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Cecelia Fred Honored, Shares The Stage With The Reeve Foundation

"Your life is in your hands. Your life is what you make it," a brief but memorable statement from an extraordinary woman, Cecelia Fred.

Cecelia, a paraplegic, was one of nearly one thousand attendees at the 2014 Southwest Conference on Disability in Albuquerque, NM last month. A four day affair that provided individuals living with, as well as affected by, developmental disabilities opportunities to learn from community organizations, sit in on local disability concerns subcommittee meetings, interact with professionals in the academic and health fields and view disability-focused feature films.

With an agenda featuring 40 concurrent sessions daily, there was no shortage of moments worth remembering. However, for Cecelia (and admittedly the Reeve Foundation), the most memorable came at a special lunchtime presentation when Ms. Fred, Ken Collins of the San Juan Center for Independence, and Cecilia Quintana presented a handmade quilt to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, represented by Director of Community Engagement, Dan Griffin. The quilt made by Cecilia Quintana and in honor of Ms. Fred was gifted to the Reeve Foundation along with a generous donation from the Navajo Nation.

Cecelia was 6-years-old -- an energetic girl who enjoyed the outdoors and horseback riding -- when an accidental shooting drastically changed her life. In the months and years following her spinal cord injury, Cecelia endured multiple surgeries and intense rehab in Colorado away from her loved ones. As she returned home she was met with the difficult realities of navigating life in a wheelchair, particularly a lack of inclusion on her Navajo reservation.

Like many adjusting to life with paralysis, the experience wasn't always easy, but Cecelia pushed on. "I covered up my pain, and put a smile on my face," assessed.

While challenges still remain today, there is plenty to smile about. Cecelia is a wife, mother, a role model in her community and an advocate for people with physical and mental disabilities. As a member of ThinkFirst Navajo and a Reeve Foundation Ambassador, she is committed to spreading awareness and helping others with disabilities strive in the midst of obstacles.

Cecelia serves as a stirring reminder, "your life is what you make it."

Whether she knew it at the time or not, that comment proved a fitting summary of what the 2014 Southwest Conference on Disability was all about and hopefully, it's a fact those of us living with disabilities won't soon forget.
Posted by Community Admin on Nov 14, 2014 11:53 AM America/New_York