Soulful Encounters Stories

Inspiring Stories from our Disable Dating and Community Members

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 How it all began  BY SISTER BASIMAH LEGANDER Aka Bee1955
Since I am from both sides of the religion "railroad track" -- having convert and natural born Muslims within my family, I certainly have been through the proverbial mill as they say. Yes, even a few Hebrews and a lot of Christians from all sorts of sects smacked dab in there as well. When we celebrated all the religious holidays - it was with gusto!
And....  With tradition! You never saw a family who knew the correct ways of doing which and what for and to whom and where and what for. Baking and cooking was done on 2 different stovetops, ovens and stored separately in 2 refrigerators and shelves. Even the pots, pans, dishes and tableware were marked for certain religious use only. Thus was growing up in a mid-20th century multi-immigrants' family household.
Of course, when the grandparents, the glue of all families, left us and the young ones my ages up and below went our ways across America rather than stay nearby our parents, our religious traditions seemed to go by the wayside and become nearly forgotten. We married strangers who knew not our parents' parents beliefs and we adapted to where we planted ourselves.  Our children grew up almost ignorant to what we once celebrated and believed when we were children.
I was one of them. I travelled the world with the us army, working in various locations across Europe and North Africa. It was in Egypt during my 1st visit there in 1981 that I reacquainted myself with my Islamic roots. I was photographing a part of the Hussein mosque in Cairo when the afternoon prayer was announced. Panicking, I started down the steps to get out of the way for the teeming masses of men storming up the stairs to get into the mosque. I was against the wall near a staircase when a covered woman grabbed my hand and pulled me out a side door and down an alleyway behind the mosque into a hole in the wall which was her home. She took off her veil and laughed and with her hands motioned me to sit on the cushions. I did and she began to make tea with her then 8 year old daughter. She had been watching me take pics, saw my fate and grabbed me. Lol. My Arabic being almost nothing and she having no English we did pretty well communicating that afternoon. She was a widow and only had Aisha. She did errands and laundry for others to make their way, but was engaged to marry again soon. I asked her if it was a good thing and she said he was handsome and smart and she was happy. She asked me who was my god. I answered her "Allah" and she gave me a beautiful smile and kissed me. I took many pictures of them and did have her come to my hotel later and get her copies. She and Aisha had shown me the way back there, I offered her dinner for helping me, but she refused. She did give me many little books in Arabic about Islam when claiming the photos later. That was the last I saw of khadijah. Years later in 2005 I returned to Egypt and I had my then Egyptian brother in law make inquires  in that area, but it was time was against me and no one remembered her. Perhaps she had a happy marriage after all.
Once I returned to the us after meeting khadijah, I had some Arabic friends find me the English translations to those Islamic schoolbooks they were. And I laughed at the simple lessons. She went and used whatever money she had for her and her daughter to eat and live to buy me those small presents. I didn’t let her down, I studied Islam with an open mind as I remember her telling me to and became more peaceful, more self contained and better readied to handle the outside pressures of the world that were interfering with my life. I bought an english-arabic-urdu Holy Quran and read it thru and thru until i almost memorized it. I was surprised to find much of the Holy Bible included. I read hadiths (ways of life) and also the life of the Prophet and how He used His faith to overcome the obstacles of life without a breath leaving His body unencumbered
We westerners are so lazy.. We think the Holy Bible was written in English and never had to be translated.  Well that’s what the Holy Quran had to be  - translated from the Arabic to English to be understood and observed and believed, but first you have to open your mind before you read it!!!!
SOULFULENCOUNTERS.COM opened me up to a new world of social interaction in the international disabled community - from the personal pre-entrance interview with the owner of the site to the warm welcomes of it's multi-national members. The chatroom is positive and none of the bothersome sexual come-ons you are subjected to so often on many other dating sites. The members on chat try to help each other with special problems and lend invisable shoulders when necessary. SE has many other interactive features - including one-on-one counsel help, a sound-off type blog, it's very own radio station opened up to requests and special musical  and live programming, etc. I enjoy listening and occasionally putting in my own two bits. Viva la SoulfulEncounters - best medicine I found yet for the disabled blahs!




