Growing up with a Dad as a pastor, Ashley Lundvall was raised to be positive, but after a teenage freak accident, her nature was challenged….but only for a short while. Now a motivational speaker, Ms. Wheelchair Wyoming, a wife and mother, this determined woman got over her fears and vowed early on her wheelchair wouldn’t take anything more from her.
Strong women are what we love to profile here at SPINALpedia, and Ashlee Lundvall could very well be the cover girl for them. Whether she’s hunting in the wilderness of Wyoming or taking her daughter out shopping, she is a great example of what can be achieved in spite of a spinal cord injury, and we love her for it.
Why she’s fearless
Ashelee’s story of overcoming her situation begins with her injury, which occurred when she was an athletic 16 year old; a kid who loved basketball. She was at a summer camp and feeding the horses one morning when she reached down to pick up a stray piece of hay. When she did, an entire bale came down and fell on her back, breaking her back at T12 (“Right below the very bottom rib,” she likes to describe), and thus began her journey as a woman with a disability.
In the beginning of her injury, Ashlee was quite depressed and angry over everything she lost and was missing out on. During the first year of her injury, the basketball team she was supposed to be on went to state and won, and she had to watch from the sidelines. Not exactly when she was planning on, but that’s one of the hallmarks of a spinal cord injury.
After her injury, Ashlee met a man who would change her life and bring her back to a place she absolutely loves – Wyoming. Growing up in Indianapolis, Ashlee wasn’t raised an outdoorsy gal, but before breaking her back she got a taste of life in Wyoming – the hiking, the outdoors, the mountains, the wild animals – and she wanted to live there badly.
After her injury while loading her wheelchair into her car, a strange man came and offered his help, and this man, Russ, would eventually become her husband, and the person who brought her back to Wyoming; Cody, Wyoming to be exact; Russ’ hometown. Before she knew it, Ashlee was changing her pre-injury life goals into new goals, and it wasn’t as painful as she thought it was going to be. Sure, she wasn’t the basketball player she had always dreamed of, but she was happy.
After moving to Wyoming, Ashelee discovered a new hobby that would eventually come to define her in many ways – adapted hunting. Yes that’s right, she goes out with the rifle and will kill a buck with the best of them, girliness and all. And don’t think she’s not girly. In 2013, Ashelee won the title of Ms. Wheelchair USA – Wyoming, and went on to win the crown of Ms. Wheelchair USA 2013; a title she never expected to have, but was thrilled to have for that year.
Ashlee fell in love with a hunting so much in fact (something she never expected post-injury) that she helped found an adapted hunting foundation called the Wyoming Disabled Hunters Organization in 2008; an organization that helps people with disabilities achieve their dreams of hunting. Pretty cool stuff. Ashlee loves talking about hunting when does motivational speaking as well, another area of life she never thought she’d end up in. In fact, she just gave a speech for TEDx (see below).
And in 2010, Ashlee and her husband Russ had their first daughter Addison, the joy of their lives that keeps them quite busy these days, but they enjoy every second of it. They in fact have figured out how to enjoy life immensely no matter what they’re doing; a skill many people with spinal cord injuries take years to figure out.
Bravo Ashlee for bringing all of the strength that you encompass into our community. We need more people like you.
– Visit Ashlee’s blog: Crown & Camo
Would you try hunting post-injury?
Watch her video!