Tag Archives: disability

MY STORY: Daytrippers Celebrity Ambassador BRANDON MENDENHALL

The Mendenhall Experiment

The Mendenhall Experiment

Rock star guitarist based in Los Angeles and advocate for disabled young people, BRANDON MENDENHALL, joins the growing list of celebrity ambassadors for Daytrippers Children’s Charity.  Mendenhall fought hard and worked hard to become a musician in his earlier years despite physical challenges due to having cerebral palsy and constant bullying.  Brandon’s determination and dedication are awe-inspiring.  His dream was to form his own band, The Mendenhall Experiment.  He not only managed to start the band, but they went on to win several awards and perform professionally.  TMX also recently signed a record deal in Southern California with Lucent Records.  Not bad for a boy from Illinois who was once told he could not make it as a musician.

Brandon Mendenhall, founding member of The Mendenhall Experiment.

Brandon Mendenhall, founding member of The Mendenhall Experiment.

Here is Brandon’s story:

My name is Brandon Mendenhall and I am the founding member of my band The Mendenhall Experiment. I was born in 1983 , 2 months premature with complications during my birth.  A life with Cerebral Palsy is all I’ve ever known.

I knew from an early age it would be difficult for me to reach my dreams as a musician. I couldn’t just join any band.  Not just anyone would have the patience and understanding to work with my unique playing style based on my physical parameters  due to my disability.

On August 16, 2014  I reached a personal and professional milestone, signing a record deal 6 years to the day of The Mendenhall Experiment’s first show in my hometown of Kankakee, IL at a dive bar called Paul’s Place.  If anyone  had told me that day 6 years from right now I would be signing a record deal in Southern California, I would’ve told you, you’re crazy. In order to understand the profound impact of that moment in my life I must go back to the beginning.

Young Brandon Mendenhall

Young Brandon Mendenhall

I was born in a very conservative part of North America and raised by my Grandparents. My Cerebral Palsy left the entire left side of my body damaged. I didn’t walk until I was four years old. Throughout my life  I endured ten corrective surgeries on my leg and ankle. My left hand had nearly zero mobility and strength.

I started out my school life in a Special Education Cooperative and then went onto a more mainstream elementary and high school. School, for me, was a constant struggle as I was bullied, teased and harassed because of my disability. As a teenager I had surgery on my left eye.

Fortunately, I fell in love with music at a young age, listening to bands like Korn, Pantera and Nine Inch Nails that allowed me to escape the uninviting world.  Inspired by these musical heroes I was determined to get a guitar in my hands. When I was growing up there were tons of people who doubted me including my own Grandfather. When I was 19 my Grandmother secretly loaned me $1000 to buy my first guitar. Of which I had to pay her back over the course an entire year making french fries and washing dishes at a local McDonalds. I had to hide the guitar from my Grandfather, but after just 2 months of playing, he found out. One day I was playing in my bedroom. I had no clue what I was doing just figuring things out. My Grandfather went to go to the bathroom which was adjacent to my bedroom. He stood in my doorway looking at  me. After a moment he said, “ No grandson of mine will ever be a musician.” That comment was very hurtful and damaging but it also lit a fire in my soul. Despite my Grandfather’s words I persisted in my guitar playing. Not only did I learn how to play guitar but in doing so I rehabilitated my left hand bringing  mobility and strength to it for the first time in my life.

I moved to Florida to attend Full Sail University. Going to Full Sail and subsequently moving to LA was more of my own personal choice to escape family life and all of the small town antics of people saying I’ll never make it. I wasn’t going to gain any recognition there. I wanted to be surrounded by people who inspired me to aim higher and  musically that pushed me to raise the bar. In my mind going to Full Sail solidified the thought in my head that said you either need to move to New York , Los Angeles or Nashville and for me it was always Los Angeles.

Full Sail, where I received my Associate Of Science Degree in The Recording Arts Program and my Pro Tools Music Operator Certification , was a great opportunity for me. I learned the ropes of music production and the proper techniques and the studio etiquette it takes to make an “on the level” professional record.  My Full Sail education provided the foundation for which I stand upon today. I remember sitting in my apartment with a couple of good friends on down time between classes asking them their thoughts on me starting my own me band called The Mendenhall Experiment. At that time it seemed like a crazy dream, but as I thought about it more and more I knew deep down that it could become something more. After I graduated Full Sail I went home to IL. for a few months to regroup and then went to visit a friend in Los Angeles.  I got there and never went home.

