knew it was put “on hold” as she tried everything that she could to “heal” Lorrin and give her the best life possible.
Karen was forced to overcome massive rejection and isolation as she hurdled obstacles and adapted her life to find success as a parent of a unique child. What Karen did not expect on this journey was that she herself would learn, grow and even heal from her experiences. It turned out that Lorrin was always the teacher. She taught Karen that life is full of magic, how to love herself, not to pass judgment, to be present in the moment whether it be at the hospital or Disneyland, beauty comes from within, and that we are all one and each soul is important no matter their ability. Lorrin was totally comfortable with who she was, even though she was cortically blind, nonverbal and a quadriplegic who lived with uncontrolled seizures for her entire life.
When Lorrin was 3, Karen made a pivotal choice to embrace Lorrin’s uniqueness and enjoy all areas of life, living without rules and boundaries. Karen overcame life’s massive roadblocks as she raised Lorrin. Together they held their heads high as they paved the way to giving all parents permission to explore and enjoy life. Karen found that the solution to winning in this life of parenting a unique child started with being committed to having a great attitude and perspective regardless of their situation.
Through her keynotes sessions and workshops, Karen shares the principals that made her parenting experience a success. Her message is simple:
“It is my mission to share our life story in hopes it will support other children and their families who are living a unique life experience. It is my goal to raise awareness of the power and importance of all unique souls. I believe that Lorrin was here to pave the way to a grander attitude of love and acceptance for all. It is my honor as her parent to help spread her life’s message of love and forgiveness.”
Learn more about Karen at www.lorrinsworld.com.
Marquetta Bell Johnson
Marquetta Bell Johnson was born into a family of tailors and quilters, providing a rich environment which fostered her creativity as a youth. She is a self-taught artist and creates hand-dyed textiles, quilts and collectibles.
Marquetta is also a teaching artist who enjoys affiliations with such organizations as VSAarts of Georgia, the Atlanta Partnership for the Arts in Learning and The Names Project Foundation / The AIDS Memorial Quilt.
In 2004, she was one of 12 artists selected to represent the United States as an International Arts Fellow by VSAarts. She has received the Phoenix Award from the City of Atlanta for making a significant cultural contribution to the community and a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts proclaiming her a master artist practicing a traditional Georgia art form.
Marquetta’s work has been published extensively and featured on HGTV’s “Crafters Coast to Coast.” She is also the author of Hand-Dyed Quilts, a “how-to” book about quilting and dyeing. Most notable among her commissions is a Textile Mural for the Department of the Interior in our nation’s capital.
Marquetta considers herself a community-based artist who uses her creativity to impact the world in a positive way. According to her, “Every stitch I make is an act of love with the potential to foster harmony, well-being and peace.”
Mark Johnson, M.Ed.
After receiving his M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Mark went on to fight passionately for people with disabilities as the Director of Advocacy at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Nevertheless, his impressive resume of accomplishments does not stop there.
Mark is also a graduate of the Leadership Denver Program and ARC’s Regional Leadership Institute, a past president of Fund for Southern Communities—a progressive fund that supports social change in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia—and a founder of American Disabled for Accessible Public Transportation/American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today.
His awards include:
- SCI Hall of Fame Inductee (2007)
- Betts Award (2007)
- Georgia Self Advocate of the Year (2006)
- Pathfinder Award, GA Brain & Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission (2005)
- Advocate of the Year Award, Georgia Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities (2003)
- Justin Dart Jr. Spirit of ADA (2001)
- New Mobility Person of the Year (2001)
- Justin Dart Freedom Award (2000)
- James E. Skittkamp Award (1999)
- The Americans with Disabilities Act Award (1991)
- Distinguished Service, National Council on Independent Living (1990)
- Jefferson Award for Outstanding Community Service, North Carolina
Kristina Rhoades resides north of Atlanta with her husband and childhood best friend, Jacob. They own a home and spend a lot of time outdoors with their two great dogs. Kristina endured a T-5 spinal cord injury at ten-months old and has used a manual wheelchair for as long as she can remember.
