Julie Endres Shares Her Experience As UCP-WCW's First Youth Ambassador (1978) To Now.
When I was first asked to speak tonight, I hemmed and hawed a bit. What could I possibly remember from 40 years ago? Then I started thinking of all the stories I've been told. How at the age of 5 I met Ruth Gullerud, the first adult I'd ever seen with 'my' CP. The story goes that I raced her down the hallway in the basement of the UWEC campus media building. My little walker being pushed as hard as I could while Ruth used her feet to propel her manual wheelchair. The confident tone that only a 5 year old can use proclaiming that one day I would be just like Ruth and do her job. The pride in being able to go back to kindergarten and declare how important I was to be named UCP's very first local Poster Child. The excitement of being on the TV and having pictures taken almost more than I could handle.
While I don't remember those days, I have vivid memories of other events where I was representing UCP. I can remember going with my Mom to visit other families who were newly diagnosed with CP. At the time, I just thought I was getting new friends to play with. But looking back, I now see it was the beginning of UCP's family networking and mentoring program. I had the easy part of the mentoring. All I had to do was encourage my new friends to play and ignore the adults, while my Mom got to explain how to encourage independence and give the family hope that life was not over.
I know that my family used a lot of the resources and programs that UCP offers, but I don't remember a lot of that. What I do remember are the programs I began to use once I was out of high school. I began bowling on the Wagner Wheels adaptive league and have not missed a season since. While I claim to be a so-so bowler, my multiple trophies tell a different story. I also joined Barrier Busters, a local advocacy group run by UCP. My favorite story from Barrier Busters is from a day that we were promoting accessibility in Eau Claire. We took the City Council President and put him in a manual wheelchair for the morning. We had a press conference scheduled for the afternoon to bring awareness to the community. The City Council President only made it 2 blocks before he encountered a problem. He was trying to cross Farwell Street to get back to his office, when he pitched himself out of the wheelchair, into oncoming traffic, when he hit a small pothole. Those that witnessed his following fit of rage told of how he got up on his feet, grabbed the wheelchair and threw it across 2 lanes of traffic to the sidewalk. He then stomped his way over and drug the chair into the building and his office. Needless to say, that pothole was filled before the day was over.
Currently, I am a member of Butterflies United, Barrier Busters, and of course, still bowling on Wagner Wheels. I spend my time advocating for changes to laws and policies for people with disabilities. I continue to educate those around me on both physical and mental accessibility issues. I spend time with my husband working on our micro-business, J&J's Handmade Crafts. I hang out with friends and family, and our 2 Service Dogs. I have a full life where I can do anything I put my mind to thanks to the parents who raised me with some help from UCP.