In my early days in L.A I secured an internship at Westlake Recording Studios, while also working at Target to pay the bills. After a while I realized that my foot wasn’t going to hold up. While at the same time struggling to keep my internship because I couldn’t get a driver’s license. Since I had to walk everywhere and take public transportation, it took a toll on my body. I came to a point where I needed more surgeries. This was when I had my first set of foot and ankle surgeries at UCLA. After that I fell into a deep depression. I felt like the limitations on my body had won. I fell in with the wrong crowd and was headed down a dark  path.

In early 2006, still on my private downward spiral, I had a chance encounter with my guitar hero, James “Munky” Shaffer of Korn. It was during that encounter that Shaffer and I had a moment to talk and connect over our mutual love for guitar. Our conversation inspired me to climb out of my hole and give music and my life another chance.

Over the next year and a half I would rebuild my life from the ground up. Relocating  to the valley with a better job, a better place to live and healthier friends. It was a new beginning. However, that new beginning soon became clouded with elements of the past. It was in the spring of 2007 when I realized that yet again, I would have to go undergo another series of foot and ankle surgeries at UCLA. In July of 2007 recovering from surgery, I began writing for The Mendenhall Experiment. In August of 2008 with five songs completed it was time to test The Mendenhall Experiment in a live environment. During a months long vacation visiting my family I decided to reunite with my high school jam buddies and book a couple of shows for fun playing the material that I wrote for The Mendenhall Experiment. After two successful shows in the span two weeks with 100 plus crowd each night The Mendenhall Experiment had proven to be something of value. So at the end of my vacation it was time to return to southern California and find permanent members for my band.

From 2008 to 2014 the line-up for my band was a revolving door of musicians.

Every band goes through the process of finding the right combination of musicians who believe in what the band stands for.  During this period I had the fortune of working with some very talented musicians. With these former line – ups The Mendenhall Experiment opened for bands like Korn, Megadeth, POD, Alien Ant Farm and many more. Playing shows like Monster Energy’s Aftershock Festival and playing famous venues such as the Whiskey A Go – Go. , Roxy, The Viper Room and The Glass House.  However I didn’t find the combination of musicians right until beginning of 2014…

At the start of 2014 with my dream team of band mates finally in place a filmmaker approached me about filming a documentary about the story of my life and journey through the music industry living with Cerebral Palsy.  The man who wanted to tell my story  is my long time friend and lead videographer and photographer for Korn.  Sebastien Paquet The band that had first sparked my passion for music at the age of 11 was now, in a way, connected to me on a professional level.

From that point on things have been moving rapidly. My band went from playing our first gig as a group at a dive bar in Santa Ana in March of 2014 to being signed artists with worldwide distribution an EP on it’s way and the documentary release not far behind. All of this happened  in less than a year.  In that year we have played venues such as The Citizen’s Bank Arena , The Viper Room, The NAMM show  and Whiskey A Go – Go several times.

My band and I  were honored to win the August Artist Of The Month for Guitar Center on July 11th 2014. An honor that was especially important to me because I grew up a loyal Guitar Center customer. Just before that win my band and I also got to play the Anaheim House of Blues,  where we won 2nd place for the Battle of the Bands for Warped Tour.  We were discovered by an A&R representative for Lucent Records where we signed a deal on August 16, 2014.

The moment I realized the coincidence with the dates was the moment I realized I was on my way to making it… August 16th 2008 (first TMX show ever) August 16th 2014 (TMX signs with Lucent Records in Southren Ca.)

The Mendenhall Experiment

The Mendenhall Experiment

While some people are enticed by money and fame that’s not me; I really do everything that I do for the kids. For people growing up like I did with disabilities or challenges that make dreams like mine seem impossible. The other stuff is just an added bonus.

Over the past year I have met so many wonderful people whose lives have been touched by my message and my music. That’s a pretty surreal feeling after being doubted and disregarded my whole life. I don’t really care about the people who doubted me back then.  I care about the kids I might inspire in the present and years to come.

I am  looking forward to helping create a future that will bring happiness, success and ability to those formally considered disabled.

