Monday, January 25, 2010

Human Abilities Expo at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach

Sunday had the awesome opportunity to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach for their "Human Abilities" Expo. It was free to anyone who had a disability and their attendant. As long as I've lived in California, I can say I've honestly never been to the Aquarium here. I was so excited!
Upon getting tickets, you can see that they have a lower counter for those in wheelchairs to have access to the ticket counter. Things were looking good already!

And then I had my picture with a SHARK! Aaaah!

So many amazing people were here, and I got distracted from the actual aquarium because I was enjoying the people so much. Below is a gentleman named Michael Seale who weighed only 2 pounds at birth on top of having a disability. He later discovered his amazing ability to paint, and has since painted abstract paintings that have incredible detail, too. His spirit is jovial and spirit-filled. It was hard not to smile around him!

Below is me and Michael! He was so excited to take a picture with a "famous" person! :)

Another great person enjoying the Aquarium and all the resources available.

Below is the infamous "Ernie" from Colours wheelchairs! I've heard so much about him from various people, and I know that Ms. Wheelchair America 2010, Erika Bogan, is sponsored by Colours. She talks to me all the time about Ernie, so it was fun to finally get to meet him! What a character, but such a fun guy!

This gentleman, Fernando, is President of a support group to help people get accessible housing up in Los Angeles. He and his assistant were extremely nice and outgoing. It's easy to see why he was elected President as he has no shame to talking to anyone. He truly has the heart to help everyone get housing, to which I completely agree.

One of the fun things I got to take part of was a Hip Hop Dance class. I was slightly late to the time the class started (because I was busy talking to others in the lobby), but as soon as I entered the room, they immediately had me get in the middle of the circle and do my best dance move! Haha! I was a little embarrassed, but I busted a move on the dance floor!

Below, I am learning a dance routine with some of the others that were there. Whew! I got a workout in that session!

I also got to see my friend, Angela Rockwood-Nguyen, by surprise at the dance class! It was so good to see her again, and she recently just won the opportunity to see the new accessible motorcycle by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation by being the top fundraiser!

This beautiful girl waited so patiently for me after talking with everyone because she really wanted to ask me how I got my crown and sash. She was so sweet as was her mom! Mind you, up to this point, I hadn't seen a sea creature of fish YET! I'd only been talking to people!

Well, the time came to tour the Aquarium, and I was amazed how accessible it was. There was a roll-up-to area that you could literally be in front of a sharks face with only glass between you. Aah! There were some nasty looking sharks in there - razor sharp teeth, too!

In one area, there is a "petting pond." You can touch different sea creatures like sting rays, fish, and other non-harmful sharks (is there really such a thing, though??). It was easy to roll up to the wall and be able to put my hand in the water. I was waiting with my hand in the water and looking to the left, waiting for the sting ray to come by. But at the same time, a shark came from the right and brushed up against my hand. I screamed and everyone laughed! I wasn't expecting it at all and it totally scared me! Ha! I think I had enough "creature-feeling" at that point.

The final part of the day was going into the bird zone. Beautiful birds flutter and hang out and sing to all the visitors that are taking pictures and admiring their beauty. Many will even let you hold them!

I had such a fun first day at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and highly recommend it to anyone. Thank your the opportunity and for the Human Abilities Expo to bring awareness to those with disabilities! We had such a fun day!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ms. Wheelchair America Newsletter - by Erika Bogan

I was honored to be included in the Ms. Wheelchair America newsletter that goes out to all State Coordinators. Each Ms. Wheelchair America is responsible for writing and updating the Board and State Coordinators on her appearances and duties.

Thank you, Erika, for a great time at the Rose Parade, and I'm so happy you were able to be a part of it all with me!

Click on the picture to read the partial newsletter.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Featured around the Nation

I am always blessed when people hear about my story and are encouraged to share it with others. I am sponsored by Kenda tires, and recently they made a poster of me to help sell their products. This poster has literally gone around the nation to businesses, organizations, and individuals. I'm amazed when people feel so honored to have received a signed copy!

Recently, Duncan Creek Elementary School in Georgia put up a bulletin board featuring "famous" people who happen to have a disability. Well, my poster covered most of the bulletin board!! I hope that the children at that school realize that people with disabilities can accomplish anything - though it may be a different way - anything is possible!

Thank you, Duncan Creek Elementary, for featuring me on your bulletin board and for being an example to the students at your school that accessibility and disability awareness is so important. Thank you for helping to teach that people with disabilities are people, too!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Making Someone's Day

I was so excited to make a presentation at Top of the World Elementary School in Laguna Beach, CA on behalf of Free Wheelchair Mission, however I also had a very special meeting afterwards with a very special girl!

Each of the students below have been raising money for a wheelchair to give to someone in a developing country ($59.20 per wheelchair) and typically this school raises enough for almost 30 wheelchairs! Hopefully this year, they will raise even more! Their campaign ends right before Valentine's Day.

But after my presentation, I had a very special meeting with a beautiful girl named Alexa. She was told that I was coming, and the smile didn't leave her face the entire time! She was so excited to meet me!!

She told me her favorite thing to do was read. What a precious girl, and I feel as if I was more blessed to be in her presence than she may have been to be in mine!

I asked her if she'd like to try my crown on, and her face lit up! She couldn't believe it! Doesn't she look beautiful?

Afterwards, I signed a picture for her telling her to keep reaching for her dreams and to never give up. As you can see in her face in the picture below, she was in awe that she got to have a signed picture of me, too! So cute!

Thank you, Top of the World Elementary School, for allowing me to "Make a Wish," in a sense, to this beautiful girl. I can tell she's going to go far in her life with the spirit of perseverance and determination! Alexa, you are awesome, and I hope to see you competing in the Ms. Wheelchair California pageant when you turn 21 years old!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year - Tournament of Roses Parade 2010

Happy New Year 2010 everyone! Please forgive the late post of the wrap up of the Tournament of Roses Parade and how it all went. It literally wiped me out with all the activities, and I fell asleep right after it was over (even had to stop halfway on the drive home because I literally couldn't stay awake) and stayed asleep the majority of the weekend after getting a bit ill. However, it was such a blast! Let me walk you through the day!

Erika Bogan, Ms. Wheelchair America 2010, and I originally planned on celebrating New Years Eve on East Coast time (meaning 9pm out here in California) and then going to sleep since we had to be up at 3am New Years Day. However, that didn't happen as both of us had gotten sick. You can only imagine having to haul two wheelchairs in one car with both of us paralyzed, in the rain, along with all of our luggage. It was interesting to say the least, and you wouldn't believe how many able-bodied people walked past us and didn't offer to help. Here's a quick look at what it looked like arriving at the hotel. We look more awake than we actually were!

So, Erika and I were up until 1:30am, not by choice. We finally fell asleep after taking care of each other, however that meant we both only had 1.5 hours of sleep, and neither of us had gotten but about 4 hours of sleep the night before. We were exhausted, but so excited about the day!

We woke up at 3am and got ready, put our crowns and sashes on, reloaded the car with our luggage, and packed up both wheelchairs in my car. All of this definitely should have been captured on film somewhere! It was hilarious! We arrived at the meeting location with all the other Kiwanis float riders as well as our "dad" for the entire three days - AKA "Papa Dave". Papa Dave was the best and really made sure all of us were taken care of, felt comfortable, and were safe.

Both Erika and I were honored to receive a beautiful plaque commemorating our time with the Kiwanis on the 2010 Tournament of Roses float as well as the official pin and program. Below I am receiving mine from "Papa Dave."

Alyson Roth thanking Dave Wallach for the wonderful plaque and opportunity to be on the 2010 Tournament of Roses Kiwanis float.

We had a light breakfast (mind you it was 4:30am) and then were escorted to the site where our float was located in the line up. Almost every street remotely close to Colorado Blvd. was closed off (which made getting to the meeting place almost impossible) and had "White Suitors" located at every barricade along with police officers. I was even told that FBI and Secret Service were located throughout the event!

It was very, very cold. Both Erika and I were dressed in short sleeves, but we were snuggled up in blankets, gloves, and jackets that early in the morning. We had some time to go see other floats as well as make one last restroom stop before getting onto the float. While heading to the Tournament House (below) to use the restroom, I had the amazing opportunity to be escorted to meet the Grand Marshall of the parade, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III. He is known for landing the airplane into the Hudson River last January 2009 and safely saving everyone's lives. He is a true hero!

Upon meeting him and his wife, I told him, "On behalf of the state of California and the Ms. Wheelchair California/America program, we thank you for your heroism and generosity to save the lives of so many people. Though I know you were just doing your job, it is people like you who make the world a better place." Media and press were everywhere filming our meeting as well as taking pictures of the greet. It was a true pleasure to meet such humble people.

Alyson Roth, Ms. Wheelchair California 2009, thanking
Captain Chesley Sullenberger for his heroism.

Captain Sully, Alyson Roth, and his wife, Lorrie Sullenberger in front of the Tournament House

Once back at the float, it was time to load up! Erika and I transferred onto our bench while the crew stored our wheelchairs underneath the float. Did you know that the driver of the float can't see where he is going? He relies on a navigator up front to tell him where to go and when to stop. Amazing!

The excitement of turning onto Colorado Blvd. was breathtaking. There were so many people! I couldn't believe how many people show up for this parade on New Years Day each year.

The Kiwanis International float was extremely excited when we were announced as the winner of one of the top three trophies given out, the Isabella Coleman Trophy. You can see Erika Bogan and myself along with Alexis Ostrander to the right behind the Boy Scout.
Here is a better close up of us on the float. The magnitude of each float, the music, the sunshine, the people, the energy - it was all surreal and magical!

This isn't even a quarter of the people. We were located on the non-camera side, but the thousands of people on the right (south) side of Colorado Blvd. were even more enthusiastic as we passed them during the 5.5 mile stretch. It took us almost 2.5 hours to complete the parade!

Alyson Roth, Ms. Wheelchair California 2009, and Erika Bogan, Ms. Wheelchair America 2010 waving to everyone and shouting "Happy New Year" as we passed by.

The picture below was taken towards the end of the parade. You can see that people were even positioned underneath the overpass to watch the parade.

Without a doubt, this has to have been one of the most memorable New Year's ever, and I am so thankful to the Kiwanis and Ms. Wheelchair California/America program for allowing this opportunity to happen. It's important that we show that people with disabilities can do anything and everything that everyone else can, and being a part of this nationally televised event was huge. We even got a big shout out from Stephanie Edwards as our float passed by. For those of you who missed the parade, you can by going to We are featured on Part 8 of the video series, though not shown since we were on the non-camera side of the float.

We are so grateful for everything, and thanks again to everyone - from the crew, to the volunteers, to the organizers, to the spectators - thank you for making this an amazing, nostalgic, and memorable start to 2010! Happy New Year!