Monthly Archives: December 2014

SCI Superstar: Starla Hilliard-Barnes


One look at rolling red-haired beauty Starla Hilliard-Barnes, and you probably wouldn’t be too surprised to hear she’s Ms. Wheelchair Montana 2014. But you might be surprised to find out a few other things. An avid dirt biker and the devoted mother to a 2 year old girl, this 26 year old paraplegic isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

Her journey into paralysis however wasn’t that long ago. Having already run for a national pageant title and won, as well as founded a nonprofit dedicated to help others with disabilities explore the world via outdoor adventures, she’s taken her accident and made something good out of it. We love people just like her.

A fighter, dreamer and epic survivor, this is the beautiful story of the Starla Hilliard-Barnes.

Why she’s fearless

Growing up in a small town in Montana, Starla was your average “girly girl.” She loved gymnastics and in high school she was a cheerleader. She was always physically active. And after high school, she went on to explore modeling, and found success. Yet her whole world changed when she was 21 years old and riding her sport bike through town.

Hit by a truck, she was involved in a hit and run accident, and was thrown from her motorcycle. Starla broke her back in multiple locations, as well as punctured her lungs and injured several other organs. She was fortunate to survive, yet Starla left the scene with a an incomplete T4 injury, and thus began her life with paralysis.

After returning home, she decided to take the positive road, and soon Starla found herself attracting more than your standard inspirational “good for you’s.” She attracted the attention of Shannon Hilliard, a man ¬†destined to become her husband.¬† One of the more adorable couples we’ve profiled, the two were married quickly and now have a daughter named Elissiah.

But having a family and getting married weren’t the only goals she had for herself post-injury. After winning the Ms. Wheelchair Montana title, she decided to found the Moving Forward Foundation along with her husband and family friend, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people with disabilities go one rehabilitative adventures like kayaking and zip-lining.

What’s next?

This past summer her foundation put on their first zip-lining event for people disabilities and it was covered by the local media. Participants were able to zip upwards of 40 miles an hour, making it quite the memorable experience. Watch this video clip featuring an interview with Starla as well as participants from the zip-line event

And more than just providing rehabilitative adventures, Starla is interested in creating accessible school playgrounds in her homestate that allow both parents and children with disabilities to access playground equipment just like everyone else.  From wheelchair-accessible swings to elevated in sandboxes, her dream is to make this a reality.

A woman with a huge heart, Starla Hilliard-Barnes is one of those beautiful people who refuses to let bad people win the day. With her smile and her dedication to others, the work she is doing is helping change the world.

What kind of accessible playground equipment would you like to see?

– Visit her site: Never Stop Rocking

– Like her on Facebook: Starla Hilliard-Barnes (public figure)

Watch the videos!

Ms Wheelchair Montana 2014 in HD

Paralyzed and Pregnant (34 wks)

Montana’s Miss Wheelchair helps disabled people enjoy new outdoor activities

Fire Dance: Best of Wheelchair Salsa


For a style of dance that’s only been around since the 1970s, salsa has gone on to become one of the most popular styles of dance. And wheelchair salsa is just as popular.

Quick with intense Latin flair, it’s hard to find a style of dance that has been adapted so well. Whether it’s a couple enjoying the dance or a dazzling group performance of wheelchair salsa dancers, there are some amazing wheelchair salsa videos out there too.

We’ve scoured the internet for the best-of wheelchair salsa videos and uncovered three you’ll absolutely love. Check them out below!

Video #1: New LA adapted dance studio showcasing salsa

Longtime dance teacher Marisa Hamamoto may not be in a wheelchair, but she was. A few years ago she was paralyzed from the neck down when she was struck with spinal cord infarction, but fortunately she was able to recover.

Since her wheelchair experience, she’s been inspired to apply her dance experience to the realm of wheelchairs, and she’s been dabbling with teaching wheelchair ballroom dance.

And the truth is that Marisa isn’t just “dabbling” in wheelchair dance anymore, she’s become a full-on expert. Recently she founded Wheelchair Dancepiration, a wheelchair dance organization, and here is a wheelchair salsa video of her and her partner Adelfo Cerame Jr., a hunky paraplegic, dancing at a wheelchair salsa exposition.

They dance sexy, oh yes. It’s a definite eye-catching performance.

Watch: Marisa Hamamoto & Adelfo Cerame Jr Rumba to Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”

Video #2: Fast and turny, with a big grin

In this rockin’ showcase of wheelchair salsa by the Wheelchair Dancers Organization longtime wheelchair dance teacher/director Joe Torres performs with one of his most talented students, Joanna Capstack, to the tune “I Love Salsa” and they make it look easy, and a whole lot of fun.

Fast and furious, Joe spins Joanna around the floor like a pretty top; the essence of salsa but flipped from the bottom up. But how does she not get dizzy? What’s her secret? We here at SPINALpedia are dying to know.

Watch: Longtime wheelchair dance teacher performs with new student Joanna

Video # 3: Israeli wheelchair salsa group performance

As part of the wheelchair Latin dance group Z.H.A.L., a veterans with disabilities organization in Israel, the group performs at Salsa Congress Eliat, a salsa exposition in their home country, and they put on a full group performance with five men in wheelchairs and five able-bodied female dancers, with lights and the full-on spectacle.

We love how the crowd gets to their feet at the end too, giving these amazing men the kudos they deserve.

Watch: Salsa Congress Eilat israel 2010

We can’t forget – the sport is an amazing calorie burner. If you need to lose weight and use a wheelchair, wheelchair salsa is probably one of the best forms of wheelchair dance out there to dance the weight away. All you need is a big room and a willing partner. Oh, and a heart open to dancing of course too.

Happy Dancing!

What is your favorite style of wheelchair dance?

Watch the videos!

Wheelchair Dance: Marisa Hamamoto & Adelfo Cerame Jr Rumba to Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”

Longtime wheelchair teacher performs with new student Joanna

Salsa Congress Eilat israel 2010