– Brandon Mendenhall – Founder/Guitarist of The Mendenhall Experiment

Connect and support Brandon:  http://www.themendenhallexperiment.com/

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Daytrippers New Year Baby: Elliott Preston

Daytrippers New Year Baby - 6 Month Old Elliott Preston

Daytrippers New Year Baby – 6 Month Old Elliott Preston

Nurse and mother-of-three MELANIE PRESTON from Knoxville, Tennessee writes about life with Daytrippers New Year Baby; ELLIOTT PRESTON.  Melanie has agreed to regularly update We Are Daytrippers (THANK YOU!) to share with readers about her experience caring for a child with down syndrome.  (Don’t miss the beautiful photos of Elliott’s previous five months at the end of this post).

Melanie’s update:

“Last year this same week we found out Elliott would have an extra chromosome and while I wasn’t shocked, it certainly wasn’t what I “wanted” … fast forward to the beginning of 2015 and he is everything we wanted, needed and more!

I suppose it’s fair to say he makes us appreciate the little things in life more.  Things that I’ve never even considered with my other children … like reaching for toys, propping up on elbows and then hands, et cetera.  Sure, I remember Elliotts siblings milestones (mostly because one was super late and the other was super freakishly early); but did I celebrate them?  Not like we do (and will) with Elliott.

There is just so much work involved for something so simple like reaching his hands above his shoulder height (that was a huge one!).  Low muscle tone is also a subject of concern.  It is real and fascinating.  One of the neatest things to see is his older sister (by 17 months) is his biggest cheerleader.  She claps and jumps up and down for him – it’s adorable and I hope she remains his biggest advocate throughout his entire life.

The Preston Family

The Preston Family

Overall, Elliott is doing well developmentally for a child with down syndrome. We are working with physical therapists to help him sit and he is making huge strides.  The occupational therapist discharged him because he had met current goals and will re-evaluate when he is around 10 months.  He is about to start some puréed foods so we have an evaluation with speech therapy just so they can see how he does.  Speaking of appointments … can you say more than we can count?  Seriously!  It’s been busy in the Preston household. That’s really the only “change” to our lives in the past year and to be fair – a lot of those appointments are not only Elliott’s but his siblings as well, so it could also be very much part of having three kids?!

We have a cardiology appointment coming up in a few weeks to see how the two holes in his heart are healing so that’s our next big “thing.”  We have been so thankful this year to have had a positive experience through diagnosis, delivery, and beyond.  It’s very helpful to be surrounded by so many supportive family, friends and medical professionals but sadly I am incredibly aware that is not the norm.  Sure Elliott is different but so what!  (Aren’t we all?).   Difference is what makes us unique and he is certainly no less unique than I am!  So Happy New Year 2015 and cheers to being maybe not so different after all?”

Past articles with Melanie and Elliott:

  • Read about when Melanie found out she was having a baby with down syndrome: http://wp.me/p4FQqM-11
  • Read about when Melanie delivered Elliott herself in the car (a shock to all!): http://wp.me/p4FQqM-2v
  • Read about Elliott’s first month of life:  http://wp.me/p4FQqM-3R

We cannot get enough of these adorable pictures of Elliott’s first five months:

Elliott Preston in the NICU

Elliott Preston in the NICU



Elliott Preston - 1 Month Old

Elliott – 1 Month Old


Elliott - 2 Months Old

Elliott – 2 Months Old


Elliott - 3 Months Old

Elliott – 3 Months Old


Elliott - 4 Months Old

Elliott – 4 Months Old




Elliott - 5 Month Old

Elliott – 5 Month Old

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5 Minutes With … Daytrippers Celebrity Ambassador Kurt Yaeger

We got lucky!  Daytrippers Celebrity Ambassador KURT YAEGER  recently devoted an afternoon to answer a few questions for We Are Daytrippers in the midst of his very busy schedule.  Thanks so much Kurt.  We love what you said in this video as it was inspirational, encouraging and gives us insight into what makes you, you!  Don’t miss these five minutes with Kurt Yaeger:

Connect with Kurt Yaeger:  @kurtyaeger


*Many thanks also to Brian Ging and Stacy Kesten – a dynamic film duo out of Los Angeles who took the time to interview Kurt.


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MY STORY: Jayant Mistry “So, What’s Stopping you?”

International Wheelchair Tennis professional Jayant Mistry.

International Wheelchair Tennis professional Jayant Mistry.

JAYANT MISTRY, winner of the Wheelchair Men’s Doubles Championship at Wimbledon in 2005 who spent 20 years as an international tennis professional, retired in 2007 winning a total of 68 international career titles.  He passes the time now by preparing to help run the European Karate Championship held in November 2014 and juggling the Leicester Cobras wheelchair basketball season, coaching wheelchair tennis and basketball while also working part time in sports development for the English Federation of Disability Sport.  Did you follow that?  Ok, so maybe he is not retired. We certainly are not sure someone can be more active. Born with spina bifida, Mistry played sport all his life (and we do not expect him to stop any time soon).  We Are Daytrippers is honoured to feature the sportsman Mr. Mistry who ran the London 2012 Olympic tennis event and competed in the 4 Paralympic Games.

