Tiffany Hendrickson, age 25, had no intention of competing in the Ms.Wheelchair California competition when she first learned about it. Tiffany explains, “I hated public speaking, but after having Ms. Wheelchair California reach out to me a few times, I decided to go for it, just to prove I could be a good public speaker.” Tiffany ran for Ms. Wheelchair California in 2013, and despite her doubts, arrived home proudly wearing the crown.
Tiffany was born three months early, and weighed only 1 pound, 14 ounces. She also developed cerebral palsy. For a while, she was able to walk with forearm crutches. It wasn’t until junior high that Tiffany began using her chair full time.
Using her chair full time was a much quicker and more efficient way for her to maneuver around the school hallways.
Tiffany was always very active in her school. She participated in her high school choir as well as girl scouts, FFA and 4H. Outside of school, Tiffany played wheelchair tennis and basketball. But, once her and her family moved from the city out to the country, Tiffany began to take interest in horseback riding.
Later, Tiffany found out about horse therapy. This caught Tiffany’s attention. After getting to know the girl who ran the horse therapy program, they developed a close friendship, and Tiffany rode with her for the next 12 years, from the time she was in the 3rd grade, up until she went away for college.
Tiffany didn’t stop riding when she left for college. Instead, she took her horse with her.
When Tiffany started riding, she never thought that she would be able to saddle, ride or take care of her horse on her own. But, just like when she took home the crown for Ms. Wheelchair California, she found that she was stronger and more capable than she gave herself credit for. Although Tiffany doesn’t ride as often as she used to, due to hip problems, in the future she hope that surgery will allow her to start riding on a regular basis once again.
Tiffany’s family was always there to support her, and they encouraged her to get outdoors and participate in as many activities as she could. Her family always came up with ways for her to do things. Her dad had always worked a job in the sheet metal industry, which proved to be very helpful to Tiffany. Any time she needed a ramp to get onto her horse, or into the car, her dad was always able to make it for her.
Tiffany graduated from Fresno State in 2013, with a degree in Agriculture Education and Advertising. In the future, Tiffany hopes to get involved once again with FFA (Future Farmers of America) and begin teaching. By next summer, Tiffany will have finished her teaching credentials, and will begin teaching high school agriculture as well as running a FFA program.
Tiffany would also like to start a puppy raising program for guidance dogs, and would like to help her future students raise them as a project. As an owner of a service dog, Tiffany feels that by raising these guidance dogs, she would be doing her part to give back to the community that has given her so much.
Tiffany explains, “Whether it’s riding a horse, water skiing or dancing, find that thing that makes you, you. If you were a dancer or a horseback rider before your injury, you can be that after your injury. I started out this way, so I don’t know what I’ve lost or gained.”
One thing she does know is that she is going to live out life to her fullest potential, and go after her heart’s desires, which for Tiffany means sometimes taking off her crown and heels, and throwing on her cowgirl hat and boots. Tiffany was never told she couldn’t do something, but she was always told to go after what she wanted. The only failure in life is not trying. Tiffany wants people to know that just because they might be in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean they can’t live life to the fullest, just as she is doing.
Additional Resources From Wheel:Life on Relationships
Within Reconnecting: Relationship Advice from Wheelchair Users, readers will hear from people who use wheelchairs as they share their perspective on friends, family and relationships including dating, marriage and parenting.
Author Lisa Wells shares real-life examples and success stories throughout the book based on her lengthy career that includes ongoing interactions with disability advocates, non-profit supporters and peer support group members.
Reconnecting: Relationship Advice from Wheelchair Users features interviews with:
- Graduate student & quadriplegic Ather Sharif about connecting on a college campus
- Amputee Thomas Morris on connecting through his unique appearance and personality
- NSCIA [Buffalo, NY chapter] President Natalie Barnhard who connects Wheels with Wings
- Paraplegic Todd Robinson who explains his family connection through the joy of adoption
- Quadriplegic Ashleigh Justice who connects on the quad rugby field and as a young mother