Advisor Profile: Deb Young

deb young with her grandkids outsideDeb Young likes to take on new challenges. "If I had to trade what's happened to me in the last four-plus years in order to get my old life back, I'd say 'No, thanks,'" she commented.

What happened to Young in October 2013 was a head-on auto collision with a wrong-way driver. Originally given a zero chance of survival, she beat the odds, but lost both of her legs and her left arm. Yet she considers her survival itself a success story and focuses on what she gained.

"Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine all the wonderful people I've met because of the accident," she said. "I've been exposed to so much that I didn't even know existed before. And being on stage with Laughing Feet [an inclusive performance group in Wichita] was the best night of my life!"

As a member of the DHP's Consumer Advisory Board, Young is excited about spreading the word that Kansans with disabilities can be healthy. During her reign as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2017, her platform was "Disability Does Not Promote Dependence." It was a natural fit for her to share information about the DHP's healthy living programs when she met with people around the state.

Young, who lives in Lawrence, embraces the DHP's emphasis on physical activity. She credits swimming therapy for making her stronger and she also rides horses with Freedom Hooves Therapeutic Riding Center in Wichita. For one of her Ms. Wheelchair Kansas events, she hosted a wheelchair yoga session.

Before her injury, Young was regional director of special education for Greenbush, a nonprofit that serves schools. "As a special educator in my career, I thought I knew a lot about disability. But this whole situation opened my eyes to more than I could ever conceive," Young said, noting that she continues working with children.

"I can still keep up my career on my own terms - with no politics!" she laughs. She consults with one former client, a psychiatric residential facility, making sure children can still get their schooling while in care, and volunteers at two elementary schools in Lawrence, which gives her a chance to eat lunch with her granddaughter.

The kindergartners are curious and helpful - one child taught her how to dribble and shoot a basketball - and Young especially appreciates their honesty. "I have to be honest about who I am and stay challenged," she said. "Just don't tell me what I can't do, because I will do it!"

Pictured: Deb Young with her granddaughters Lilian and Eloise