Sassi Lassi Gets New Chance At Life With Gastric Bypass Surgery.
Contributing Writer By MaryBeth Kyle
When Diana went into surgery in March of 1999, she had no idea that her life would be changed as much as it has in the past eight years.
Although her doctor had warned her that the surgery she was facing to correct a ruptured disc held a higher risk because of her weight, both she and the doctor agreed to the surgery in order to ease some of her intense pain.
During the surgery, the doctor found calcium deposits in and around her spine. The process of removing the deposits left Diana paralyzed. When she woke up and realized that she couldn’t move her legs, she was shocked.
Through intense therapy, she was able to regain movement in the right leg. By the end of a three-month stay in the hospital, she was able to walk using a brace on her left leg and a walker. Her left leg remains paralyzed from the knee down. She remembers the first time she tried to stand in therapy. Weighing more than 350 pounds, it took more than six people to assist her to stand from her chair.
Upon returning home, Diana was essentially confined to her house. Because of her injuries, she required daily in-home care. For five years, she was only able to leave her home with the help of her family. Her daughter and son-in-law, Angie and Leslie Voyles, and her son, Mike Pruitt, helped to get out to go to the doctor, therapy and church---the only times she was able to leave her home. She considers herself to be blessed to have a hairdresser who would come to her home to cut her hair for her.
One one occasion when she able to be out with family in December 1999, her wheelchair was being pushed down a ramp. The bottom of the ramp was uneven and the chair overturned. She received a hairline fracture in her right leg, putting her in the hospital for another week. She was able to come home on Christmas Eve, after having to learn how to walk in her condition once again.
In March of 2003, Diana required a second back surgery---this one to correct problems with nerve endings in her back. By this point, she had lost all the progress she had made and was barely able to walk, even with her walker, due to the pain. She had to spend a month in therapy at Cox Walnut Lawn to try to regain the ability to use her walker. Since she was not able to recover she was moved to Mountain View Health Care. Spent three months with what she said were great therapists in the nursing home. With the help of the therapy she did in the pool at the nursing home, she was able to return to her home.
In 2004, she made the life-changing decision to have gastric bypass. This surgery would shrink the size of her stomach to approximately the size of a golf ball.
Diana had considered the surgery for two years before committing herself to finding a doctor. She decided she was tired of depending on others and wanted to able to care for herself. Once she had obtained a list of doctors that would perform the surgery, the second doctor she called was able to take her as a patient.
She had to attend a seminar in which she met the doctor as well as some of his patients who had had the surgery. The seminar also covered the pros and cons of having the surgery, as well as discussing the lifestyle changes that were going to be required to make the surgery successful. Her sister took her to the doctor in Sedalia to the seminar, surgery, and follow-up visits because she was unable to drive herself.
Before the doctor would do the surgery, her doctor required Diana to lose some weight in order to get her liver closer to an average size so that the surgery would have fewer complications. Once she had lost 17 pounds, she was able to go forward.
Following the surgery, she was only able to have liquids, for two weeks as her body became accustomed to the changes in her stomach. She was moved from liquids to soft foods such as Jell-O and puddings for the next few weeks. Gradually, she was allowed to add texture to her foods until she was able to eat small amounts of normal foods. The surgery has allowed her to lose 170 pounds. She has had to make the lifestyle changes suggested by her doctor. The suggested eating pattern following this surgery is to have five or six small meals a day, rather than three large ones. In fact, overeating at one sitting will lead to vomiting. Diana now orders child’s meals or eats half or less of an adult meal if she eats at a restaurant.
She has learned what foods to eat and what not to eat. She has also learned to chew well. Foods have to be a pureed consistency to avoid upsetting her stomach.
Although she says she would recommend the surgery to others who are significantly overweight, she cautions that it is not a cure to overeating. She said it will not magically make a person stay thin. People must be committed to the changes required.
Her daughter Angie watched the difficulties she dealt with the changes in her body as well as the benefits Diana is enjoying now. She believes the benefits far outweigh the difficulties and would recommend the surgery to others. Angie is in the process of preparing for the surgery herself.
She also clarifies that it is not an easy fix for weight problems and overeating. It is a hard process that begins long before the surgery during which doctors help prepare you and teach you about the right ways to eat and live a healthy lifestyle. She also says that people will still have the choice to overeat, but it will be there own mistake.
After losing the weight, Diana was able to pick up her life again.
Her daughter says, “It has made her want to live. It’s made her young again. She acts younger than I do.”
Diana had to retake her driver’s test at the age of 47 because it had expired during the five years she was confined to her home. Now, she is able to drive herself where she needs to go.
Before, she needed help showering and dressing herself, but now she is totally independent She cleans her home, does her laundry, and cares for herself on her own. She walks with a walker around her home and  to her car.
She uses a manual wheelchair, which she loads and unloads from her car. At home, she uses weights to build upper body strength in order to used her manual wheelchair. She also practises water aerobics at the Mountain View city pool to help maintain mobility.
Diana also volunteers at the OMC thrift store and is actively seeking a job. She has an electric wheelchair which she rides to the thrift store as it allows her to have her hands available to do various jobs around the store.
Her supervisor, Connie Ledgerwood, listed Diana’s duties as a volunteer to include running the register, sorting donations, hanging clothes, washing dishes for display, and straightening the store. Connie also said that Diana could do basically anything another person can do---she just has to do it from a chair.
“You look at life different after being in a wheelchair. You appreciate the little things---enjoy the little things,” said Diana. “Being in a wheelchair has taught me to have more care and kindness and love.”
In her search for a job, she has realized that the wheelchair is going to stand in her way---not in the way of her ability to do the job, but in the way of employers giving her an opportunity to show her abilities. She has gone into job interviews and has seen a visible response to her chair.
On one interview, she said the employer didn’t bother to review her application or her resume, but offered an excuse as to why they wouldn’t be hiring yet.
Diana has been attending a vocation rehabilitation group names “Job Club” which helps people with disabilities find jobs. It helps them prepare for interviews and create resumees, as well as giving them skills, such as computer training. Some of the preparation for interviews is how to react to a person who is obviously intimidated by the disability.
Diana credits the progress she has made to God, her family, her grandchildren, and her friends. Her granddaughter, Sierra, was born two weeks after she was paralyzed and provided her with the will to move forward with her life. Sierra and her younger brother, Luke, have encouraged her through her journey.
She says she wants to be the grandma that they deserve and the mom that her children deserve. Diana wants to be able to be active with her family.
She says that God has given her the strength to be able to do the things that she does. Her favorite Bible verse is Phillipians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
Diana was willing to share her story because she wants to encourage other people.
She says, “You only get to live one time---why not enjoy the one time God’s given me. Whether I am in a wheelchair, or a walker, I want to live life to the fullest. I want people not to stay at home and feel sorry for themselves. Life is what you make it. You are the number one reason your life is what it is.”
Diana said she is sorry that it took being in a wheelchair to make her a better person, but she hopes that her story will be able to help other people.




