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  • Writer's pictureDixie Frantz

UP Abilities night was extraordinary ... Mimi would have loved it!

Last night, Katie and I attended a fascinating event connected to this year's month-long ReelAbilities Houston called UP Abilities. Thank you dear daughter for suggesting it and making it happen. Walking together into the event, I unexpectedly teared up. Just for a moment. I didn't expect so many people interested in the subject of "disability." It has been my experience that "life" can be so solitary. Yesterday evening there were stories of loss and tragedy. But also so much inspiration and triumph. There was much to celebrate.

First, a little background on ReelAbilities. It was started in 2013 to foster community by promoting inclusion and celebrating the lives, stories, and talents of those living with disabilities. The month of February is sprinkled with films, art, education, music, and special events. Many of these events are free.

Last night's UP Abilities event featured three extraordinary individuals who shared their stories of struggle and success with their disability. The speakers spoke to a full house about their diverse experiences.

When Daniel Barvin was young, he witnessed four of his close family members tragically lose their lives to ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Those images never left him. Barvin has made it his personal mission to combat neurodegenerative diseases and improve patient outcomes to the 500,000 to 1,000,000 people with, or at risk of, genetic ALS. Several years ago, Barvin learned he carries the genetic marker for ALS. There is a 90% chance of contracting the disease at some point in his life. Barvin's story was moving and hopeful. He co-founded Genetic ALS to advance treatments.

At the age of 22, Gabriel Cordell was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from his mid-chest down. Fast-forward to the age of 42, he became the first person to roll 3,100 miles across the United States in a wheelchair. Cordell performed this amazing feat in 99 days. A documentary entitled "Roll with Me: A Journey Across America" tells the powerful story of how he turned a tragedy into triumph.

Chef Eduardo Garcia shared his passion about food. His brand Montana Mex, is a natural food company. An accident changed his life forever when he was electrocuted severely injuring the left side of his body. As a result of 48 days in ICU, he eventually lost much of his left arm. During a Q&A after the speeches, someone asked him to sum up how he keeps his passion for life alive. His one word answer was: curiosity. I loved that!

This month Mimi's book, "A Joyful Embrace: A Memoir," celebrates one year of publication. Her joy is reflected in the above photo of Mimi and Lulu.

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