Becki Forsell celebrated an anniversary Friday.
On Oct. 16, 1996, Forsell lost her vision from surgical complications after a serious car accident. Thirteen years later, she truly celebrates the anniversary because of how it changed her life.
"I don't regret it anymore," Forsell said. "I guess it just opened my eyes in a different way."
Her eyes lost the ability of sight, but her mind didn't lose the ability to create ideas, and her heart didn't lose the power to dream. She channeled her energies into creating YES! Of America United, a nonprofit devoted to empowering persons with disabilities to do one simple thing: live on.
Today, Forsell's vision of a carnival promoting fun for the disabled and their families moves into its second year. F.A.I.R. (Family Abilities Information Rally) will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Academies, 3916 E Hillsborough Ave. It will include face painting, speakers, bounce houses, 80 vendors, performers and a free raffle.
Forsell said more than 400 people attended last year's inaugural event, and she hopes to draw even more today, especially kids.
"We want to encourage children not to give up, that there's life after disabilities," Forsell said. "We have a magician who's blind and partially deaf, and he's going to do magic tricks. We have individuals who are hearing-impaired making balloons."
Disabled residents also will find a number of agencies on location, providing for some one-stop shopping.
Make no mistake, however. The F.A.I.R. is for all people. Forsell wants to stress inclusion and send a message that disabled people want accommodations that lead to equality. She's invited legislators to attend today so they can learn more about the lives of the disabled.
One of YES! Of America's mottoes is "we want a hand up, not a hand out." Forsell encourages the disabled, particularly those whose challenges come in midlife, to continue to get out and enjoy all that life has to offer. She's particularly interested in getting them to volunteer and help out.
"I say to them, 'Come out and play, don't hide away,' " Forsell said. " 'Don't be a couch potato.' We have some people who just sit on the couch all day."
Forsell didn't always exude such confidence. She speaks candidly about the fears she faced after learning she had lost her sight. Yet she found a way to persevere and along the way, came to realize she could be an advocate. A member of All-Saints Lutheran Church, she credits her faith and her family for giving her the strength to succeed.
"I never in a thousand years thought I would be a person with a disability," said Forsell, who taught art before losing her vision. "I got an infection and the doctors actually told me I was going to die on that Oct. 16 day.
"But the Lord left me here to do his will. I don't get paid. I do it to put a smile on a person's face. I'm just trying to make a positive change, one baby step at a time."
Spider-Man will be among the special guests at today's event, and you all know that the superhero lives by the credo, to whom much is given, much is expected.
Becki Forsell defines "much" as the simple gift of life, and she expects everyone — able-bodied and disabled — to live it to the fullest.
That's all I'm saying.