Beating the Odds…CaringCat
My story began at 28 weeks… when I was born, way too early and much too small. Weighing in at barely 2lbs, my parents were told not to get too attached, that I had less than a 50% chance of survival. I had something called wolf Parkinson white I was extremely weak; receiving several blood transfusions. I had to be fed via feeding tube, because the act of feeding burned too many calories and I was wasting away. The doctors and my family praised God every day that I made it through. After several months in the NICU, I was able to go home with careful monitoring.
Through my elementary years, my health was fairly uneventful as far as I was concerned… as far as I knew, every child had to miss as much school as I did. I had tons of friends, was involved in school musicals, choir, and an exemplary academic record. At the ripe old age of 8, I was tested for HIV because of the transfusion I received at birth. The test was negative, but my parents still had no clue what was wrong, and the doctors were left shaking their heads. I loved life and loved school; I was involved in drama club, choir, science club, and much more. The last thing you would call me was an underachiever or school phobic.
My freshman year of high school (Age 15-16) was where it all went downhill. Constant headaches, flu like symptoms, increased injury, fatigue, fever, and dizziness overcame me. Skip ahead to diagnosis; after going to about 15 doctors and being told about a million times that nothing was wrong with me; I went to Johns Hopkins and met the man whom I owe my life to. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Neurally Mediated Hypotension, Fibromyalgia, and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. The ehlers danlos is genetic, and is a connective tissue disorder that causes me to bruise easy, dislocate and sublaxate, & more. The type I was diagnosed with is called classic or hyper mobile, the vascular form has also developed in me. I was put on a structured regime of medicine and exercise and was actually improving. I was able to go back to school full time and be involved in everything I loved again. Not long after my 16th birthday I began losing feeling in various parts of my body along the left side. It began with my elbow and progressed to complete paralysis of my left side. By the end of my sophomore year I was in a wheelchair. The diagnosis was Arnold Chiari malformation; my brain was sliding into my spine and had completely blocked the spinal fluid from flowing. And I seriously had doctors telling me nothing was wrong. At 17 I underwent brain surgery. They had to move bone from the back of my skull to allow for the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. If this decompression had not been done, I could have died. I lost many friends, and was completely shut out from my former life. I was told that even if the surgery was successful, I would most likely still have the blinding headaches, and may not be able to walk again. And I would be in a cervical collar for the rest of my life. I was told by my high school guidance counselor to just forget about finishing out high school and get my GED, and go on SS. No…what else can you offer me? I was going to graduate WITH my class on time, and I was going to walk across that stage if it killed me. Homebound schooling allowed me to continue my education, and intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy allowed me to learn to walk again, care for myself, and re-frame what I had lost: including the cervical collar that I no longer need. In May of 2001, I graduated from high school with honors, with my class, and I walked across the stage to receive that diploma.
The surgery decreased my chiari symptoms, but continued to cope with complications from everything else. I began community college the fall after I graduated from high school. I received my associate’s degree in May of 2004, and went on to Tennessee Technological University to get my bachelors of psychology (graduated May 2006). My goal was clear; I was going to become a counselor for people who are disabled and chronically ill. After going to many therapists who just couldn’t understand what it was like to live like this, or what my family was going through…I knew there was a need. I began my masters at TTU in August of 2006, and graduated with a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology and Counselor Education with an emphasis on mental health counseling and health psychology in December of 2008.
During my college years, I had to undergo frequent infusions to keep my blood pressure up, weekly injections of B12 and continue taking the 20+ medications per day that I have been on since I was 15. I was frequently sick, but gave up time with friends to rest and managed to stay on track for the most part. I underwent a few additional surgeries, and events that just added character and a chapter to my life book. I was due to graduate in the spring of 2008, but my body had other ideas. At age 25, I had a stroke. My professor failed me for not completing my assignments that semester. But that is all water under the bridge.
Both a blessing and a curse, my disability is invisible to the public most days. I still struggle daily, but with a smile on my face; hiding the pain, fighting my battles, and thanking God daily for blessing me with such an incredible life story. God brought me to it, and brought me through it; and in the midst of it all placing in me the desire to help others in any way I can. This journey has not been easy; many accommodations were made for me in school so that I could get the same education as everyone else, and I was blessed to have vocational rehabilitation finance ALL of my higher education. Please check into this resource!
So now, here I am… a 27 year old woman; once told that I should not aspire to have anything more than a GED and an income of social security, and now I hold three higher education degrees and am pursuing licensure as a professional counselor. As soon as I am licensed, I plan on opening my own practice for people like myself who cope with disability and chronic illness. Many friends were lost, tears shed, and pain endured; but all of this has made me stronger. The joy of friendship has uplifted me, the love of family has supported me, and with the guidance given by the Holy Spirit; I have arrived.


