by Jasmine Parr, Community Engagement Specialist

As I reflect on the milestones in my life, 2023 holds a special place. It marks Power To Be’s 25th anniversary and also 20 years since a car crash that altered the course of my existence. Little did I know that these seemingly unrelated events would intertwine and lead me to discover resilience, hope, and a renewed zest for life.

Growing up, I was fortunate to be surrounded by a loving family who instilled in me the belief that I could achieve anything. With their support, I climbed the ranks in the hospitality industry, becoming a General Manager for a group of pubs. At 29, my future appeared bright, until one fateful night when a car crash left me in the ICU, intubated and paralyzed. The news that I would never walk again struck like a dagger, shattering my dreams and my identity.

In the 18 months that followed, confined to hospital walls, I found myself questioning the meaning of life. Was this all there was? Was this my new reality?

I spent the next few years as many people with disabilities do, at home, on a computer or in front of the TV. Then, one day, a recreational therapist introduced me to Power To Be. Sitting on a beach in my power wheelchair, I watched as people in kayaks paddled away, seemingly out of reach. But little did I know that this organization would help me find a glimmer of hope.

The facilitators and volunteers at Power To Be were relentless in their efforts to support me. They helped me overcome the anxiety of trying something new and adapted their methods to accommodate my limitations. Together, we found a way for me to transfer from my wheelchair to the kayak. It took time and patience, but when we finally pushed off from the beach, everything changed. The water, the breeze, the calmness—it breathed life back into me. I realized that though I may not be the same person physically, I still had the power to embrace life.

Over the next two decades, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery through the physical activities and life skills offered by Power To Be. Nature became my sanctuary, providing moments of solitude and connection with a supportive community. With each new experience, my confidence grew, and my sense of adventure returned. I discovered that even in the face of adversity, I had something valuable to offer this world.

Inspired by my transformation, I started volunteering as a public speaker for Power To Be. Sharing my story became a way to inspire others and advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. The more I spoke, the more I believed in myself. In 2014, I was given the opportunity to join the organization and now work as a Community Engagement Specialist. I work alongside internal and external partners, championing inclusion, accessibility, and diversity. Together, we strive to create a more inclusive community, one that extends far beyond the Power To Be community itself.

Looking back on that first day on the beach, I am grateful for the pivotal role that Power To Be played in my journey back to living. Over the past 25 years, they have created countless life-changing moments for individuals of all ages and their families. It is a milestone that deserves celebration.

As I celebrate these milestones in my own life, I am reminded of the power of resilience and hope. Life may throw unexpected challenges our way, but within those challenges lies the opportunity for transformation. Through the support of a nurturing community and the courage to embrace new experiences, we can find our way back to living. Today, I stand as a testament to the transformations that happen to the human spirit through Power To Be programs, and I look forward to the countless milestones yet to come for us both.