Southern California

‘Joni and Friends' Reaches Out to People With Disabilities Around the Globe

In 1967, Joni Eareckson Tada was just 17 years old when she dove into shallow water and broke her neck, leaving her a quadriplegic and in a wheelchair.

Today, she's an internationally known artist, a talented vocalist, a radio host, an author and an advocate for people living with disabilities worldwide.

She now lives in Southern California and runs a nonprofit called Joni and Friends, an organization based in Agoura Hills that helps people with disabilities around the globe.

Joni learned to paint with her mouth, starred in a movie about her life, and wrote a best-selling book about her life journey called "Joni." She traveled all over the world to tell her story.

"It's so awesome to speak to a child who comes up to me and says, 'Oh, Miss Joni, I'm reading your book, I love your book,'" she said.

Joni is still speaking to children and inspiring millions with her courageous story of survival.

Her organization runs family retreats for people with disabilities. She partners with volunteer inmates at Taft Prison near Bakersfield to restore donated wheelchairs, which are shipped to developing countries.

"It's pretty exciting to be able to export the hope that God put in my heart to people around the world -- that's really awesome," Joni said.

Joni has written over 40 books, which have been translated into nearly every language.

She's still painting with her mouth, creating amazing artwork, and she partners with other people affected by disabilities who make jewelry that she distributes through her nonprofit.

"When I have a hard day, I've got people like this -- they're producing these necklaces for me to give to other people and it's like, how can I complain? I can't complain," Joni said.

Joni is now married to Ken Tada, a former high school football coach. She said that together, they're inspiring others to make the best of any situation.

"If they want to get out of that corner feeling sorry for themselves and always depressed, look to the needs of others -- there are people in your community who need your help," she said. "So push aside that box of Kleenex, dry your tears, open the front door, dress well, and go out and serve. That's the best way to move forward in life."

Learn more about Joni and Friends here.

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