Larry Ronald Muncy II was born November 8, 1976, in Louisa, Kentucky. He lived in a single wide trailer with his parents, Larry and Barbara Muncy, behind his grandparents' house in Warfield, Kentucky, before moving to Crum, West Virginia, at the age of six. Larry lost his father when he was only eleven years old and the then was paralyzed in an automobile accident when he was fourteen. He will not tell you he is glad he is a C5 quadriplegic, but he will tell you being a quadriplegic has made him a better human being. Paralysis has not kept Larry from living a successful life, and he is proud that most of his major accomplishments have come after his being paralyzed. Larry will also tell you his greatest treasure is his younger brother, Charles Edward Webb Jr., and he enjoys watching them grow from a child into a young adult. He also treasures the fact he is closer to his mother than ever before. Larry wrote his first poem for his mother when he was twelve years old. His first poem was published when he was in the eleventh grade, and he acknowledges his thanks to his high school English teacher Mildred Varney. Some people may find some of Larry's work to be dark or sad, and he admits some of it is. Yet, Larry believes all emotions have a place in the poetic world. He hopes his darkness will somehow help others see the light.
The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, deserves a lot of credit for who Larry is today. They forced him to realize that there is life after paralysis. Shepherd turned every minute Larry spent at the facility into an opportunity to learn how to be as independent as he possibly could. They taught him he could continue to paint, as a quadriplegic, by using his mouth instead of his hands. He came to realize he was able to accomplish everything he ever wanted to accomplish, he just had to learn how to do it as a quadriplegic. Larry wants to thank The Shepherd Center for believing in him when he do not believe in himself, and he also wants to thank them for everything they continue to do for people whose lives have been forever changed due to a spinal cord injury.
Larry's first book SIMPLE THOUGHTS is a collection of thirty poems of various genres written by a C5 quadriplegic. Larry began writing poetry in a professional manner in 1993. The poems in his book reflect how he felt at certain stages of his life.  Some poems will make you laugh, and others will make you cry. You may find yourself agreeing with his writing one moment just to find yourself disagreeing only seconds later. Larry has experienced marriage, divorce, death, addiction, sobriety, good health, and bad health. All of these elements are spread throughout his book.  We encourage every Soulful Encounter member to purchase a copy of Larry's book as he is one of our own! His book's URL is: http://stores.lulu.com/larrymuncy




