THE HALL OF FAME

Tiffany Hendrickson, 2014

Tiffany is working towards her single subject teaching credential for Agriculture at California State University, Fresno. After earning her B. S. Degree in December 2013 in Agriculture Education with a communications option she knew she wanted to educate society about the opportunities the agriculture industry has to offer.

Growing up with Cerebral Palsy, Tiffany was accustomed to doing things differently, thinking outside the box and making life work for her. This attitude was put to the test when her family moved to Los Banos, CA. She became active with 4-H, and FFA showing livestock at country fairs, and competing at public speaking events. Although these activities are not typical for someone to choose to do from a wheelchair, she developed a drive to improve her abilities. By the time Tiffany completed her career in the FFA in 2009 she had received her American FFA degree, and had been one of the only members with a disability to do so.

Tiffany’s goal along with becoming a voice to the disabled community is to bridge the gap between the disabled community and the agriculture industry.

Ms.Wheelchair California 2014
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Cynthia DeJesus, 2013

Cynthia DeJesus is currently studying toward her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from University of Iowa Extension. She is currently CEO, coaching, and contracting for DeJesus Coaching Services. A strong advocate for children, families, and the disabled, she involves her coaching with clients and faith formation students in the social etiquette of advocating for the other and the disabled at home, as well as overseas. She believes anyone can change the world. Every single person can make a difference. The difference in a smile, for the person who genuinely needs a smile in the moment. The person for whom we leave a place. The person assisted with a door. Even the hand held for a fleeting moment while listening to their story. She believes to the recipient of daily kindnesses; we all can be heroes.. Cynthia’s professional interests focus on education and technological advances within the disabilities sector; her current projects include the knowledge, awareness, and rehabilitation of disabled orphanages in Romania. In addition, she serves as spokesperson for Kinder mit Handicap at Weisenhau?s in Rumänien, Stadt Satu Mare. She is a member of the Coaches Federation, and was recently honored with the Golden Key International Honour Award for her pursuit of academic excellence.

Shira Leeder, 2012

Shira Leeder is 33 years old and from Berkeley, California. She earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in American Studies with an emphasis on Disability Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Her passions are art, traveling, doing sports, writing, and advocacy. She hope to one day to have her art displayed in a major art museum, make her own non-profit for providing resources/services for people with disabilities nationally and abroad, and lastly to write and publish a biography. Shira is a local Disability Rights Activist and co-owner of a popular local greeting card business. She became involved in the Friends of Kenney Cottage Garden community project in order to make sure that this community garden was the first to be accessible for people with disabilities. She envisions the garden as a place where people with disabilities can meet their neighbors and participate in community events. Naturally Shira is the ADA Coordinator for Friends of Kenney Cottage Garden. Her disability advocacy began in 1999 when selected as the youth participant for the Youth with Disabilities Conference in Washington D.C. Now, she continues to give speeches, do community organizing and promote disability awareness in her community such as working other non-profits like the Bridge School and Center for Independent Living, Berkeley. As Ms. Wheelchair California 2012, she strives to bring disability awareness issues to the forefront of debate throughout the state of California and to promote the “green” movement by making community gardens accessible to people with disabilities. You can visit Shira’s web site at shiraleeder.com

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Jennifer Kumiyama, 2010

Jennifer was born with Arthrogryposis (AMC). AMC occur once in every 3,000 births. At birth, doctors suggested that Jennifer’s limbs be amputated but her father refused. From birth through age 8, she went through several major surgeries to improve her mobility. She had already proven the doctors wrong by learning to write, stand to transfer, and swim. Jennifer’s inabilities have never stopped her from breaking barriers, overcoming adversity, and living her life to the fullest.

She is the oldest of six children and was raised in a family that saw her differences as something that made her unique. Being a child with a disability outside of her home was not as easy…there were many prejudgments Jennifer faced growing up.

