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.
Margarita Elizondo, Ms. Wheelchair California 2013, is a Spinal Cord Injury survivor who sustained a gunshot wound to the neck, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down after an intruder broke into her home in 2006. Now a single mother of three, and proud grandmother of two, she attends Grossmont Community College in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in Communication. She is employed by Axia Management where she holds the position of Director of Social Initiative Strategies, marketing wireless telecommunication services by True Wireless and Heart Mobile.
Her everlasting passion of encouraging individuals with disabilities of all ages to further their education, be self- advocates, and inspire others through the pursuit of their individual dreams despite their challenges is demonstrated through her involvement in numerous organizations, and volunteerism.
In 2007, she founded Blessed with Life, which is a faith based peer support program for people with disabilities and their families. In 2008, she became a Peer Support Advisor for SHARP Memorial Hospital and by 2009, she established the SHARP/HeadNorth Mentor Program for individuals affected by spinal cord injuries. In 2011, she continued to pursue her passions when she founded a Joni and Friends San Diego Chapter, which teaches and encourages churches to disciple and minister to individuals with disabilities. She is a motivational speaker and leadership development trainer for the San Diego Unified School District working with at risk middle school and high school students through 2nd Mile Ministry and she is a radio talk show host for an internet radio show she produces herself, Wheel Talk Wheel Issues, and celebrates diverse abilities through her blog, Celebrating ADA & Ability Awareness.
Anthony R. Orefice III
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!
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.
Radio & TV Personality, Motivational Speaker & MC
In 1993 at the age of 22, Paul Lane was involved in a multi-car collision that put him in the hospital for eight months. Lane went from being told he had 72 hours to live to over 20 years later living a happy, thriving life. A series of events led him to the Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting in 2006 where he graduated with honors.
In 2007, Lane became Bureau Chief for NBC News Radio KCAA 1050 AM in Southern California's Inland Empire as well as the host of their weekday morning show thorough 2014. In 2015, he found a new home as Bureau Chief of ABC News Radio KMET 1490 AM. In his morning show, "In the Fast Lane," Paul can express himself freely, including a wacky sense of humor. It is this humor and positive outlook towards life that not only makes him shine as a radio personality but has enabled him to thrive physically. Paul has began his new endeavor with Co-Hosting a brand new TV Morning Show Coffee Talk with Mia Mocha that was simulcast on KMET 1490 until December January 2016.
In January of this year after covering the consumer electronics show Paul decided to shift his focus to what he loves technology in his new show the TECH Zone. In his new show he is able to discuss how technology has changed everyday life as well as entertainment, sports, health and education.
Paul is a self proclaimed nerd and techie who loves video games, sci-fi and innovations. He has broadcasted live in the past seven years at the consumer electronics show. When covering technology he always sees how it can benefit the physically challenged community and their families.
In March of 2013 he was featured in the National magazine Radio Ink online edtion. Paul has served on the Board of Directors for the American Advertising Federation Inland Empire Chapter and an Innovation Judge for the 2015 & 2016 Consumer Electronic Show. He has also been given honor of being asked to be an ambassador for the Abilities Expo Los Angeles. In June of 2016 he had the privilege of being the keynote speaker for the United States Equal Opportunity Commission annual training in Los Angeles. He has also hosted scholarship pageants & No Drug America Events
Some of his notable interviews include:
Dr. Maya Angelou, Patrick Dempsey, Boris Kodjoe, California Atty. Gen., Kamala Harris
California Lieut. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Megan McCain, Tommy Davidson, Lee Deewyze
Isaiah Washington, Noah Wyle, Chubby Checker, Hill Harper, George Duke and many more.
Chris Rohan served as publisher of Disabled Dealer Magazine of CA, NV & AZ from August 2001 until the last issue August 2013. Chris and her husband of 43 years, Jim, have been actively involved with the disability community since 1989, when their oldest son, Bobby, became a quadriplegic after when he was seriously injured in an auto accident. Their youngest son, Matt, became a physical therapist in order to better understand and help his brother.
In 2001, Bobby heard that Disabled Dealer Magazine of Southern California was for sale and told his parents they should buy it—and they did! Chris put her heart, soul and impressive knowledge of resources, services and products available to the disability community into every issue of the magazine. Her endless energy and desire to bring the best articles, resources and equipment to people with disabilities and their families made Disabled Dealer Magazine of CA, NV & AZ an outstanding book each month as well as a must-read.
Children's needs have always been a priority with Chris. Having raised two very active, wonderful sons, she knows the importance of fun as well as education. Although Chris has published her last issue of DDM CA, NV & AZ, she is not retiring! Chris is bringing this same level of dedication and expertise to the Abilities Expo as an ambassador. If you need help finding a product or service, just ask Chris.