There have been a few times in my life in which I have had to make some changes.  I've had to adjust to a totally new lifestyle twice now.  Both times it was out of necessity rather than a resolution of some sort....Discomfort was the catalyst for change both times in my life.

The first time that I felt forced into being different came in 1992. I was 14 and I had just completed 8th grade. I was looking forward to the high-school  thing. I went to see the doctor about 3 weeks into the summer-break between 8th and 9th grades. I was having these horrendous headaches and was trying to find a reason for them. I explained my symptoms to the displeased doctor.  Seems that my symptoms added up to bad news;  a tennis-ball size tumor was growing on my brain. Immediate tumor removal was a must!

Six and half hours of brain surgery took care of the majority of that tumor. The radiation that killed the remainder made half my hair fall out…PERMANENTLY! I also had a scar and permanent hearing loss in my right ear.

“Now what?” I wondered…There was no quick-fix for me. At the beginning of High School, testosterone was flowing through me like water flows through rivers! My diminished appeal was totally unacceptable to me. I had a need to feel  somewhat attractive  to the opposite sex. I am willing to bet that that need is fairly regular for young people.     I had what I considered to be an “aesthetic-drawbacks”.  Drawbacks which  I was not willing to accept.  I looked at myself as another person would… I wasn’t able to see many ways in which  I could modify myself. The only thing I was able to see that might help was for me to weight-train and change my body for the better. So…out of an attempt to regain  part of “me”…I began to lift and learn as much as possible about diet and working out. I was fortunate-enough to see much success as far as strength and physique are concerned!

