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An advocate's voice rises out of tragedy

Joyce Matarese believes that God is working through her tragedy to help others.

"I think God has a reason for me to be here," she said.

"Everyone keeps saying that to me. I kept saying in the beginning: Why am I still here. Why didn't I die? This whole thing has given me a different look about how I look at people in wheelchairs. You never realize how many parts are in your body and how it can affect you. I have a whole different understanding of people in a chair.

"What I've tried to do also is to help other people. When I was out in St. Louis, I was becoming an advocate of the people there with problems. New people would come in and I would go in and talk to them. . . .

"My biggest thing is, when I'm walking again, and I said when, not if, when I'm walking again I want to go back down to Tampa and show them that it's possible and it will give other people hope."

Bill Matarese is helping to start a foundation to help those with spinal cord injuries. He is helping to market a series of Spacey Turtle products, with a portion of proceeds going to the foundation.

The author of the Spacey Turtle book, Jean Panero, has another friend whose spinal cord was injured in an accident in September.

"The author originally wanted to educate children about the space program and that's why she wrote this book," Bill Matarese said. "Now she'd like to do something positive for her friends who are in the same position as Joyce.

"Right now we're in the process of making a lot of contacts. We've appeared before 45 Latin-American ministers. They love the book, which is also translated into Spanish. We plan to put about 10 percent of the profits into the foundation."

TO LEARN MORE

Information on the Matareses' foundation will be available at www.spaceyturtle.com. Donations from the public will be welcome.

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