Easter Seals Honors Peabody Woman Who Defied the Odds
March 21, 2012 – Sheila Radziewicz, whose personal story has inspired people the world over, will receive the prestigious Team Hoyt Rising Star Award from Easter Seals on April 12. The ceremony will take place at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge.
The award, given annually, honors her efforts to break down barriers facing children and adults with disabilities, including her work as a motivational speaker and mentor.
Radziewicz was born with a rare genetic disorder called thrombocytopenia with absent radius (TAR) syndrome that left her with hands, but no arms or kneecaps, and a host of other medical problems. Doctors told her parents she would not live.
But with the support of her loving family, she defied the odds. As a child, doctors said she would never walk. After numerous operations and long periods in leg braces and casts, she went on to play soccer, roller skate, ride a mini-bike, ski and go horseback riding, among other things – just like the other kids.
Her connection with Easter Seals began when she took swimming lessons in an Easter Seals program at the YMCA in Malden, where she grew up. In recent years, Radziewicz joined the Easter Seals Regional Board in Boston and participated in the organization’s Youth Leadership Forum for teens and young adults with disabilities, discussing self-advocacy.
Wherever she goes, she inspires people with both her abilities and the motto she lives by: “Everything is possible. The impossible just takes a little longer.”
Today, Radziewicz is an articulate and confident woman of 33 who lives independently in Peabody. A college graduate with a master’s degree in criminal justice, Radziewicz works fulltime as the volunteer coordinator for Healing Abuse Working for Change (HAWC), an agency in Salem that helps domestic-abuse victims.
She purchased a new car recently with help from Easter Seals and drives with her feet, thanks to adaptations from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.
Two years ago Radziewicz became the first woman with no arms to receive a black belt in the World Federation of Tae Kwon Do, a Korean martial art. The distinction drew the attention of a South Korean TV station, which recently taped a five-part series on her life.
The media attention she received after receiving her black belt inspired Radziewicz to start a second career as a motivational speaker. In addition to the Easter Seals Youth Leadership Forum, she has told her story and spoken about disability awareness at local schools and organizations, and at Shriners Hospital in Springfield, where she was treated as a child.
“Sheila Radziewicz inspires everyone, both with and without disabilities, with her determination and accomplishments,” Easter Seals President Kirk Joslin said. “As a motivational speaker and mentor to children and teens with disabilities, she is a fine role model – an accomplished, successful and independent adult.”
Easter Seals created the Team Hoyt Rising Star Award to honor individuals who share the courage and determination of legendary athletes Dick and Rick Hoyt. The Hoyts, longtime Easter Seals supporters, are fan favorites in the Boston Marathon every year and inspire people all over the world with their message of, “Yes, you can!”
Easter Seals Massachusetts provides services to ensure that children and adults with disabilities have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play. Nonprofit and nonsectarian, Easter Seals offers technological assistance, employment and training services, recreational activities, youth transition and leadership programs, veterans’ services, rehabilitation services and public awareness programs. For more information, call 800 244-2756 or go to http://www.EasterSealsMa.org.