In the last month, I have had the opportunity to visit three wonderful events hosted by three very different nonprofit organizations who share the mission to improving the quality of life of individuals with disabilities. I am touched by the efforts of the staff and volunteers of each organization, and am motivated build a strong foundation for my new non-profit Infinite Flow, America's first professional wheelchair ballroom dance company.
Triumph Foundation Wheelchair Sports Festival
(April 25-26, 2015)
Founded in 2008 by Andrew Skinner, who became a quadriplegic after a snowboarding accident in 2004, and his beautiful wife Kirsten, "Triumph Foundation's mission is to help individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries to triumph over their disability and to inspire them to keep moving forward with their lives by pushing themselves to get better every day." I visited their annual Wheelchair Sports Festival. I got to see wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball live for the first time and participated in a wheelchair hip hop dance workshop with Chelsea Hill from the Walk and Roll Foundation. The rugby players were quite aggressive and fast, so much that I certainly did not feel confident to get out onto the field and try the sport myself lol. Apparently the event drew close to 400 participants! Amazing and great inspiration for a Wheelchair Dance Festival in the future :)
Wings For Life World Run (May 3, 2015)
Founded by Red Bull Founder Dietrich Mateschitz and two-time motocross world champion Heinz Kinigadner, Wings for Life has a mission to find a cure for Spinal Cord Injuries. The organization funds world-class scientific research and clinical trials around the globe aimed at healing the injured spinal cord. I participated in the Wings for Life World Run, which is their annual global fundraiser. I heard about this event not through the wheelchair community, but through a group of Red Bull Team Members I taught Bachata Burlesque workshop to (See related Blog Post). Because everyone around the globe starts running at the same time, I left my house at 2:30am for a 4am race. There were over 3000 people gathered at the parking lot at the Santa Clarita mall, and definitely many wheelchair and power chair users. I ran for about 12 miles until the catcher car caught me. It was so nice to see so many support SCI research. I realize I am one of the very few who recovered from paralysis. At the same time of improving the Quality of Life of those who live with paralysis each day through Dance, I would like to see a cure and prescription for paralysis as well.
Japanese Speaking Parents Association of Children with Challenges Kids On Stage
(May 31, 2015)
I saw an inspirational performance by the talented children of the Japanese Speaking Parents Association of Children with Challenges, a wonderful nonprofit organization founded in 1994 by a small group of Japanese parents, which assists parents and families of children with Special Needs in the Japanese community. Most of the kids have developmental disabilities. The program included taiko, piano, dance, singing, ukulele, zumba, voice, percussion, and more. I cried seeing so many kids get out of their Comfort Zone and seeing so many parents and volunteers driving the event and organization forward. Proof again that just because you have a disability does not mean you are limited in what you can do! Looking forward to sharing dance to my fellow Japanese and #Asian community.