“I had contracted Polio as an infant, which had paralyzed me from the waist down,” says Maggie Redden, now 28 years old. Adopted at age 2 and 1/2 through WACAP, Maggie doesn’t remember much about those first years of her life in India. But she recalls growing up with her mother’s encouraging voice. “[M]y mother taught me from the very beginning, not to let my disability define me,” Maggie says, and knowing how different things might have been, she adds, “I am well aware that I was lucky.”
Maggie’s about to compete for the national title of Ms. Wheelchair America 2014, which will be decided next week in Houston, Texas. She’s no stranger to competition, though.
From age 3, Maggie became increasingly involved in adaptive sports — tennis, archery, skiing, wheelchair racing, track and field (and, of course, her mom insisted, academic achievement). “I was often the only kid in my social circle or activities, who had a visible physical disability, but I hardly noticed,” Maggie recalls.
Maggie is where she is today because, from the beginning, she took her mom’s lessons to heart. She continues to define herself by who she is: Daughter. Graduate. Athlete. Sister. Advocate. Friend.
Representing New Jersey at the national competition is just one of many ways Maggie is making an impact around her. Both as Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey and daily in her professional life, Maggie promotes the importance of physical activity, both competitive and recreational, for those who are differently abled, and she supports athletics at her alma mater. A motivated competitor and silver medalist, Maggie has traveled to Brazil and to China as a member of the U.S. Paralympic Team. She also recently visited India, volunteering in Kolkata at a home for orphaned girls. In addition to athletics, advocacy and her volunteer efforts, Maggie still finds time to stop and enjoy the music, sharing her voice as part of a women’s choir.
At the center of all her activities, though, is family: “my biggest supporter and my rock,” Maggie affirms. “I have my mom to thank for being the young woman I am today.”
In 1994, Maggie’s mom adopted again, and Maggie witnessed the difference a family makes as she became an older sister to Mariya. Mariya was also adopted from India and had also contracted polio. Though just 8 years old at the time, Maggie saw how much her sister needed a family and knew how good their family was for Mariya. Watching her little sister come off the plane and holding her for the first time was “one of those life-defining moments,” Maggie remembers. “WACAP served us both well, finding us a loving and caring family that has given us the tools we need to succeed far into the future.”
Even with family support, it’s not that life never brings challenges. “Obviously dealing with using a wheelchair presented its obstacles here and there, …” Maggie says, but she adds that for her, it’s just a way of life. “I don’t let [life’s obstacles] stop me from achieving goals, trying new things, or going on adventures.”
As Maggie Redden enters the national competition next week in Houston, she carries with her this motto: “If I want to do something, I say yes to it! Then I figure out a way how.”
Congratulations, Maggie, on your achievements, and we wish you the very best as you compete in Houston in the days ahead!