“I want to inspire others,” stated Cari simply. “Keep your head up and it will eventually work out,” her advice continued. Cari, who has a disability and uses a wheelchair, wanted to tell her story to motivate others who may be experiencing a difficult situation like the one she went through in 1982.
Cari was a junior in high school when she was involved in a severe car accident, causing a serious head injury. She had to be revived twice on the way to the hospital. While she was lucky to survive the accident, it wasn’t an easy road to recovery. She spent months in the hospital healing, going through therapies, and learning to talk and see again – with her parents by her side through it all.
Months later, to her parents’ relief, Cari returned home. But she had a new normal, and she struggled to handle it all. She described feeling hopeless. “Different things go through your mind,” she recalled. “But you have to get through it. I didn’t listen to ‘can’t,’” she said.
Cari became determined not to let this perceived setback stop her. “I’m a strong person,” she explained. “I thought, ‘I can do this.’” She worked hard, and even after missing her senior year due to her accident, she managed to graduate with her class. That was the first of many challenges that Cari would face head-on and overcome.
Since her accident, Cari has ignored her naysayers and knocked down many barriers in her way. She had many tell her that she wouldn’t be able to do anything after her accident, but Cari didn’t listen. In 1995, after a suggestion from a coworker, she entered and competed in the Ms. Wheelchair USA contest. Cari helps empower others with disabilities to live their dreams by volunteering with the Special Olympics. She also established a successful career as a receptionist at Summit DD’s Tallmadge Center. Her job has given her the opportunity to form strong bonds with coworkers, families and individuals who attend the Tallmadge Center. “I love my job,” she said. “I’ve been on both sides, so I know what they are going through. I’ve been there.”
Now, more than 30 years later, Cari wanted others to know her story. “I haven’t caved in yet,” Cari said with a smirk. She wanted to reach people who might be feeling as if they don’t have the strength. “Ask for help,” she advised. “You just can’t give up.”
Cari’s strength has been inspiring coworkers, families and individuals at Summit DD’s Tallmadge Center for 19 years now. Her good customer service has contributed to her success. When asked what her next chapter might look like, Cari laughed. “I’ll retire from here – if I ever retire!”