Even though I had scars and hair loss… My body was winning the attention of women like you cannot imagine! I’d say more-so than fellas with no drawbacks to deal with. As you might imagine; I was in Heaven so-to-speak. My “change” had definitely  been beneficial.

That all happened in 1992 at age 14…Some 13 years later; something else forced another “change…” In March 2005, I had a stroke. A vessel in my brain busted in the exact spot where the radiation had been focused 13 years earlier. According to doctors; the growth of my blood-vessels was stunted by the radiation-treatments. Extreme blood-pressure while working out caused a vessel to burst. Luckily, I was temporarily living with my sister when the stroke occurred. She called paramedics when she realized that I was in bad trouble…Upon arriving at the hospital, I had my second brain-operation. As the brain-surgeons attempted to locate the bleeding vessel, part of my brain was cut away and discarded. That part was the cerebellum. The cerebellum controls many of our motor-functions Such as balance and co-ordination… I have zero balance and little co-ordination as a result. The absence of balance has made me unable to walk, work, drive or do any of the stuff that other men do.

So…in an attempt to regain a little of who I was…I began painting. Trying to learn a painting system that would allow me to create some sellable things. I can no longer make a paycheck…so art is my only alternative. I have a strong desire to be a husband and maybe a father some day. So…with painting I am again trying to make myself somewhat appealing.

You can see some of my artwork by going to my profile. This is a great achievement because I have to work with my left hand and I was born right handed. I feel that inspite of my disability I am able to be a fine artist.





I was due to arrive on the planet on July 1st.  I arrived April 24th.     I’ve always told my mom I liked spring better anyway. I weighed 3 lbs, 9 ounces and spent weeks in the neonatal ICU. My parents brought me home to my 5 1/2 year old sister, who was promised by grandmother “a cute little doll” was going to arrive home.    When she saw me, she asked where the doll was! LOL! Despite this, she quickly developed a mothering instinct with me.   I was in a stroller carried or crawled to get around.   My diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy came at the age of 2 1/2.  The type of  CP I have is called Spastic Diplegia. (My legs are more affected by the disorder than my arms, although I do have left hand weakness.) My parents were told that my IQ would never be higher then that of a 12 year old.

I’m happy my parents didn’t listen to such low expectations!   When I was, five my parents moved further upstate and since my local school didn’t have an accessible kindergarten,   my parents kept me back a year and  I had a tutor come to my home 3 hours a day 5 days a week paid by my school district.  I entered school in mainstream. (Term used back in the 80’s when a disabled student went into a class room with non-disabled peers.)  My parents fought for this because they felt that I could handle it with the proper supports of a 1 to 1 aide.   The district wanted me to be bused back and forth two hours away from my home, to go a school for children with special needs.  Mom and Dad felt why should I go anywhere for long bus rides as a kid when my local school was  ten minutes away. I had lot of friends, parties and phone calls my elementary school  years.  Then around grade 6, friends started to pull away.  Nobody sat with me at the lunch table and when I finally got the courage to ask my friends why they had left I got the response, “we are just busy we’ll be back later.” Later never arrived.  The good thing about being shunned by my so called school mates,  is I became psychologically self –reliant.   The bad part was my introversion and  feelings of isolation. During that period I met a wonderful occupational therapist who was a mentor and friend to me.  She unknowingly at the time set me on a course to my current career of public speaking at the age of 16 for  Occupational therapy graduate students.   I do have one friend from high school, whom I keep in touch with on a regular basis.

 As my ten year class reunion approaches this year, I have no desire to revisit the past; only to look toward the future.  I went onto college and received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology .  I tried to no avail to look for jobs in everything from nursing homes to child care agencies.  Vocational counselors told me that I was  too smart to be placed anywhere  by them . Often I was told jobs weren’t available in the places I applied when the reality was nobody wanted to deal with a disabled employee.     Roadblocks were hit when state agencies said we don’t help to pay for graduate school or transportation. I felt isolated again.