Jennifer discovered her passion for music and theater by the time she was in kindergarten. She began singing in the church choir at Holy Innocence Catholic Church in Long Beach at age 6. After realizing that singing was something she enjoyed, she joined local theater groups and school choir and even played drums in the orchestra. Being a professional singer and performer was a secret dream of Jennifers. She did not think that society would accept a performer in a wheelchair. When it came time for Jennifer to go to college, she decided to pursue music education. This still allowed her to study voice as she did at Riverside Community College. In 2000, Jennifer moved and continued her education at Long Beach City College and voice lessons at CSULB.

After two years of doing something she was not passionate about, Jennifer decided to branch out into the performing world and audition. Her first audition was for Warner Bros. Reality TV Show “PopStars2”. Jennifer made the first two episodes and created a buzz as “the girl in the wheelchair” in TV Guide, Variety Magazine, and other local papers. Jennifer’s confidence and will to live her dream grew and she began taking more time to audition. In 2002, after an extensive audition process, Jennifer was cast by internationally recognized director of opera and theater, Francesca Zambello, in Disney’s “Aladdin; A Musical Spectacular”, making her the first performer in a wheelchair in a Disney Theme Park. Jennifer represents the disabled community to 8,000 people a week. She is proud to bring inclusion of the disabled community in an able-bodied world. She continues to perform and has done so in venues such as the Stella Adler Theater, the Staples Center, and the Kodak Theater.

Jennifer has been blessed with numerous opportunities to educate California on its vast disabled community sharing with them “just how able we are”. She has even had the opportunity to do fun and awesome things. This year she helped Habitat for Humanity of Los Angeles build a home in Downey, surfed with Life Rolls On, and has spoken to the East Fresno Kiwanis Club, Disney’s CastAble Group, Boeing, and parents of children with Arthrogryposis. She is also Chief Editor of Disabled Guides for notanotherguide.com – providing online travel guides for visitors with disabilities. Jennifer is involved with the Special Olympics in Long Beach as a performer, and in Orange County as Stage Manager for the fall Opening Ceremonies 2009.

Jennifer currently resides in Long Beach, California. In her free time she enjoys painting, road trips, surfing and spending time with family and friends. “I want to ignite the flame in others with disabilities to pursue a full & happy life regardless of their situation. With faith in yourself & determination, it can all happen.”

Alyson Roth, 2009

In 2000, Alyson was involved in a near-fatal car accident that left her with a spinal cord injury and paralyzed from the waist down. Alyson obtained her BS in Music Education at Samford University (2002), and her MS in Elementary Reading and Literacy from Walden University (2005). While at Samford University, she was successful in establishing a “Disability Awareness Week” where students learned about different disabilities and simulated them in order to understand the barriers that confronted students with disabilities. It brought a new awareness to the campus and became a catalyst for further accessibility within the community. After graduation, she taught music in the public and private school sector before joining Free Wheelchair Mission in 2007. Free Wheelchair Mission is a non-profit organization that distributes wheelchairs to 71 countries around the world to the poorest people with disabilities.

Alyson continued her advocacy by speaking at both the National Association for Music Education’s National Convention (2004) with her session entitled “Barrier-free Music Education: Concepts of Inclusion” and the National Orff Schulwerk Association National Convention (2005) with her session entitled “Mainstreaming the Process”. These sessions taught other music educators how to turn able-bodied music lessons into lessons that included those children with disabilities in the mainstreamed classroom. She has also written several articles and been published in several magazines regarding disability awareness.

Yosemite National Park is now more wheelchair friendly and ADA compliant due to Alyson’s input while sitting on the Board of Directors. She has assisted Habitat for Humanity to help build a house for a disabled member of the Atlanta inner-city community. In an attempt to bring more recognition to those with disabilities, Alyson presented the “Ability through Mobility” Award to four recipients around the country for their outstanding work within their community despite their disability. She has traveled to Nicaragua to work at an orphanage for children with disabilities and teach music at a school for the blind. Alyson has also traveled to Mexico to deliver wheelchairs to the country’s poorest people with disabilities and has had the opportunity to collaborate with the former president of Mexico, President Vicente Fox, about the importance of providing wheelchairs to the citizens of Mexico in addition to providing aide and healthcare to everyone.