The Daytrippers Team:  Did you have a role model as a child and now as an adult?

Jayant Mistry:  My father was (and still is) my biggest role model. He came to work from India in the 50’s leaving his family behind in order to make a better life for us in the UK. He always put his family first and has kept us all close throughout his life.

At school my teacher (Mr Moore) was also a great role model. He would join in with us at sport and actively encourage us to push ourselves out of our comfort zone by doing new and challenging things.

Jayant Mistry

Jayant Mistry

The Daytrippers Team:  Do you have a creative talent apart from sport? 

Jayant Mistry:  Not really! But being sporty has taught me about goal setting, making commitments and sticking to them, being open and honest, working hard, continuously learning and developing both on and off the field of play.

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you share an experience where you had to overcome a challenge?

Jayant Mistry:  Having my foot amputated at the age of 12. I was born with Spina Bifida and have one leg longer than the other. I was developing complications with walking with leg braces but this was twisting both legs to the extent that that Dr’s recommended removing my healthy right foot to fit a prosthetic one, they convinced us that it would be better for me in the long term. It meant having 3 months off school and it took a while to adjust to but it has been worth it – both legs are much straighter now.

The Daytrippers Team:  What is a typical day-in-the-life of Jayant like?

Jayant Mistry:  Rather than a day I’ll look at a week instead – I currently work part time (3 days a week) which allows me time to get involved with voluntary roles including managing / coaching / playing for my local wheelchair basketball team (Leicester Cobras), helping the development officer for Karate in organising the European Karate championships (as well as teaching him how to play tennis!) and developing a disability sports  project in India. However I love spending time with family and friends.

Mistry  is a mentor and tutor to children.

Mistry is a mentor and tutor to children.

The Daytrippers Team:  What would you say makes you happiest?

Jayant Mistry:  Being with people I care about.

The Daytrippers Team:  You have accomplished so much and become an inspiration for many, what sports accomplishment are you most proud of?

Jayant Mistry:  In wheelchair tennis winning the inaugural Wimbledon doubles title in 2005 is the moment I look back on with most fondness. I was very fortunate to have been part of the Great Britain squad for 20 years including 4 Paralympic Games.


Mistry celebrates his wheelchair doubles championship at Wimbledon.  Photo courtesy of the BBC

Mistry celebrates his wheelchair doubles championship at Wimbledon. Photo courtesy of the BBC

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your next goal?

Jayant Mistry:  I’m still waiting for that to materialise but in the meantime, to be the best that I can be in whatever I do.

The Daytrippers Team:  What advice would you give a child who is facing difficulties?

Jayant Mistry:  A friend of mine once sent me a birthday card with a dog in a rubber ring on the front of it and the words – ‘he knows not where he’s going, for it’s the ocean that decides. It’s not the destination, it’s the glory of the ride’.

Whenever I’ve faced difficult times or decisions I’ve always asked myself ‘So, what’s stopping you?’ We can always find reasons (or should that be excuses?) not to do things but mainly it’s our own fear of the unknown that stops us from believing that we can do more.

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Jayant for your contribution.

Connect with Jayant Mistry:

Dame Kelly Holmes Trust:  http://www.damekellyholmestrust.org/athletes/jayant-mistry/


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Spotlight: Treehouse at Number Nine

Come on over the No. 9 !

Come on over to No. 9 !

Psst!  We Are Daytrippers recently found out about an incredible group of kids on a continuous adventure … The Genies Gang who meet at The Treehouse at Number Nine.  This brand new app for ipad will soon become available in other mobile formats, but for the lucky few who have the opportunity to check it out now; you will not be disappointed.

Meet The Genies Gang

Meet The Genies Gang

From a Daytrippers Children’s Charity perspective; the stories about The Genies Gang seem to mirror many of our supporters, kids, families and carers lives that we want to be one of the first charities to promote this app with special music dynamics and lots of FUN included!1743440_803765823020510_7625435839778357228_n

Get to know Angel, Ted, Macro, Jow, Oscar, Cee-Cee and more who all have special genes that make them the fantastic characters they are.  This is just the beginning of The Treehouse at Number Nine so do stay updated, like their Facebook page, follow the gang on Twitter @TreehouseGenies but most importantly download the app first:



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5 Minutes With … Kin Molina

Musician Kin Molina

Photograph by Carlos Jimenez.