The Rossiter Family: Ainsley, Briley, Kamden, Rooster and Lori
As the first ever National Ambassador Family, the Rossiters are truly honored to represent Abilities Expo across the nation. Ten-year-old Ainsley is an amazing young girl living with INAD, an extremely rare, terminal, progressive disorder of the nervous system. Years ago, Ainsley participated in a marathon where her father, U.S. Marine Major Kim "Rooster" Rossiter, pushed her in her stroller. Ainsley's elation over the experience was the inspiration for Ainsley's Angels of America, an organization which helps people with disabilities participate in long distance events as a team. They are the "captains" in the wheelchairs pushed by "angels" through the races. Many of you might have met the Rossiter family during the 2014 Houston Abilities Expo, where they offered expo guests the unique opportunity to test drive the Ainsley's Angels athletic ride-along experience created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who normally would not be able to experience endurance events.
Rooster, currently in his 20th year of active duty service, serves as the President of Ainsley's Angels of America, the Vice President or Executive Director for more than a dozen independent Ainsley's Angels public charities, and as the Chairman of the Board for Team Hoyt New England. He and Lori, his wife of 16 years, hail from Lake Charles, Louisiana and are parents to Briley, Kamden and Ainsley. After serving tours in North Carolina, Washington DC, California, Okinawa, Africa, Korea, Norway and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, the Marine Corps currently has the family stationed in Virginia. Over the last four years, 13-year-old Briley has pushed Ainsley in more than 30 road races as a way to ensure the two sisters share special moments together. When she was 11-years-old, Briley wrote the children's book Born an Angel to share their inspiring true story and to spread the message of inclusion in all walks of life. Published in 2013, the story of sibling love will warm your heart and encourage any reader to change someone's world for the better. For more information about the family and their efforts, visit www.AinsleysAngels.org.
Donna Russo was born with Turners Syndrome and now has adult onset FSH Muscular Dystrophy, a condition that robs your muscles of movement slowly. She is 4' 5" tall, many women with Turners are of small stature. Donna started dancing at age 10 taking ballet and tap later including jazz, modern and acting classes.
A graduate of Mercyhurst College with a BA in Dance she toured with Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Magic Camera, performed in Lord of the Rings, Passions, Power Rangers and in multiple roles as characters in television and film. Though she had her heart set on joining a ballet company, she found that, for many companies, she was considered short. Determined to dance, she did find a place in the dance world performing as elves, aliens, dolls and monsters in television, film and music videos.
In addition to dance, Donna has been in the hospitality industry for 30 years, working her way up to Entertainment Sales Manager position where she assists music industry/television production clientele with accommodations. Donna has received awards for sales and was voted "Top Dog" award recipient two years in a row by music industry professionals.
As part of the community, Donna believes in supporting the arts and became active in The Entertainment Industry Group Los Angeles Kiwanis Club. The Kiwanis Club brings arts and culture to school children and exposes the children to performances in local theaters and music centers.
Currently, Donna can be seen on Youtube in the video choreographed by Tam Warner, "I won't Give Up Donna Russo." She feels the passion to dance and loves the connection with other dancers and the audience.
These conditions do not hold Donna back from reaching for her dreams though the dreams themselves may be altered to adapt to her abilities. Because of this perspective Donna has often been asked to speak to various groups, which has led her to becoming a motivational speaker.
"It is very exciting and an honor to be an Ambassador for the Abilities Expo where I have had the pleasure of performing "I won't Give Up" live," said Donna. Visit her website at motivatemedonna.com.
National Disability Law Ambassador
Stephanie Woodward is a passionate Disability Rights activist and proud disabled person. She is the Director of Advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights, Inc. (CDR) a disability led, not-for-profit Corporation that works for national, state, and local systemic change to advance the rights of people with disabilities. Stephanie is also a member of ADAPT, a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom. Stephanie has been arrested multiple times while advocating for Disability Rights.
Prior to joining CDR Stephanie worked as a litigator in Miami, Florida focusing on Disability Rights. Stephanie attended Syracuse University College of Law where she earned her J.D. with a certificate in Disability Law and Policy and her M.S.Ed. in Disability Studies. Stephanie previously worked for Senator Tom Harkin (IA) and assisted his Disability Counsel on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions by researching, drafting legislation, and making recommendations for legislative action in regards to disability rights issues. Most recently, Stephanie, along with fellow members of ADAPT, assisted in drafting the Disability Integration Act (DIA) – a piece of legislation that, if passed, would affirm the rights of people with disabilities to receive long-term services in their homes, rather than nursing facilities and other institutions.
While Stephanie’s work spans across all areas of Disability Rights, she is particularly interested in deinstitutionalization, community living, ending violence against people with disabilities, and improving access in the community. She loves talking about legislation that will impact the Disability Community and helping others to become activists for Disability Rights. When Stephanie is not doing Disability Rights work, she can be found playing with her adorable nieces, taking care of her four cats, and eating copious amounts of cheeseburgers and onion rings.Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!