Alyson resides in Southern California. In her free time, Alyson enjoys providing mentorship for newly injured patients, participating in several outdoor activities including waterskiing, surfing, and swimming, and singing in the Gospel Choir at Saddleback Church. It is Alyson’s desire to educate the public on the truths of having a disability and empower those with a disability to be all they can be in a world full of possibilities.

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Shannon Coe, 2008

Shannon Coe, Ms. Wheelchair California 2008 and Ms. Wheelchair America 2009 First Runner Up, lives in Monterey with her husband. Shannon was born in a devastated post-war Vietnam and was afflicted with polio as the result of a broken immunization infrastructure. Fleeing the political aftermath of the war, Shannon’s parents lovingly carried her as a four-year-old child on the dangerous journey from refugee camp to refugee camp until they were sponsored by a church to immigrate to the United States.

In the U.S. Shannon received her first wheelchair and grew up to appreciate international affairs and advocacy for disability rights. In 2000, she received a BA from U.C. Berkeley in Mass Communications. Shannon also studied abroad in England where she was successful in having a Member of Parliament spend a day following her around campus in a wheelchair to understand the barriers that confronted students with disabilities. Shannon continued to advocate for disability rights issues in the U.S. where she interned with the ADA section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C, and also with the City of Berkeley.

After graduation, Shannon was selected to attend the Beijing +5 UN Declaration and Platform for Action conference to evaluate the progress of women with disabilities under the UN Convention and the National Youth Leadership Network conference. Shannon later worked as an Acting Program Coordinator for the Fulfillment Fund Teen Access Program, a non-profit organization that provides mentors and educational resources for teens with disabilities. She has also been a mentor for young women with disabilities for the Youth Empowerment Project, and a trainer for Mobility International USA.

From 2004-2006, Shannon served in Paraguay as a Peace Corps Volunteer, working with NGO’s and the Paraguayan government on projects to improve basic disability rights for Paraguayans with disabilities. Shannon has also twice raised sufficient funds to travel to developing nations with Joni and Friends (a nonprofit organization) to distribute hundreds of wheelchairs at a time to some of the world’s poorest people with disabilities.

Shannon is studying for a Masters degree in international affairs at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). Her personal and professional passions have taken her to 44 countries, and with the help of a merit scholarship to attend MIIS, Shannon intends to specialize in human rights for people with disabilities both nationally and internationally.

In addition to traveling, Shannon enjoys the great outdoors. She has been involved in outdoor adventures with organizations such as Environmental Traveling Companion, Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program, No Barriers USA, and Casa Colina. She has participated in adaptive sporting activities such as kayaking, handcycling, mountain biking, rope climbing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, snorkeling, and white- water rafting. Shannon has also volunteered for Special Olympics and Casa Colina in sport events and summer camps for children with disabilities. Moreover, as Ms. Wheelchair California 2008 and Ms. Wheelchair America 2009 First Runner Up, she intends to promote adaptive sports for people with disabilities as one of her activities.

Susan Rotchy, 2007

Susan Rotchy, Ms Wheelchair California 2007 currently resides in Dixon with her husband and two children. She was left paralyzed from an automobile accident 11 years ago. Since her accident Susan has become an activist for people with disabilities beginning with having a voice at the community college she attended and with that voice enforcing the college to become ADA compliance. Realizing, she had an aptitude to bring the disability community and the able body community together from this experience she proceed straight to the capitol while completing her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Golden Gate University.