Spanish journalist KIN MOLINA  was ready for a career change.  Brook from The Daytrippers Team spoke to Molina over a year ago and recalls him saying “My last interview was with Emma Stone, some American girl and I have to keep replaying the interview over and over to understand her accent!”  Molina (also known as Joaquin Molina Reina) returned to a career in music (he also occasionally makes time to cook a superb authentic paella for his neighbours!).  Authentic, wise and talented are three words to easily describe the hard-working singer and composer whose most recent album does not disappoint.  We Are Daytrippers are thankful he took time out for a brief interview:


The Daytrippers Team:  Who was your role model or mentor as a child?

Kin Molina:  If I had to choose a role model, it would be my mother without any doubt.  My father had problems with alcohol and my family (mum, brother and I) dealt with that situation the best way we could.  I’m Spanish and during the seventies, when I was a child, it was not very easy for women in my country.  My mother was a nurse and she worked very hard for my brother and I to have a decent life.  I remember her as a very modern and beautiful woman (she still is!), always happy and in a good mood.  She always made the most out of the difficult situation we were living in.

The Daytrippers Team:  Who is currently your role model?

Kin Molina:  As a journalist I have interviewed many famous people:  Francis Ford Coppola, Helen Mirren, Dolce and Gabbana, Tamara Rojo … to name a few.  but there was one person that made a very big impression on me; the Kenyan environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai.  She won the Nobel Prize in 2004.  A brave woman who dedicated her life to promote the recovery of the forests in Kenya and other countries.  She died in 2011.  I think she is a role model to follow for the future generations.

In the early 80’s, I worked for a literary magazine in my home city, Málaga.  I was also a part time poet and published a few poems.  At the same time, I was working in a publishing house called Dador that was dedicated to recovering hidden gems of Spanish and Latin American literature, the Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas was among them.  We met him in Madrid at the end of the 80’s and I remember him as a person full of life and joy in spite of the hardships he had endured.  At that time we met, he was exiled from Miami and unfortunately later died of AIDS.  There is a very interesting film about his life called Before Night Falls by Julian Schnabel with Javier Bardem in the role of Reinaldo Arenas.

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your creative talent and how do you cultivate it?

Kin Molina:  I wrote my first song when I was around 17.  It was a very gloomy and gothic song about a plague in a city.  During the eighties I was a member of a techno-pop band called Requiem.  We played together for five years and after the band split I went solo for a couple of years in a project more similar to electronic cabaret.  After that period of my life I moved to Madrid and went into journalism, writing for national magazines.  Recently, I returned to music after moving to London and I’m preparing to release an album.

The Daytrippers Team:  Have you had any experience with disabled people?

Kin Molina:  Yes, I have indeed.  My brother contracted polio when he was one year old.  It affected his left leg.  I am three years younger than him so as far as I can remember my brother has always been dealing with this issue.  Until adolescence it was not a big problem.  We played together, we went to the beach with my mother, and we did the usual things that boys do.  But when he was 13 or 14, everything changed.  My brother stopped coming with us to the beach and became more reclusive for a few years.  I suppose this was because he was self-conscious, but he did not and does not talk much about that.

The Daytrippers Team:  Who and what motivates and inspires you to be creative?  

Kin Molina:  Films, Art, Life.  I love Nina Simone, Marianne Faithfull, Nico, Kate Bush, Diamanda Galás, The Associates, David Bowie, Scott Walker, Brian Eno, Nick Cave, Kurt Weill … the list can go on.  If I have to choose one person, without a doubt Marc Almond would be the main source of inspiration in my music.

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Kin Molina for your time.

Connect with Kin Molina:  @kin_molina


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5 Minutes With … Leon Logothetis


Leon cuddling a Boston Terrier.

Leon cuddling a Boston Terrier.

Not only does LEON LOGOTHETIS believe in being a kind person; he believes in the kindness of others.  According to Leon you can find kind people everywhere – all over the world in fact (and he would know).  Mr. Logothetis has been to every continent, visited 50 countries and hosted the TV series ‘Amazing Adventures of a Nobody.’  He documented his travels getting by on £5.00 per day and the decency of others in the form of his book The Kindness Diaries (available for purchase December 2014).

