No Matter the Challenge, You Can Fulfill Your Dream - The Jenny Siegle Story
When Jenny Siegle was 9 months old she was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord which resulted in her being a C4/C5 incomplete quadriplegic. Jenny credits the steady support of her family for instilling her confidence and shaping the belief that she could do anything she wanted. “My parents have never treated me differently and all my life have had the same expectations of me as my able-bodied sister,” the now 34-year-old said. “I am thankful that people recognize me as ‘Jenny’ and not ‘Jenny in a wheelchair.’ This attitude all began with my family and this is all I’ve ever known. I have always believed that even though you’re disabled, nothing should get in your way. You should strive to reach your goals.” When Jenny was 2 years old she became the youngest person in the state of Colorado to be approved for a power wheelchair and when she was a bit older, often used her wheelchair to pull her friends on bikes and skateboards.
Now Jenny drives an adaptive van and often works long hours as a Sports Producer for Altitude Sports & Entertainment in Denver, Colo. When asked about any special needs Jenny was very straightforward, “Seating cushions are critical. Eating the right food, doing weight shifts and having the right equipment has made the difference for me. However, I use a normal computer and editing system on the job and nothing is adaptive.” She requires caregivers in the morning and at night and her husband, Eric, handles basic care responsibilities when they travel. Jenny is very aware of the food she eats choosing organic, all natural foods when possible; avoids heavy meals and eats a balanced evening meal.
Jenny was away from the security of her family for the very first time when she attended the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo. “I started over on my own at college,” she said. “Most of my high school friends didn’t go to that college, but I made new friends who accepted me and were supportive.” Jenny graduated in 2004 with a journalism and mass communications degree with a minor in speech communication. Just prior to graduation she was chosen Ms. Wheelchair Colorado and spent the following year fulfilling the responsibilities that come with the title including visiting advocacy groups, making public appearances and conducting interviews. Jenny counts that year as “one of the most inspiring, eye-opening years of my life!” As Ms. Wheelchair Colorado she felt strongly that because she was paralyzed as a young child she could connect with youth who were faced with some of the same experiences. “I wanted to encourage these young people and help them understand that no matter what the challenge you can still fulfill your dream. I wanted them to see firsthand that even if you can’t be involved in the ‘normal’ way, you can still participate in life. I am thankful I had the opportunity to touch so many lives!”
The women Jenny met while participating in the Ms. Wheelchair event made a strong impression. “This wasn’t about outside beauty, but about what each had done in her life and what she wanted to accomplish.” She also acknowledged that being involved with that particular group of women was deeply inspiring and helped her be more appreciative of the life she enjoys.
The Ms. Wheelchair America event began more than 40 years ago to promote the achievements and the needs of the mobility impaired. According to the website www.mswheelchairamerica.org the mission of the event is “to provide an opportunity of achievement for women who happen to be wheelchair users to successfully educate and advocate for the more than 54 million Americans living with disabilities. Unlike traditional beauty pageants, Ms. Wheelchair America is not a contest to select the most attractive individual. It is instead a competition based on advocacy, achievement, communication and presentation to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for persons with disabilities. The selected representative must be able to communicate both the needs and the accomplishments of her constituency to the general public, the business community and the legislature.” State winners advance to a national event where Ms. Wheelchair America is chosen.
Jenny’s positive “can do” attitude coupled with professional skills and experience has positioned her in what appears to be her dream job. “I am a Sports Producer for Altitude Sports & Entertainment, the official regional sports network for the Denver Nuggets basketball team, Colorado Avalanche hockey team, Colorado Mammoth lacrosse team and the Colorado Rapids soccer team.” Jenny has been working at the sports network for ten years beginning with an internship as a personal assistant. “I wear lots of hats! I produce three shows a week – Sports Grill, Let’s Talk Football with Vic Lombardi, and Fantasy Football Hour. I supervise a crew of 10-12 people and my responsibilities include lining up guests, choosing content, scheduling talent, video and interview supplements and sometimes I edit. There is lots of multi-tasking. I love my job. I really, truly do!” In addition to her “day job,” Jenny is a Video Production Specialist for the Colorado Rockies baseball team and works almost every home game between April and September. “I wouldn’t change anything about my career. I get to do what I love in my hometown.”
As with many females in sports broadcasting and journalism, Jenny has experienced some of the challenges of working in a male-dominated industry. “There are a lot of people who work in this business who don’t take women seriously,” Jenny said. “I had to prove myself because I was in a wheelchair and a woman in a wheelchair. It took a while to establish a good working rapport, but when I began to prove myself, we all established good, professional relationships. It didn’t happen overnight. My professional advice is to never burn a bridge with any individual. Always leave on the highest of standards. The sports world, in particular, is a small world and you encounter the same people through the years.”
Jenny’s genuine enthusiasm is not limited to her career. “I love to travel and spend time with my husband. We met when we were both working part-time as ushers at Coors Field (home of the Colorado Rockies) and share a love of sports and outdoor activities. We have a 4-year-old Lab that we enjoy very much,” Jenny said. “I am close to my family and time with them is special. I also enjoy skiing.” Jenny credits the sports bond she has had with her dad since she was 3 years old for her love of sports. When she couldn’t play sports in high school she managed soccer and basketball teams.
“I like obstacles because they make me a stronger, more determined person,” Jenny said. “No matter what troubles come your way, there are always ways to get over your obstacles.”
Contact Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org
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