Susan wanted to move her paralyzed body again and realized that there was potential research being done for spinal cord injuries but there was no adequate funding for the scientists. In 2000 she helped pass the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act through her membership in Californians for Cures, which also took an active part in the passage of Proposition 71, the Stem Cell Research and Cures Act 2004. Additionally, she is one of the co-founders of Research for Cure, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization which raises money for neurological diseases, which has raised 300,000 dollars for the Reeve Irvine Research Center at UC Irvine. For her continuous work on raising monies for research she has been thanked by the late Christopher Reeves and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Today, Susan sits on the In Home Support Service advisory committee for Solano County and is a board member of Independent Living Resource of Contra Costa County. She is an active member of the Napa Spinal Cord Network Group as well as vice president of Research for Cure. She is currently the Program Manager at Independent Living Resource in Fairfield. In her spare time she plays the flute and piano and her hobbies include quilting and cake decorating. Her platform is bringing awareness to the programs available for people with disabilities to live independent lives.

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Pamela Lloyd-Fetterly, 2006

I am Ms. Wheelchair California 2006 as of June 26, 2006, in place for my special friend, Jean Riker of Sacramento. I have been in a wheelchair since January 13, 2003. I just recently found out that I can make a difference just by having resources and knowing where to turn to, if I or someone I know needs help.

I’m a full-time college student at Porterville College, as well as, being a full-time mom to a teenage son, named Charles, who is also my companion. I have been in college in one way or another for over 13 years, whether it be on campus, or through correspondence courses.

I have taken many subjects, from private investigations, bookkeeping, accounting, travel agent, drug and alcohol counseling, child development, and government classes, you name it, I’ve probably taken it. You can call me a professional student. I was on the student government at Porterville College as the Health Services Senator.

I’m new to the CDR in Sacramento, California. The people there are the best knowledgable people on earth, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to people’s rights. They are the best teachers I’ve ever had. I would love to be part of their team, so I could help someone like they help me now.

This is my first assignment since becoming Ms Wheelchair California 2006, since Jean had to step down and I want to do her justice. I’m coming in with no experience, no knowledge, other than who to talk to in Sacramento. If I can come this far, I feel I can do anything, even though I’m totally shy.

Kristina Shepard, 2005

Kristina has attended Rallies at the State Capital regarding bills affecting the disabled community, met with Senators and Assembly Members, attended conferences and other meetings regarding disability issues, and made appearances at Shriners Hospital for Children. She has also been in local newspapers and been a guest on a few radio shows. She says her experience was an absolutely wonderful experience. She met so many amazing people and learned so much about the advocacy of disabled people and women in her state and country. She helped elevatate the status of women with disabilities and helped to break down unnecessary barriers that continue to stand in our way today.

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Sarah Anderson, 2004

Sarah Anderson was 23 years old when she was crowned. She is a T 9-11 incomplete paraplegic and has a spinal cord injury which occurred in June of 2003. At the time, she was undergoing outpatient physical therapy at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Sarah is a graduate of Cal Poly State University. While studying there, she received her BS in Animal Science with a concentration in Communications.

Desiree A. Milburn, 2003

Desiree A. Milburn was born November 10, 1980 in Fresno, California. She was born with Cerebral Palsy but did not let it get her down. She attended Gingsburg Powers Elementary School in Fresno, California from first grade to eighth grade, It’s a school that teaches speech and physical therapy for individuals like herself who would like to continue life without feeling helpless.

After completion of elementary school she continued on to Roosevelt High School where she completed her general education and graduated from there. She didn’t stop there; she continued on to Fresno Pacific College where she received her B. A. degree in Computer Science in December 2002. She is currently employed with Social Vocational Services in Fresno, California.

Desiree is trying to let people know that for people with disabilities, its not their mind that is stopping them, it is their bodies. Her major goal is to help people with disabilities, alike or even those unalike, and let them know that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself. Sure there are a lot of obstacles, but with the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ, nothing’s impossible.