We Are Daytrippers think that any person who takes life by the horns and goes for it like Leon does deserves high marks in our book!  On his website it states:  “Changing lives one adventure at a time.”  Daytrippers can certainly relate to that challenge.  We are thankful to Leon for his time in this brief interview.


The Daytrippers Team: Who is currently your role model or mentor?

Leon Logothetis: I would say that the people I meet on my adventures around the world are my mentors & my role models. They teach me how to be a better person and how to see that there are two sides to every story. They also keep me humble and keep me on my toes.

Ultimately, i guess what i am saying is that ‘people’ from all walks of life have taught me that we really are all the same. We have good traits. we have bad traits. But at base we all want the same things: Love. Acceptance. Hope.

The Daytrippers Team:  Did you have a role model or mentor as a child?

Leon Logothetis: I had a mentor when I was a teenager, Dr Susan Mann.  She taught me to believe in myself. She taught the power of kindness and the necessity of following your dreams.

Leon goes bonkers!

Leon goes bonkers!

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your creative talent?

Leon Logothetis: I think my creative talent is in my writing and in my ability to connect with people. I cultivated both of these things by taking risks!

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you share a challenge in your life? 

Leon Logothetis: One of the greatest challenges I had in my life was living someone else’s definition of my life. My failure to live my own dreams led me towards depression and disappointment. when I left my job as  a broker I found the courage to be the person I always wanted to be.  In finding that courage, I have been inspired by many people along the way; people who have made me into the person I am today. Without all the connections I made, I wouldn’t be living my truth.

The Daytrippers Team:  What motivates or inspires you to be creative?

Leon Logothetis: The act of creating is motivated by my desire to inspire others to be the best they can be.  If something I do speaks to someone else in even a small way then my creativity has been worth it. And another thing that inspires my creativity is that its fun to be creative!

The Daytrippers Team: Do you have any advice for children who are facing difficulties?

Leon Logothetis: As a kid I was bullied and felt very shy and introverted. I was lucky because I met some people who believed in me and showed me that I was worth a lot more than I thought I was. If anyone tries to put you down, or take away your joy, just remember that you are worth a lot more than you think … and if that doesn’t work contact me and I will tell you!

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Leon for your contribution.

Connect with Leon Logothethis: @LeonLogothetis

LeonLogothetis.comLeon Logothetis

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MY STORY: Rene Roberts “My Mind in the Mirror”

Rene Roberts and husband

Rene Roberts and husband

RENE ROBERTS does not accept mediocracy.  As a motivational speaker, primary school teacher, writer and life coach, she is driven to succeed and help others do the same.  As any bronzed Californian might, Ms. Roberts also enjoys athletics and despite her diagnosis of cerebral palsy as a young girl, she set herself the challenge to become a triathlete.  We Are Daytrippers is in awe of Roberts and salute her courage to speak out about life with cerebral palsy and in doing so, inspire future generations.

Here is Rene’s story:

When I lay in bed at night or curl up in my comfy chair to watch the Angel game or when I am in the middle of a great lesson with my first grade class, disability is no where to be found.

As a child I would walk through our neighborhood outdoor mall with my siblings or family and EVERY time I walked past a mirror or a reflection in a window I was shocked by what I saw. I never once recognized that skinny scrawny kid with the twisted legs who basically willed her body forward with each step. The metal braces were foreign. The eventual plastic braces were foreign too, but most of all the disability was and still is foreign to me. I can’t relate to it. I don’t see myself that way in the mirror of my mind.

In the mirror of my mind I am strong and tall and tan and kind of cute. Sometimes in the mirror of my mind I am even sexy but never in the mirror of my mind am I weak and broken and limping along. I never have been. I don’t know why and I can only speak to my experience but I have always believed myself to better, stronger and more capable than the reflection in the mirror. Maybe this is the way I survive. Perhaps it is the way I thrive. Some may say I am merely fooling myself, that I am delusional or that I have body dysmorphia to the positive extreme. That all may be true, but does it matter? Yes, it matters very much because each day I get up and get dressed (in cute outfits) and I go to work and I shop and I am a wife and a mom and in the mirror of my mind I am no different than you are.

What if the reverse was true? What if everyday I saw my self as socety sees me? What if I believed that because my body doesn’t look a certain way I have no right to a job or an education? What if I believed that my disability made me so ugly I should never leave the house or travel the world? What if I believed that because I was disabled I should never have children? What if I believed as so many do, that because my body is broken or twisted I must have no brain?

This is the reality of society’s mirror. I apply for 20 jobs to get offered one. I have 2 degrees because I felt I needed to be over qualified for any job to compensate for my disability. I have been shunned and suffered terrible abuse in foreign countries because “we don’t want people like you here”. I have even had parents request that their child not be placed in my class because I am disabled. Societies mirror of disability is cracked and splintered. I can’t do anything about that. I can however continue each day to manage my own reflection in the mirror. I must continue to nurture the woman I see without bitterness, anger or upset. I know now that as I reflect my image of my mind in the mirror others begin to see that reflection too.

The children I teach each day soon forget that their teacher is disabled because most days I forget. We are too busy learning and growing and laughing and exploring. Too busy most days to notice the teacher with the skinny legs or even to notice the sometimes-needed wheelchair. To my students the wheelchair for me is a tool I need to do my job in the same way their pencil is a tool they need to do their job. My reflection each day to 5 and 6 year olds has the power to alter societies reflection in the mirror. My refusal to be bitter or angry when people are stupid and cruel has the ability to alter societies reflection in the mirror. My willingness to live fully as a mother and do crazy fun things with my grown sons and someday my grandchildren will I am certain alter societies reflection in the mirror. Each day my responsibility is to manage my own reflection regardless of the cracks, splinters and distortions others may see. If my view and vision in the mirror is consistent enough perhaps those around me will start to buy new mirrors!

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Rene Roberts for your contribution.


Rene Roberts and sons

Rene Roberts with her two sons.


Stay connected to Rene:  http://www.renerobertswins.com/

And also on Twitter:  @renerobertswins

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5 Minutes With … Stephen Clancy

Irish professional cyclist Stephen Clancy

Irish professional cyclist Stephen Clancy

The reputation of 22-year-old Irish cyclist STEPHEN CLANCY is impeccable. A bright, talented and kind person, it is no wonder he was asked to become an ambassador for Team Novo Nordisk; the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team. Stephen has raced 4598.25 kilometres in 33 race days in 2014 to places all over the world such as Azerbaijan, Taiwan, Denmark, Italy, France, Korea, USA, China and next week his team travels to the UK. We Are Daytrippers could not be more pleased to have his contribution to the 5 Minutes With … section and we will be proudly cheer on his team at the Tour of Britian from 7th – 14th September, 2014.  Best of luck to you in your next race, Stephen.

The Daytrippers Team:  Did you have a role model as a child?

Stephen Clancy:  Not really, however I always did look up to the top sportspeople in whatever sport I was interested in at the time as I grew up. I always admired how they were the best in the world at what they did, and what they did in order to achieve that success.

The Daytrippers Team: Who is currently your role model or mentor?

Stephen Clancy:  I would say all my Team Novo Nordisk teammates. They inspire me to combine professional cycling and live with Type 1 diabetes. Seeing that they can do it motivates me to succeed and they are always very understanding and willing to offer support.

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your talent and how do you cultivate it?

Stephen Clancy:  I consider myself a very positive, optimistic person. I try to look at the good in everything and don’t focus too much on the negative. As a result, I feel I can handle setbacks quite well and take positives from most things. I use them as stepping-stones and motivators to continue to progress and succeed.

Photograph copyrighted by Eibhir

Photograph copyright by Eibhir

The Daytrippers Team: Would you share a challenge in your life?

Stephen Clancy:  Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 19 years of age was certainly a challenge for me. It was a huge shock and difficult to understand at first. I overcame it by learning as much as I could through research and experience. In the end, this time and effort rewarded me by being able to well manage my diabetes and consequently being able to return to competitive cycling and eventually to race professionally.

The Daytrippers Team:  Do you have any advice for children who face difficulties?

Stephen Clancy:  You can still pursue your dreams. Since I was diagnosed, I’ve worn a medical ID bracelet on my wrist with the engraving “impossible is nothing”. I faced the challenge of overcoming the obstacles presented by my diabetes diagnosis and I’ve exceeded the expectations of what I thought I could achieve. This is not the only test I’ve encountered in my life. Everybody is different and everyone faces different difficulties, however whatever it may be in life, you must try to be positive and think optimistically to overcome the challenges life throws at you. You have one life, you have got to take the bad with the good and live it to the max.

The Daytrippers Team: Thank you so much Stephen!

