Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wheelchairs can't slow these powerful 'Push Girls'

Media dis&dat note: I watched the Push Girls premiere May 29, when it was available on iTunes. Really good. I might quibble with a word or two here or there, but other than that, I think it is more down to earth than most reality shows. And its drama comes from things that are pretty dramatic so it escapes some of the "cheese factor" of other reality shows. I'd love to hear what others think of it. 

From USA Today:

They're ambitious, beautiful, ready to take on any challenge life throws their way. And being wheelchair-bound does not hold them back.

The lives of four such women are featured in Push Girls, a 14-episode, unscripted documentary series premiering Monday June 4 at 10 p.m. ET/7 PT on the Sundance Channel.

The women, close friends all living in Los Angeles, hope a glimpse into their lives will help change people's perceptions about the disabled.

"Often people see the chair first and person second," says Sarah Barnett, general manager at Sundance Channel. "When you see the show, it reverses this. It challenges you to say that these women are living their lives in courageous ways and inspires viewers to really want to apply what they see to their own lives."

Ranging from a 29-year-old aspiring fitness model who is designing a clothing line to a 42-year-old hip-hop wheelchair dancer contemplating having a baby with her husband, the women have starkly different circumstances. But they share a positive outlook that has led to their strong friendships.

 "When we're going through hard things in our individual lives, we're able to bond and see positive things," says Mia Schaikewitz, a one-time competitive swimmer looking to return to the sport. She was paralyzed from the waist down in high school when an arteriovenous malformation ruptured in her spinal cord.

When Angela Rockwood was paralyzed in a car accident in 2001, she faced a choice about how to move forward, she says. "I made the decision to take the positive path," Rockwood says.

Despite being told by doctors that she was likely totally paralyzed from the neck down, she can now operate her wheelchair and feed herself, among other things. She also has resumed her career as a model and actress.

"I picked myself up and have never looked back." Peter Wilderotter, president of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, says the series has important lessons about overcoming challenges. "Showing what daily life is like in all its ups and downs sends a message of education and hope, and will lead to better understanding and better inclusion."

A study by the foundation found about 1 in 50 people — 6 million in the USA— are living with paralysis.

"We want to wake something up in people," Rockwood says. "Quit sweating the small stuff and live life to the fullest. You never know what can happen, so embrace every moment."