Kristina is the General Manager of Brenau University's radio station, 89.1 WBCX. She hosts two weekly radio shows. "The Ocean Breeze," is a music show featuring a mix of traditional and modern beach music. "Above and Beyond" is an informative interview talk show, highlighting uplifting and inspirational people. Kristina also enjoys producing several other live and pre-recorded shows weekly.
In 2008, Kristina graduated from Brenau University with a Bachelor's degree in Master of Communications, with a concentration in Public Relations. Coming from a family with a professional background in broadcasting, she loves working in both radio and television. In 2010, she received her Master’s of Science degree from Brenau in Organizational Leadership.
As Ms. Wheelchair California 2005, Kristina was proud to have the opportunity to travel from her home state as an advocate for women and people with disabilities. Since 2005, Kristina has worked with Colours Wheelchair as a member of Team Colours. She also works with LegaWear—a a company that makes custom-tailored professional attire for people of all abilities and body types.
Modeling is one of Kristina’s passions and she hopes to increase the visibility of women with disabilities in print and motion media. In her spare time, Kristina enjoys motivational speaking, any kind of sports, and being involved with a marketing committee for a not-for-profit organization that serves adults with disabilities. She also offers social media and voiceover services to individuals and organizations.
Kristina’s closes every radio show with her motto: “Happiness is yours to choose or reject, so embrace it. Sing out loud, give somebody a hug, smile for me and don’t forget to dance to the music.”
National Fitness Ambassador
Nick Scott works tirelessly to help others transform their disabilities into possABILITIES. At the age of 16 Nick was an ordinary teenager with an interest in athletics, when a near fatal traffic accident changed his life forever. After the accident Nick became overweight and discouraged, but somehow found the determination, mindset and personal strength to transform his life from a debilitating tragedy into a personal triumph. Now he uses those hard-won insights to help others achieve their personal goals.
Since March 2006 Nick has competed and guest posed at almost one hundred bodybuilding shows around the world. He earned his WBFF Pro Card in 2009 and received his IFBB Pro Card when he won the overall title at the NPC Wheelchair Nationals in 2011. Nick is the only wheelchair bodybuilder in the world that holds professional wheelchair bodybuilding cards from two bodybuilding organizations.
As a professional speaker, author, champion wheelchair bodybuilder, wheelchair ballroom dancer and personal trainer, Nick Scott uses his enthusiasm, vision, convictions, abilities, and life experience to reach out, to inspire and give hope to others, especially those unaware of the personal strength they can tap into if only they will believe and try.
In 2007, Nick created an online website for helping and training others, NickFitness.com. He is one of the only fitness trainers in the world that has designed workouts specifically for disabled athletes. Being in a wheelchair for all of his adult life, traveling in a wheelchair and becoming a professional wheelchair bodybuilder has given Nick a unique perspective few others can share.
Nick is the founder and owner of the largest online wheelchair bodybuilding community and a global promoter of the sport of wheelchair bodybuilding. Through his perseverance and determination, wheelchair bodybuilding has earned the distinction of being the first time in the world where a professional disabled sport is contested on the same stage as a professional sport.
In 2008 Nick Scott created and led a wheelchair bodybuilding camp at the Shriners Hospital in Chicago, the first ever of its kind. Teens in wheelchairs from around the country spent one week learning about fitness techniques for strength training and proper performance nutrition, and were introduced to exercise routines they could master.
Nick Scott is also the CEO, President and Founder of the not-for-profit 501(c)(3) Wheelchair Athletics Foundation. Its purpose is to provide and support the wheelchair athletics' experience through activities open to any child, adult or veteran with a disability, with the hope of providing both physical and psychological therapeutic value. The Wheelchair Athletics Foundation hopes to instill the "CAN DO" spirit in all its participants by giving them the confidence and independence needed to allow them to face their own life challenges and to overcome barriers that might have seemed insurmountable before
Currently, Nick is working on opening a chain of 55,000-60,000 square foot not-for-profit gyms across the U.S. All proceeds will go toward the growth of the not-for-profit gym and the cause of funding and supporting disabled athletes throughout the U.S.
Learn more about Nick Scott at: