10 Things Amanda Young Cannot Live Without
Writer: Amelia Jeffers
If you asked me to name my friend who is most adventurous, the one who is most vivacious, and the one who is most all-around badass, I’d answer all of those with: Amanda Young. I met Amanda when she was working for Recreation Unlimited, and from the moment we locked eyes, she was a soul sister. Amanda’s effervescence emanates first from her beautiful eyes, then her disarming smile, and finally with her ineffable sense of humor. Though her
natural beauty is unmistakable, being crowned Ms. Wheelchair Ohio in 2015 is probably the last accomplishment she’ll mention. Ask her to share some of her biggest successes, and she may tell you about the time she camped her way across Alaska (alone), or that trip to Morocco, or the time she went sky-diving, or when she took a group of apprehensive teenagers (maybe it was their parents who were apprehensive) in wheelchairs exploring through Washington D.C. on one of her trips to lobby on behalf of the disability community. Amanda always motivates me to do more, try more, and fear less. After a particularly laughter-filled dinner earlier this summer, at which I asked her take me on an adventure, she sent me a link to what we have now dubbed “Nomad Camp” - a week long excursion during which one learns yurt construction, cattle breeding, and archery (lucky for them, Amanda is an accomplished archery instructor). The catch? Nomad camp is in Kazakhstan. And she wasn’t kidding.
While being born with spina bifida has certainly affected the way Amanda experiences life, she hasn’t let it limit her in any way. She often tells the young people she mentors, “Your disability doesn’t make you special, the way you react to it does.” As a fierce mobility advocate, Amanda has used her spirit of adventure and love of overcoming a challenge to fight for funding to provide tools and equipment that aid athletes who choose to compete and participate in all aspects of sports. With 1.5M Ohioans living with a disability, that’s a big constituency, though Amanda remains undaunted. “I have been given a voice….how do I use it to impact the people who come behind me so they don’t have to do what I did? I am not taking it on for everyone, but hoping that I can inspire others to pick it up and do their share, too.” One of the many ways Amanda impacts the community is as a volunteer instructor at The Adaptive Sports Connection, a nonprofit organization that empowers individuals with physical and cognitive challenges through sports and outdoor recreation, providing specialized equipment that makes otherwise inaccessible activities accessible. For more information, visit adaptivesportsconnection.org. To watch a short film about one of Amanda’s adventures in extreme mountaineering, visit tinyurl.com/amandayoungloadbearing.
1. Crunchy peanut butter. From Krema on Goodale, straight off the spoon. Some people sit with a pint of ice cream, I sit with a jar of crunchy pb. I don’t understand creamy fans.
2. Music. Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Durante, Willie Nelson. I saw Willie in concert in 2019 - that was a bucket list item for me. Love Picnic With the Pops, and I really love that I could listen and watch the fireworks from my living room window this year!
3. My passport. I mark the day it will expire so it never lapses. It has given me a life all over the globe. I have traveled places where people have never seen someone like me, and that gives me an opportunity to be an ambassador for the disability community.
4. My family. I am so lucky to have the most amazing support system. My grandparents would drive their RV to whatever hospital I was in so my parents could shower and get some sleep. I am a grumpy patient, so sometimes I’ve had to close the door on my family just to have a little downtime - a true gift when I have witnessed other patients in my circumstances with no visitors at all.
5. My sense of humor. One of the greatest coping mechanisms I have ever had, my sense of humor helps to break the ice when people don’t know or understand how to talk with me. I once bought a tee shirt that said “Run” just to see the cashier chuckle. Laughter can bridge a lot of gaps and bring some levity to a life that can be way too serious sometimes.
6. The words of Maya Angelou. I love poetry. I discovered Maya’s writing years ago and have loved her ever since. One of my favorite quotes by her is “Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”
7. My friends. They take me the way I am - and despite our different circumstances or lifestyles, we come together on the common grounds of fun, food, drink, and adventure.
8. My wheelchair. My wheels are your legs. I simply could not live without the mobility afforded to me by my wheelchair. Take it from someone with a lot of experience in hospital beds, there is not much that is more discouraging than being bed-bound. My wheelchair equals freedom.
9. Adventure. I cannot live without it, and there is no better connection for me than sharing an adventure - it is one of my love languages. Because I have faced so much unknown, the unknown doesn’t scare me anymore. My mom has come to terms with it. Now she just tells me to call her after I do anything crazy or stupid, so she knows I am still alive.
10. Challenge. The times when I have been most challenged have turned out to be the best memories of my life. The sense of accomplishment I feel after overcoming a seemingly impossible problem is an endorphin high like no other.