The one thing I still had was my public speaking at various universities and the occasional volunteer writing gig.  In May 2006, I joined  Soulful Encounters looking for some companionship and I met the lovely owner of the site Louise Maxwell as well as many good friends. I’m still looking for that special someone!  I man a hotline through my home that helps adults and children with disabilities, with a professor friend of mine. I hope to have my public speaking business up and running full sometime in the Fall of 2008.   I’ve been called negative words such as guarded and bitter. I don’t see myself this way.   Being a member of this community has been a blessing to me. I feel that I could use some of my expertise here and help the lonely and isolated and members who need special attention and care. If anyone needs to talk, you can find me under Soulful Blogs.






Strong Willed Women



Dawn Teresa Parkot has been living with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy since birth. As a result, her physical movements and speech are severely impaired, but – thanks to her faith, determination, and two dedicated parents – her ability to overcome the limitations of her disabilities has been astounding.

When Dawn was a baby, her parents were told that she would never be more than a mindless vegetable and would be lucky to survive until five. Doctors said the best thing for them would be to put her in an institution and go on with their lives. Her amazing Mom and Dad, Kathryn and Sean, ignored the advice and made sure that Dawn received both the right therapies and a good education. 

Dawn is now in her thirties and a truly accomplished woman, but that didn’t happen without overcoming other major challenges. In 1979, she came down with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis which left her with serious hip and back damage. Nine years later, at 16, her wheelchair hydroplaned off a cliff, causing spinal cord trauma, more brain injury and leaving her legally blind. 

None of this has stopped Dawn from doing what she loves. She was a girl scout for ten years and received the Silver Award. She was an equestrienne on the Para New Jersey State team and served as an alternate for the 1991 Para-Olympic team that competed in Spain. She has traveled the U.S and visited Holland and London. 

At Morristown High School in New Jersey, she graduated third in her class of 376 able-bodied students. As a National Honor Society member, she won the Blonstein Award. Yale, the University of Notre Dame, and Seton Hall University wanted her to attend their schools, but Dawn chose Notre Dame. There she was the first student with multiple-disabilities in the history of the university. At Notre Dame, she was on her own just like any other college student. She did it all: majored in mathematics, founded her dormitory’s literary magazine, went to all of the home football games, held summer jobs, participated in the planning of social events and dated. Her fellow students founded an award in her name to be given to future students who succeed in life despite unthinkable odds. 

When she started at Notre Dame, there were only ten disabled students, including people with diabetes and asthma. In 1995, Notre Dame renovated an older building to house their expanding Office of the Students with Disabilities in order to better serve the university’s many students with various disabilities. 

Dawn graduated cum laude in four years. In the summer of 1995, she joined the Computer Science and Engineering graduate program at Notre Dame and again became the first disabled student in the program. In May of 2000, she graduated magna cum laude with a Masters Degree in Computer Science and Engineering. Then she went to worked for Network Design Tools Inc. in Eatontown, New Jersey as a Telecommunications Network software tester. She lost that job in December, 2001, as a result of 9/11. (To see more details about her position and other full-time work that she had, click on the Work History link from the pop down link menu.) 

While studying at Notre Dame, she became the first Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey winner with a speech disability. She talks with an aide of a computer device, similar to the one used by the well known scientist, Stephen Hawking. The Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey Program is part of the Ms. Wheelchair America organization. 

During her Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey reign (1999-2000), she discovered her love of public speaking. She has spoken in front of countless children, (disabled and non-disabled), many local area leaders, CEOs of major companies, and in front of stars. (See her speaking history go to the Speaking History link from the pop down menu.) She also is looking forward to a new writing career and has begun work on a children’s book as well as her own memoirs.

Copied from Dawn's website with permission - http://webspawner.com/users/dparkot/index.html






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