Live Boundless - Madeline Delp

Photo of Madeline
Photo of Madeline
It is difficult when talking with 23-year-old Madeline Delp to believe that this vivacious, outgoing Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina USA was once a shy, withdrawn girl. When she was 10 years old Madeline suffered a debilitating injury to her spine in an automobile accident. “After the accident I was extremely withdrawn and had low self-esteem,” Madeline said. “For so many years I didn’t want to talk about my injury or the pain I was experiencing not only from my injury but other things that were going on in my life.” The young girl who was now using a wheelchair for mobility “put on a brave face and never let anyone in.”

About four years after the accident Madeline spent a year at a rehabilitation center in Detroit, Michigan. Those 12 months changed the course of her life. “I originally thought I would be there three months. As I met and interacted with people who were going through the same thing I was, I began to come out of my shell,” Madeline said. “I threw my energy into recovery and working out. I found a new level of independence and began to recover physically and emotionally. I realized so many others were going through the same things.”

As Madeline reached the end of her teenage years, she began to consider using videos as a way to reach out to those who were dealing with the same challenges and experiences that she had and to encourage the idea of living a boundless life. “I wanted to present information that I wish I had known earlier – sort of an ode to my younger self,” Madeline said. “I knew that many others were experiencing feelings that life was over and wondering ‘what do I do now?’ I hoped the videos would be a life raft for those needing something to hold on to.”

After winning the title of Ms. Wheelchair America North Carolina in 2016, Madeline advanced to the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant where she was chosen first runner up. “As wonderful as the experience was, I had seen this as the platform and opportunity to move forward with my goals and I was devastated when I didn’t win,” Madeline said. “Even though I initially felt that the loss meant I would lose valuable connections in the advocacy community, many opportunities opened up for me afterwards for speaking engagements and advocacy projects. I was able to work with the winner of the pageant in a dynamic way. It is amazing how things work out.” Madeline decided not to give up and entered the Ms. Wheelchair USA North Carolina pageant and became the first contestant to win both of these state titles. She will compete in the Ms. Wheelchair USA national pageant this summer.

The experience of participating in the Ms. Wheelchair pageants brought multi-layers of benefits to Madeline.“The pageants have really opened up my world and social community,” Madeline said. “I’ve met so many people that I can relate to. These connections are extremely important to me. The pageants helped me develop my ideas into something that will have long lasting value.” Last year she traveled with the 2017 Ms. Wheelchair America title-holder Eliza McIntosh and others to several events in the U.S. as well as a trip to Mexico to work at an orphanage for children with disabilities.“Traveling with this team was an amazing experience,” Madeline said. “Eliza and I have become close friends and I was honored to be a bridesmaid in her June wedding.”

Madeline’s graduation in May from the University of North Carolina in Ashville garnered her a standing ovation at the ceremonies when she chose to use braces and a walker to cross the stage to accept her diploma. After graduating with degrees in Foreign Language and Business, Madeline is now committing her time and energy to the development of a non-profit organization called “Live Boundless.”

There isn’t a hint of the shy, withdrawn young girl now when Madeline Delp describes her future plans. “My early idea of a blog video project has developed into a full scale, professionally filmed series,” Madeline said. “I realized I needed to take this time to make my goals more solid. Being first runner up in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant instead of the winner was the best thing for me. This situation has led to something bigger and better.”

Rick Guidotti, an award winning fashion photographer based in New York has contacted Madeline and the two are planning for Madeline’s future participation in Guidotti’s Positive Exposure project. The project seeks to redefine how society sees beauty using photography, film and narrative with a focus on those living with genetic, physical, intellectual and behavioral differences.

Madeline’s Live Boundless non-profit will be the foundation for future projects. “As I develop the creative part of videos I am also considering funding possibilities,” Madeline said. “We’ll have a fundraising gala in the fall that will include a three-course dinner, entertainment and a presentation to communicate our mission.

Working with a production company over the next two years Madeline’s videos will focus on health, daily life, adventure and emotional well-being. “I can remember how it was to feel so alone and clueless during my early experiences with my disability,” Madeline said. “I want to provide resources for others that help to limit the fear of not knowing how to adapt.” Using a You Tube model for distribution, the videos will address daily living issues such as self-defense and driving as well as personal topics that can help overcome a past trauma and build confidence. “We’ll also present topics that are hard to discuss. For example, statistics have revealed that women in chairs are twice as likely to deal with an abusive relationship.” Madeline will also feature organizations in the United States that help people with disabilities learn to sky dive, ski and participate in other sports. “These activities take a lot of courage but help you feel empowered, boundless!”

As Madeline’s vision of helping others unfolds, she continues to gain confidence in her work. “I decided to pitch a production company with my idea for the series of videos and they went for it,” she said. “That confirmation was wonderful!” Other partnerships Madeline has formed as she has worked through the development of Live Boundless are very important to her. “For example, my friend Morgan Norris, who has a spinal cord injury as well, is going to provide strong support and expertise to this project,” Madeline said. “She will be instrumental in helping to run the nonprofit and we plan for her to have an active part in the filming of the videos. Her input will be valuable.”

Madeline’s most ardent partner is her mother, Diana Reid. “I give her all of the credit for who I am and for supporting me when others didn’t. She is my role mode and we are best friends. She saved me after my accident and is always cheering me on and telling me that I can do anything.” It appears that those words of encouragement have hit the mark as Madeline Delp’s boundless energy and spirited vision thrust her into a promising future.

You can contact Madeline at madeline13@bellsouth.net

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