Learn more about Team Novo Nordisk:  http://www.teamnovonordisk.com/

Stay connected with Stephen Clancy: @teamnovonordisk

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5 Minutes With … Louise Yates

English Illustrator and children's book author, Louise Yates.

English Illustrator and children’s book author, Louise Yates.

If you are lucky enough to meet talented Londoner LOUISE YATES do expect to be captivated.  Louise displays instant warmth and thoughtful intelligence with an artists’ inflection.  Perhaps that is partly why her gorgeous children’s books have scooped up countless prizes and international recognition.  The Daytrippers Team has read Dog Loves Books, Dog Loves Drawing and Dog Loves Counting so many times the edges have begun to fray!

Louise stands next to her portrait and chats to HRH Prince Charles

Louise stands next to her portrait and chats to HRH Prince Charles

At University, Ms. Yates read English at Christ Church in Oxford and she wrote a letter to Sir Quentin Blake to which he responded and they met to critique her portfolio.  That was over 10 years ago and the rest is history! We Are Daytrippers is happy to have had a brief interview with Louise and we look forward to buying her newest book Dog Loves Fairy Tales!

The Daytrippers Team:  Did you have a role model or mentor as a child?  

Louise Yates:  I’ve had many mentors. To me a mentor can be anyone who’s example you hope to follow – someone you know personally, or even someone you’ve read about or heard of. Even a small aspect of someone’s spirit or attitude can be your mentor: it needn’t be someone’s whole being that inspires and makes you wish to follow their example. Perhaps for this reason its best to look for the best in people. We all rub off on and influence each other and I think that by focusing on and cherishing the best in others we are more able to become a richer and more diverse mix of the good we encounter. I’m very grateful to the people in my life who have seen the best in me and given something of themselves.

The Daytrippers Team:  Who is currently your role model or mentor?

Louise Yates:  I heard earlier this year that Dr. Maya Angelou had died. I’d not heard of her before and I’ve since listened to a wonderful talk she gave. I’d like to study the things she said and wrote and try to learn from her.

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your creative talent and how do you cultivate it?

Louise Yates:  I write and illustrate, mainly creating children’s picture books, but I also love other forms of writing and art, particularly drawing and painting portraits and writing stories and poems. I cultivate this by finding time to be alone and time to be with others. I read and go to exhibitions. I love looking at the work of people I admire, and if I’m lucky enough to know them, I love spending time in their company. Friends of all kinds are essential to cultivating creative talent, especially as some forms of creativity can be quite solitary.

The Daytrippers Team:   Have you had any experience with disabled or terminally-ill people?

Louise Yates:  I was very lucky to go to schools that provided for able and disabled pupils and teachers. One of my favourite mentors was a teacher who taught me when I was seven or eight. She was born with a physical deformity that meant she was around the same height as us. She first inspired my love of poetry. She made our class feel like a family and each of us feel special. I still love reciting the poems she taught us.

Later, at a different school, I had a teacher who suffered from a severe and debilitating skin condition. She was very disfigured by her condition and movement was painful and challenging for her. Despite this, she was determined to become a teacher, and was training at the school. Sadly, she died unexpectedly as a result of a complication during an operation. She was very inspiring: we were very lucky to be taught how to be courageous and determined by someone who embodied those values.

When I was sixteen I worked in a textile factory that was run by, and that employed, people with disabilities. It was my first work experience and I met some wonderful people who looked after me and taught me how to print.

When I was at university I travelled to Bulgaria to find orphanages and institutions that needed volunteers. Many of the children I met there had been placed in the institutions because of their disabilities. They faced many challenges, but the greatest of all was neglect. The lady that helped us find the orphanages and who translated for us had a disability herself. Her family had supported her at home and her help was invaluable to us, she was very able and talented. It made me realise what a great advantage love and care gives people no matter what difficulties they face.

The greatest sadness in my childhood was the death of my Grandfather. He had cancer and his terminal diagnosis came some time before his death. I still feel very close to him – his expressions of generosity are a continuing gift to me and I still enjoy his sense of humour. I often laugh because I know something would have tickled him.

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you share a challenge in your life?

Louise Yates:  I think one of the greatest challenges is losing someone you love. I try to focus on the fact that love itself does not end and it has many ways of finding expression: it may be given to or received by someone specific, but it belongs to us all.

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you like to share a quote with children who face difficulties?

Louise Yates:  I like these words by Maya Angelou, she said: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.”

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Louise Yates.

Connect with Louise Yates:  @_DOGLOVES


See Louise in conversation with Sir Quentin Blake:

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