Sunday, June 22, 2008

Meet Sarah in Paradise

Committed to Making a Differenceby Jean Kinsey
It is just another day in Paradise to Sarah Bates, but it is a great day for the physically challenged for whom Sarah has paved a more accessible trail. She dances on her toes to an Irish jig but still needs her power chair to propel her to the town council meetings, where she rallies for compliance to the 1992 law mandating better access for the physically impaired.
An avid activist for the handicapped, Sarah faced many small town obstacles. Navigating down narrow sidewalks, dodging telephone poles and squeezing into shop doors can be enough to dissuade many wheelchair or scooter-riding citizens from getting out and about. Determined to make a difference, Sarah serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Northern California Independent Living Center. Key in winning several lawsuits, Sarah leads Paradise, CA in its endeavor to become a handicap-friendly town. Sarah says, "I'm committed to the independent living movement, knowing our work truly improves the lives of those with disabilities." Independent Living Centers exist in most states to help the handicapped.

Chuckling as she tells the story, Sarah relates how her town acquired its name. The first settlers in this gold rush town in northern California called it Pair of Dice. Then came civilization. Religious women changed the name to Paradise. And Paradise has profited greatly since Sarah Bates settled there.
Forever the flower child, dancing to the beat of her own drum, this radio show host is still changing the world, playing music on The Good Old Fashioned Folk Music Show and slipping in a bit of politics on the side. Influenced by President John F. Kennedy, she upholds her commitment to fellowman. Seeing the good in the world around her, Sarah believes this country to be better than it was 25 years ago. "I believe that God has a plan for each of us, and we have a responsibility to offer what help we can to those around us. It is possible for most of us to contribute in some way to making this a better society and a better world. The rewards are far greater than any small effort I can make. ASAP is a great example; together we DO make a difference in the lives of each other and those of the future - while helping ourselves, too!"
Committed to answering JFK's appeal and responding to the urging of her church, by her late high school years, Sarah was out working for farm workers' causes under Cesar Chavez, helping build orphanages in Mexico and "fast becoming a flower child, dancing on the meadows as well." Sarah asserts, "I still seek to make a difference in the lives of those around me and reap the rewards FAR more than I serve."
Astounded by an email from ASAP last summer, Sarah learned she had won the Listserv Volunteer of the Year Award! Hanging proudly on her living room wall, the plaque symbolizes Sarah's desire to give back. When people on the ASAP listserv express the need for information about anything pertaining to syringomyelia or CM, Sarah immediately jumps to their rescue with links to web sites that will answer their questions. If she doesn't find the answer on the Web, she visits her local library and sends in her findings.
Not limiting her help to those on the listserv, Sarah takes indigent citizens under her wing and helps them make a new life. Before Chiari and multiple sclerosis disabled her from physical labor, she was a nurse, helping psychologically and chemically dependent folks in crisis. Sarah still uses her nursing skills dealing with persons who need her help.
Sarah believes she was near death and would have died if she had not discovered ASAP. She attended her first conference in 1997 where she met Chiari specialists. A car wreck five years ago triggered severe symptoms leading to decompression surgery. While coughing, Sarah was aspirating food and fluids and passing out. Local doctors assured her nothing was wrong. The decompression helped her regain her life and her spunk. With proper medication, Sarah, a widow, is able to cope while living alone.
Rebecca, Sarah's daughter, calls her mother, "the freeze dried hippie." Sarah laughs, "If I'm a hippie, she's a Staunchy Republican!" Rebecca put aside college for nearly four years to help her mother (who still wears both her hair and skirts long). Rebecca, now in college studying law enforcement, continues to spend much of her free time assisting her mother.
Sarah feels such a debt of gratitude to ASAP that she wants to dedicate her life to giving to others. Sarah believes that "if each of us pitches in and helps in any way we can, even if it is only a little, all the little bits added together make a large difference." She believes it is each of our responsibilities to do so.
After Chiari and multiple sclerosis ended Sarah's nursing career in 1988, she worked several years in the arts, managing bands and promoting tours and festivals. She remains a retired staff member for her favorite festival, the Strawberry Music Festival. She got to know her heroes and became one of their heroes. Sarah is proud to have participated for 20 years in keeping traditional music alive. "Now I get a front row seat and get to hear fabulous music for the rest of my life!"
Grateful for her new power chair, Sarah now feels young enough to zip around the huge festival campground instead of trudging in pain. She rejoices in her newfound vitality as she continues her commitment to make a difference.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the folks at ASAP are wondering how she is doing and if she had to evacuate from the fires . tell her we all think about her everyday . and wish her the best.