Hello 3E Lovers!
We are so pleased by the positive feedback about our 3E Lover of the Month Blog! Thank you for reading. We have a special treat for you this month!
3E Stevie: Hello everyone, today I am super duper excited to be introducing you to the August 3E Lover of the Month! I've been meaning to collaborate with this woman for awhile and we're finally getting a chance to sit down and get to know each other. So, without further ado, I'd like you all to meet Anjali Forber-Pratt. Hi Anjali! How are you!?!?
Anjali: Hello!! I'm wonderful thanks!
3E Stevie: So, we met in college at the University of Illinois and we knew each other casually there, but I don't know a lot about you aside from what I've read. Why don't you tell me (and the readers) where you are from, where you grew up, etc?
Anjali: Nowadays, I suppose I am "from" Champaign, IL since I have lived here for the past ten years. However, my journey started much farther away. I was born in Calcutta, India and was adopted when I was 2.5 months old. I met my parents at Boston's Logan Airport and grew up in Natick, MA before venturing to the midwest in 2002.
3E Stevie: Wow! That I did not know. I knew you were from Massachusetts but did not know the back story. May I ask, what's your "disability"?
Anjali: My disability is transverse myelitis. It is basically focal inflammation of the spinal cord which led to my paralysis in my legs. I got sick actually two months after being in the United States! Many people assume I got sick in India or was disabled from birth, but that's not true! It's a pretty rare disability (1 in 1400 I think!) and can happen to anybody at any point in time. Truthfully, I think if it was going to happen I was lucky to have it happen here in the US though because I'm not sure I would have survived if it had occurred as an orphan in India.
3E Stevie: Very interesting. I have met several people with transverse myelitis, but I have never really asked details about it. I try to focus on the person, but it's always interesting to learn more! It sounds like you were truly fortunate that you were adopted when you were. What was it like growing up as a child as a double minority?
Anjali: I think for me the hardest part when I face discrimination is I never know what part of my identity they are taking issue with-- being Indian, being disabled or being a woman. You can't tease them apart. I never really thought much about my identity as an adopted Indian or a woman until college, my disability was more in the forefront. But as a kid I didn't really think too much of it except for those moments when somebody else drew attention to it, like if I was being denied access to something.
3E Stevie: What were you into as a kid? What did you do for fun, what were your interests, etc.?
Adventures! I loved summer camp, for sure. Anything active and sporty too --- I did a lot of downhill skiing, road racing, street hockey and basketball with the neighbors.
3E Stevie: I personally didn't get too adventurous until I was an adult. I think I let my disability get in the way and I never believed I was able. Sounds like you embraced your disability at a much younger age and then started exploring life! So, your somewhat of a jock, huh? =]
Anjali: I think growing up with two brothers and a sister who did not have disabilities helped. Especially my older brother, he had the mindset of, "well if I'm going to go climb that tree my sister is going to come too, and we'll figure it out!" Haha, I suppose I am :o) I have always loved sports, you name it I have probably tried it or want to try it!
3E Stevie: Well, that leads me to our next topic! So, when I knew you in college I mostly saw you at the gym for students with disabilities. You were there working out and I believe you were a part of a few wheel chair athletic teams?
Anjali: Yep! I was and am there quite a bit working out! I actually was just working out to stay in shape during undergrad but was on a competition hiatus so I could enjoy student life and being involved as a leader on campus. When I started graduate school though, I actually didn't like it very much and decided to talk to the coach, Adam Bleakney, about joining the University of Illinois Wheelchair Track & Road Racing Team. I grew up wheelchair racing so I had the fundementals down, but had not been involved with competition with wheelchair racing for quite some time. Sports was always something that made sense in my life, so when my academic career was temporarily in disarray, I decided it was good to find some balance in my life. I then was named to my first United States National team in 2007 and went on to compete in the Parapan American Games in Rio de Janiero, the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games and am getting ready to head to London next week as a proud member of Team USA!
3E Stevie: That is incredible. I knew that you were a Paralympic athlete, but I assumed that it had been your focus most of your life in order to have that success. Sounds like you are a natural =] How did you fair in the 2008 games and what events are you competing in, in London?
Anjali: Yeah, I'm just full of surprises! Sports was always there in my life and sometimes took on more of a focus than others. I came home with two bronze medals in Beijing in the 400m and 4x100m relay! In London I will be racing in the 100m, 200m and 400m! You better all be watching! There will be web streaming on www.paralympic.org and of course I'll be updating Facebook (/anjalifp) and Twitter (@anjalifp)!
3E Stevie: You took the words out of my mouth! I was going to ask how we could all watch you and other team USA members compete. I am so excited for you and will be rooting for you =] Changing the subject a little bit, how long have you known of 3E Love? I know you just placed an order the other day and I'm happy to say that we shipped it on Saturday!
Anjali: I can't wait to get the order! I have known about 3ELove since its infancy actually. As you mentioned earlier, we went to undergrad together, and Annie Hopkins and I had a lot of mutual friends and I think we even had a couple classes together. I remember being involved either on student panels educating the campus community about disability or through other leadership organizations on campus and having conversations with Annie about her passion behind 3ELove as it came to be. It has been exciting to watch 3E Love grow and blossom into what it is today. I do a lot of public speaking and traveling around the world for my racing career too, and one of my absolute favorite experiences was when I was giving a talk on the east coast at my old summer camp and one of the campers who I had not seen in many years happened to be wearing a 3E Love shirt that day!!! It's exciting for me to know that there is a whole movement bigger than just me that helps to educate others and empower persons with disabilities. I think we all play a vital role, and perhaps carry forth this message in different ways. I know for me I do this through the public speaking, I also have a kids educational coloring book out about disabled sports. It is just so cool to see all the other 3E Lovers out there doing their thing too helping to make the world a better, more accepting, place.
3E Stevie: Did not realize that you had known my sister so well! Didn't you have a 3E Love T-shirt yourself and lose it or something? I remember seeing a photo of you with one.
Anjali: I had a 3E Love shirt that made the journey with me to Ghana where I have been involved helping to foster a Paralympic sport program and I left it with one of the women I met. Just trying to share the love!
3E Stevie: Thanks for spreading the love =] I know you are busy packing for London and probably have a long flight and hours of training in the upcoming weeks, so I want to let you go! I am super thankful for this opportunity to interview you and I wish you all the best in the competition. We will be watching and cheering you on from afar! Do you have anything else you want to tell 3E Lovers about you or do you have any final words of wisdom for them?
Anjali: Thank you! My personal motto in life is Dream. Drive. Do. and for me it's about finding your life's passions, whatever they may be, working through the hard times and getting out and doing it. I hope that all the 3E Lovers out there will continue to educate the world and foster a culture of acceptance.
3E Stevie: Thanks Anjali, it was great catching up with you -- good luck in London!