Being part of the Ms. Wheelchair California Pageant was very exciting for me, especially when I won. I learned about the Ms. Wheelchair competition while doing research on the Internet, looking for programs that I could be involved in that would help people understand that even though I’m in a wheelchair, I can do many things and do them well.

I like to advocate for the handicapped people who are nonverbal. That is what inspired me to enter the pageant. The pageant is a good opportunity for handicapped people to be viewed differently. It gives us the chance to demonstrate our outward beauty, and also the beauty inside. Some people tend to view people in wheelchairs all the same, when in actuality we have the same desires and wants as everyone else.

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Jennifer MacMonagle, 2002

Jennifer MacMonagle is confined to a wheelchair. Following a party at which her friend’s mother allowed the kids to drink as much as they wanted, she climbed into the bed of a pickup and, soon after, the intoxicated driver lost control in an accident that killed two other teenagers in the vehicle and left Jennifer with a broken back.

Now Jennifer tells her peers her story, urging them not to drink or take drugs and drive. She speaks at California’s Friday Night Live (FNL) program assemblies and rallies. Although she did not drink, a friend did and her life has been changed forever. A total of 21 California counties have adopted the FNL program. Since its inception in October 1984, the number of driving under the influence deaths and injuries caused by teenagers ages 14 to 18 has dropped significantly.

Ruthee Goldkorn, 2001

A colleague from one of the those organizations sent me an e mail in March of 2001 and she practically dared me to enter the Ms. Wheelchair California Pageant to be held in May in San Diego. The what??!! I had no idea there was such a thing but I was game for anything. I had seen Miss Congeniality! I was inspired by Sandra Bullock and my goal in entering was indeed to be titled Ms. Congeniality.

I entered, raised the Pageant fee from local businesses and wrote the essay “What Are You Passionate About”? with the answer being Civil Rights, equality and equity for the disAbility community. The crowing event came and I was crushed when they did not call my name for Ms. Congeniality. I was not paying any attention at all when I did hear my name and all I said was “what?” They put a crown in my head, a sash on my shoulder and flowers in my lap. Holy Smokes!!! I won the title of Ms. Wheelchair California and I was going to the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant!!! It took a couple of weeks for the enormity of the responsibility of the title to set in.

Desiree is trying to let people know that for people with disabilities, its not their mind that is stopping them, it is their bodies. Her major goal is to help people with disabilities, alike or even those unalike, and let them know that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself. Sure there are a lot of obstacles, but with the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ, nothing’s impossible.

Being part of the Ms. Wheelchair California Pageant was very exciting for me, especially when I won. I learned about the Ms. Wheelchair competition while doing research on the Internet, looking for programs that I could be involved in that would help people understand that even though I’m in a wheelchair, I can do many things and do them well.

I like to advocate for the handicapped people who are nonverbal. That is what inspired me to enter the pageant. The pageant is a good opportunity for handicapped people to be viewed differently. It gives us the chance to demonstrate our outward beauty, and also the beauty inside. Some people tend to view people in wheelchairs all the same, when in actuality we have the same desires and wants as everyone else.

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Noemi King, 1999

Noemi “Cookie” King was a modest woman, quiet and observant in her ways. She was trustworthy and traditional in her approach to her life and in her relationships. She was tough-minded with the kind of “stick to it” attitude that earned the respect of all who knew her. She was also a woman who was meticulous, carefully disciplined, and orderly in virtually everything she undertook. Realistic about life, she was always at the ready, prepared to take on responsibility.

Noemi passed away on May 9, 2010 at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, California. Noemi was laid to rest in Greenwood Memorial Park Salli Lynn Nature Garden in San Diego, California.

Simply stated, Noemi was a good and kind person, an individual who will for all time be remembered by her family and friends as being a caring and giving person, someone who was a vital part of their lives. Noemi leaves behind her a legacy of life-long friendships and many cherished memories. Everyone whose life she touched will always remember Noemi King.