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 and their families—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:
I was 19 years old and thought I had the world at my fingertips. I loved to ride dirt bikes, surf, snow board, wake board, fish and work out. On November 27, 1993 just after Thanksgiving, my parents and brother joined some of our family in Laughlin, Nevada, while I stayed home since I had to work. Believe it or not, this was the first time my parents left me home for an extended period of time. Since they were gone, I thought what better time to have some friends over. A good friend came over with his street bike—which I loved to ride—and I later took another friend for a ride on the back of the bike late that night. While I was driving the motorcycle with my friend, he fell off. With the balance was thrown off, I was not able to keep the bike on the street. The bike swerved off the road and I hit a telephone poll. I would soon learn that my life would not be the same.
According to the reports, I needed to be resuscitated twice and, due to my internal and external injuries, I only had enough blood to keep my heart pumping. I remained in ICU for 6 weeks on life support. After I was taken out of ICU, I was transferred to several hospitals. During that time, I had 9 surgeries and remained in the hospitals for 6 months.
As a result of my accident, I am a T4, T5, T6—incomplete paraplegic. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to meet several others with spinal cord injuries. They have shown me a new way of life and given me hope. Today I still remain friends with many of those people that gave me hope and so much encouragement. I thank God that they were sent to show me that my life will go on, but in a different way.
I have learned so much in the last 17 years, living with a spinal cord injury. I thought it was a life I could never live, but it became easier in time, with lots of practice and prayers. You learn to be creative.
Today, I am happily married to my girlfriend at the time of my accident, who I only knew for 6 months, and we have a 3-year-old son. I am CEO of Wheelie Medical Supply, owner of Wheelie Distribution, a realtor for Keller Williams VIP properties, an ambassador for the Abilities Expo Los Angeles and a proud Rider for Ralphs Riders, a nonprofit which helps people with spinal cord injuries. I enjoy helping others who face challenges similar to my own and various other disabilities. I want them to be able to overcome some of the obstacles that I was able to.
When I am not working or volunteering at hospitals, I enjoy spending time with my family.
I tell people that I have been blessed to have bonus time for the last 17 years. Although some days present more challenges than others, I would never trade them for anything.
NEVER SAY NEVER!
An activist and advocate by training, Ruthee Goldkorn has carried the issues of under represented groups to elected officials and public policy makers for decades. After she became a wheelchair user in 1990, she took on the cause of a community activist for the disAbility community, using the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act to make sure public services, health care services, recreation, education and all places of public accommodation are fully usable and compliant.
In 1995, she created No Barriers, a disAbility access consulting and advocacy services firm.
While serving on the Executive Board and as a member of the Legislative Committee of Californians for Disability Rights in 2001, she was dared by a colleague to enter the Ms. Wheelchair California Pageant. “I thought I knew everything until I was surprisingly crowned Ms. Wheelchair California!” she said. “All I was after was the title of Ms. Congeniality, not the lofty responsibility of being the official spokesperson for the disAbility community with a focus on the issues of women with disAbilities.” She assumed that weighty responsibility with style and success, and has been the Executive Director of this non-profit organization since her reign ended.
Ruthee feels that while the federal disAbility rights laws have drastically changed our communities in the 20 years since its passage, we still have a long way to go and a short time to get there. She continues to dedicate herself to the hard work and noble cause of disAbility advocacy and activism.
“The Abilities Expo is a fantastic vehicle to carry forward and bring change to our world,” she stated. “It is my privilege to be associated with the Expo and the incredible staff who make magic happen at every event.”
Raised in Chicago as a child of the 60s, she now lives in Moreno Valley with her husband Peter who is a high school teacher and her daughter who is on staff with the University of Redlands Athletic Department, women's basketball program.
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.
My first 23 years have been very busy.
Since I was a child, I have been committed to working with the special needs community both as an advocate and motivational speaker. I have long extolled the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle through sports and recreation for people with disabilities. I speak from experience and owe my own love of sports—and the opportunities that stemmed from it—to Casa Colina, a non-profit rehabilitation center. Casa exposed me to a variety of athletic opportunities, from competitive tennis to skydiving. I went on to compete in the Wheelchair Tennis U.S. Open and am now a spokesperson for Casa Colina’s Outdoor Adventures Program where I encourage young people of all abilities to overcome their physical challenges in an active way.
The more I became involved in advocacy, the more doors opened up. I had the honor of representing the State of California at the Annual Spina Bifida Conference where I highlighted all Golden State advancements in all areas which concern disabilities. I have addressed a Presidential Task Force in Washington, DC about implementing new accessibility policies to benefit our community. I was also selected to be the Youth Initiative Chairman of the Board of Directors for Services Center for Independent Living (SCIL). In addition, I have fought local community colleges to ensure the right of a person with a disability to pursue an education.
I am also part of the movement for the inclusion of actors with disabilities in the entertainment industry. I have personally starred in PSAs, commercials and various television shows and continue to work to achieve a more accepting environment where people with disabilities are portrayed accurately and honestly in the media.
My volunteer work is extensive and includes such organizations as Ability First and Lanterman Development Center. This has provided me with another chance to reach out to the special needs community, emphasizing the importance of continued education and familiarizing families with the resources that exist to help them.
I am a recent graduate of the University of La Verne with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and hope to go on to receive my doctorate. I belong to two prestigious honor societies and have certifications in Crisis Intervention Counseling for Victims of Sex Crimes, Advocate Counseling for Victims of Domestic Violence, and Group Crisis Intervention for Critical Incident Stress Debriefings. I have also received the Bronze President’s Service Award for my work in domestic violence.
Currently employed at the Parents Place Family Resource Center as their new Outreach Coordinator, I look forward to continuing to make an impact within our community and effect positive changes for the future of people with disabilities.