Category Archives: Feature stories

SPINALpedia Co-Founder Reflects on Injury Anniversary

15 years ago today I had my spinal cord injury. Every subsequent year since, I chose to CELEBRATE THIS DAY and to reflect on how far I’ve come. My journey is one that luckily I did not have to travel alone. It takes a team for a quadriplegic to live safely in the community and to go after his dreams. As many of you know, I love to WHEEL BIG and DREAM BIG!

My journey started with a loud cracking noise in my neck. I was 18 years old when a wave picked me up and slammed me headfirst against the ocean floor. I spent the next five weeks on a ventilator unable to breathe or speak on my own.

From day one “Team Josh” – family, friends, health care providers, strangers and spinal cord injury community members – came to the rescue and showed me that my future was full of HOPE and great things to come.

Over the past 15 years I am most proud of the following accomplishments:
– Starting a nonprofit (Determined2Heal.org)
– Becoming an uncle
– Forming the world’s largest paralysis video mentoring network (SPINALpedia.com)
– Personally mentoring over 1000+ families
– Graduating from college
– Graduating magna cum laude from law school
– Passing a bill through the Maryland legislature

Over the next 15 years I am most excited to conquer the following accomplishments:
– To change disability employment marital and income regulations in Maryland
– To marry the love of my life
– To become a father
– To change the employment narrative for persons with disabilities across the country

I am so grateful for a strong mind and a beautiful community that has never left my side. I could not have done this JOURNEY WITHOUT YOU and I’m so excited to continue this ❤️JOURNEY WITH YOU❤️

If you have read this far, I would love for you to share something that you are grateful for in 2019 in the comment section below 🙂

SCI Superstar: Ali Stroker

The theater world will never be the same for people with and without disabilities thanks to Ali Stroker. You may have just heard of her because of her recent Tony win, but she’s been working hard for years in a world where wheelchair-users are rare. She has, without question, shattered the glass ceiling for actors in wheelchairs, proving that you do not need to stand up to rise to the top.

Ali, however, didn’t find her passion for the performing arts until high school, which she says is when she started to truly feel alive. A huge proponent of finding your passion and rolling with it, read on for the latest on one of the shiniest SCI Superstars out there.

Why She’s Fearless

Growing up in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Ali only remembers life in a wheelchair. Paralyzed at age of 2 in a car accident, she grew up as a wheelchair-user, which she admits wasn’t always the easiest. “I was always looking trying to find someone that looked like me, and I never could.” Now 31, she is now that person little girls in wheelchairs look up to.

After Ali discovered her love for theater, she says it changed everything. “Finding something you’re truly good at can bring opportunities and bring good energy into your life,” she says. After high school, Ali went on to study at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2009, she went on to audition for as many productions as she could.

In 2011, she made the first notch on her Broadway belt by being the first woman in a wheelchair cast in an off-Broadway production as a lead in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Paper Mills Playhouse in New Jersey, and this was just the beginning of her burgeoning professional theater career. She reprised this role again at the Philadelphia Theater Company, which earned her a Barrymore Award Nomination.

Ali also began to get roles in movies around this time. In 2011, she was cast in the short film, I Was a Mermaid and Now I’m a Pop Star and in 2012 she was cast in The Glee Project, a reality show that placed the winners on the real Glee TV show. She earned second place, which got her a guest role on the fourth season. Ali was also cast in the film Cotton at this time, starring Gary Cole (he played the boss in Office Space).

After a short stint on MTV’s Faking It, Ali was cast in another big theater production – Spring Awakening – in 2015, a Broadway production that took place directly on a Broadway stage in New York City. This too was a first for actors in wheelchairs. After this show, she was cast in ABC’s 10 Days in the Valley and Lethal Weapon, as well as Drunk History on Comedy Central, where she played Judy Heumann, the famous disability rights activist. And in 2019, she was cast in the role of a lifetime – Ado Annie in Oklahoma!

What’s Next?

Ali won a Tony Award for her performance in Oklahoma! on June 9, 2019, making history as the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony. Ali is now sure to be a household name in the theater world, and let’s hope in Hollywood as well. Continuing her role in Oklahoma! throughout the rest of the Summer, she is slated to star in a new episode of Charmed on the CW later this year.

In addition to her work on stage, Ali is also known for her advocacy. She is the co-chair of Women Who Care, which supports United Cerebral Palsy of New York City, and she’s a founding member of Be More Heroic, an anti-bullying campaign that tours schools throughout the country.

– Ali’s official site: https://www.alistroker.com

Watch her Videos!

Watch Ali accept her Tony Award

Be More Heroic by Ali Stroker

The Rollettes Honor Ali at Be Boundless Event