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Author Topic: Christy Wells-Reece  (Read 3647 times)
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« on: November 05, 2007, 11:31:57 am »

Christy Wells-Reece is a woman who doesn’t define herself by her limitations. Instead, she works tirelessly for the benefit of others. 

For years Wells-Reece experienced unexplainable fatigue and pain, especially in her arms and legs. Doctors were mystified by her symptoms. After being severely sunburned with very little exposure to the sun, more tests were performed. The diagnosis was Lupus.

“Lupus is an autoimmune disease. I have arthritis in my back which causes my back, legs and arms to ache. It feels like I have the flu all the time; it’s that kind of ache-y feeling,” said Wells-Reece. “I have been in a wheelchair for five and a half years.”

However, Wells-Reece doesn’t dwell on her illness or let it be the focus of her existence. She has championed for more public accessibility for wheelchairs, worked with kids who have disabilities and served as a spokesperson for challenged individuals on the local, state and national level.

“I always wanted to help people who literally and figuratively had no voice,” said Wells-Reece.

Recently, Wells-Reece competed again in the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee.

“It is an advocacy for yourself or other people with disabilities,” said Wells-Reece.

She was first-runner up and received the Spirit Award.

“I am very happy to win the awards. The Spirit Award means the most. I received it for work that I have done to make the community a more accessible place for those of us in chairs.”

“It feels great to know that someone appreciates the many phone calls and visits with management around town and the state in order to make places more accessible. Sometimes, it feels like you are the only person out there talking about these issues or needing the help. Even if that were the case, we should all have the same access as others without mobility issues,” said Wells-Reece.

Wells-Reece is currently working to make the home side of the stadium at Cleveland High School accessible to wheelchairs. On Oct. 8, she spoke with Cleveland’s city council and the Cleveland City School Board.

“The Cleveland High School football field’s home side has no accessible seating. I went to the city council and school board to see if they can allocate funds for this.”

At the state level, she has talked to management at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge about issues with its parking lots. Wells-Reece even has traveled to Washington D.C. to speak with politicians about her concerns of better accessibility for persons in wheelchairs. 

“I went to a conference in Washington where they had a question and answer session. During this, I stood up and gave my opinion, which is that I feel medicare and medicaid should pay for a home health nurse, instead of just paying for nursing homes.”

“One legislator asked who I was affiliated with, and I said, ‘nobody.’ He told me that is what we needed — more grassroots. I told him, ‘If I don’t stand up for these people, nobody will,’” said Wells-Reece.

Aside from public speaking, Wells-Reece works with the Youth Leadership Forum, a program for high school students which is sponsored by the Tennessee Disabilities Coalition. 

“There are kids with disabilities of all forms, from ADHD to blindness. I teach them photography skills such as good lighting versus bad lighting. I remember one kid in particular — he had a problem holding the camera at first because he has deficit on his right side and he is right-handed. He finally had the idea to turn the camera upside down so it would be easier to take pictures with his left hand.”

“We have a talent show at the end of the last night on Vanderbilt’s campus to show the photography of the students. I do this to teach advocacy and to teach fun stuff.”

Wells-Reece’s commitment to her passion stems not only from her personal trials but also from her husband’s experiences.

Tracy Reece has MS, and he works for Hiwassee Mental Health. Before, he worked for Advocacy Group, a non-profit organization which functions as the “go-between” for state services and schools and families.

“It was because of him I got involved in disability advocacy,” said Wells-Reece.

Christy and Tracy have been married for nearly 15 years. They have two sons, Taylor, a freshman at CHS, and Drake, a fifth-grader at Stuart Elementary.

“Our boys are advocates, too. They have been to Nashville. As long as we can speak for others, we feel it is our responsibility to do so.”
 
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