To start us off right, we had out mentoring event. We were all broken down into mentoring groups with several contestants and a couple of youths with and without disabilities. The purpose of this event was to embrace ourselves as positive role-models for young people and show them that people with disabilities could be accomplished, confident people who do not let their disabilities stop them from pursuing their dreams.
We all sat around a table, wondering what activities we would be doing. I was thrilled when they announced we would be making a character together that we would then present to everyone. Character building!? That is so my thing! I love exercises like this.
We had a young lady who used a wheelchair and an able-bodied young man who works with a local acting troop. I still had my son Erik at this point, and so he was a part of things as well. In fact, the next table over was a little girl Erik got to play with. She was extremely adorable with her pink wheelchair. Girl has good taste.
Behold the cute!
So we made our character, a mermaid named Mareena who had a PhD in Terrain Biology (Hahaha that was my husband's idea) and had ADD. She had a best merman friend named Marcellus who liked to sing. We filled out some pretty standard questions about our character, presented it to the group, then sung a rousing round of Under the Sea.
I think the most amazing part of this for me was seeing my son interact with the little girl and all the women who used wheelchairs. Obviously, he is use to me. He rides around on my foot petals, rides on my lap, pushes my chair, etc. But it never really hit me until that moment that to my three year old son, all these women were completely normal. He will grow up knowing that mobility impairments are just the reality. Nothing to stare at or make fun of. He will accept and embrace it, simply because he has been exposed to it. This is an experience most children didn't have when I was a child. You didn't talk about difference.
We need to talk about it. We need exposure to gain acceptance.
After the mentoring event we had a short break before we all got ready and went out to temporarily take over the streets of Providence.
You should have seen us, more than twenty eight women in wheelchairs in pink shirts and white sashes rolling down toward the park in front of Providence Place Mall, stopping traffic and looking fabulous doing it.
And so, we gathered in front of the State House for our group photo.
Let me tell you, fitting 28 women in wheelchairs into one photo is like life size Tetris
After that, we went down to Fire and Ice for lunch. It was pretty chaotic, but I got the chance to talk more with the amazing ladies I met that week.
And for dinner? A New England clam bake. We ate all the clams. The other folks at our table were not into them, so Greg and I said pass 'em over! Delicious clams dipped in butter? How is that not delicious? Maybe it takes a New Englander to appreciate...
And that was day 2.