Member Spotlight: Martha
Meet Martha. This incredible Mom doesn’t let anything stop her. Not only does she advocate for her daughter, she advocates for all families in her district. In addition to being a parent advocate, she also is a ballroom dancer para-athlete. She recently started a non-profit organization to support other para-athlete dancers. She believes self-determination is something we all can appreciate in some way. We’re so fortune to have her as a member of the Network!
What's your story? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Martha grew up in Watertown, WI and has five younger brothers and an older sister. She was always active in sports like track, basketball, gymnastics and softball during grade school. During high school, she was in cheerleading and softball. She worked in the cafeteria at Luther Preparatory School, later switched to a stocker/Asst Manager at Pick n Save, and also held a server job a Perkins for a short time. She shares with us that she sustained a C6/C7 spinal cord injury (SCI) the year after graduating high school from a car accident in snowy conditions.
“Having a positive attitude amidst a traumatic injury certainly helped, and I certainly had some down days, but all the shining stars at Froedtert got me through it all,” she says.
After all the therapy and finding a new normal, she played wheelchair rugby, went to college, and worked at Walmart in Electronics. She’s twice divorced and has a nine-year-old amazing daughter who energizes the both of us every day. She shares that her daughter has Cerebral Palsy and epilepsy, but even with all their supports, they team up and don't let things get them down. Her daughter has special education programming to support her academic career, and Martha educated herself on the Spec Ed system to support her and other families.
Currently, Martha is a parent peer advocate with Madtown Mommas & Disability Advocates, a Ms. Wheelchair WI Coordinator, and she also am a ballroom dancing para-athlete. She just started a non-profit, Wheels & Heels Inc., to open ballroom dancing up to more participants since cost is definitely a barrier for this particular sport. She performed a showcase this year and will be in competitions in May and July.
How are you involved with self-determination? Why did you join the SD Network?
Martha believes self-determination is something that we all can either appreciate individually, or collectively. “It's all about setting appropriate goals and taking advantage of unique opportunities, she says.
She enjoys and believes networking amongst others is not only essential for my own perspective and experience, but it's equally important to share ourselves with those around us. “Disability in community is what inclusion is all about,” she says.
Tell us some good news - what's the most exciting thing happening for you (or in Wisconsin) in terms of self-determination?
Martha has two things to share. First, she’s excited to be able to work directly with the Madison School District Special Ed Department—it is empowering and impactful. “As much as I advocate for my daughter, I'll go to bat for any family who needs with- with Madtown Mommas right aside me,” she says.
The second that she is wheelchair ballroom dancing. “It's a sport that I can enjoy with my own time commitment for lessons, and draws out creativity. Having been introduced to adaptive dance in a group setting back in 2019, I've been dedicated to learning technique and different styles,” she explains. She'll be in my first competition this year on May 19th for the Milwaukee Classic, where she’ll be judged for Cha-Cha (she'll be the first wheelchair dance competitor in Wi fur cha-cha) and the routine she performed for Dance Fantasy. She loves how her instructors believe in her and continue to challenge her in a variety of ways. Her daughter enjoys being her personal cheerleader whenever she comes along, and she’s incredibly blessed to have a friend who comes along with them to watch her so she can focus on whatever dance activity they are doing. “Life is more fun with friends,” she exclaims!
She shares that since encircling herself in the world of dance, she has created a non-profit called, Wheels & Heels Inc., to help financially support other para-athlete dancers for personal instruction, public showcase or competition opportunities and group lessons. It is still being set up, but will have the capacity to grow and really make dancing in WI more inclusive than its ever been before.
What tip or resource would you like to share with people who want to be more self-determined?
To be more self-determined, Martha suggests people make sure your goals are personalized to your individual needs, and try to make them realistic. “In other words, don't make goals upon other people's expectations unless you feel that the goal truly accommodates your individuality. Being realistic is being honest with yourself. Some things are just facts, others are aspiring challenges- having a lens to perceive the difference can come with trying and time, but never forget that accommodations are always an option.
Martha tells us that resources are found everywhere. “Personally, I've learned a lot from BPDD, WPEN, UCP, DPI, FACETS, and many more. When I had questions, I dove online and made a ton of phone calls, then put in a lot of time to educate myself with the experiences I was navigating and sharing/ listening to those around me,” she says. She stresses that communication is key and you never know where you might find a new connection.
What are some of your hobbies?
Martha’s new hobby has become Wheelchair Ballroom Dancing. She explains that the interpretation and experience an audience member goes through while watching a performance is intriguing. Dancing incorporates musicality, physical movement, and emotion. She never had expected that, but as a lover of the Arts, it's a vulnerable art form that reminds us of the beauty around us.
She also enjoys any adventure she and her embark on, baking, and enjoying the summer months in Wisconsin.
***We love hearing the views and opinions of Network members. We need to mention that the views and opinions expressed on this site are those of the person who is sharing them. They do not necessarily reflect InControl Wisconsin or any of our supporters and funders.