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Five Movies with Quadriplegic Heroines

Updated on June 9, 2014

I've found that there's very few movies where female characters are wheelchair users. Even though disabled heroes are rare, disabled heroines are even more so!

Perhaps because in real life, spinal cord injury affects more men than women? It seems as though men are more likely to put themselves in situations that might lead to spinal cord injuries.

After hunting through movies, I've come up with five that feature a quadriplegic heroine. I've called it "Five Movies with a Quadriplegic Heroine" instead of "Top Five" because I can't recommend all of these. I can tell you that they exist and you're welcome to watch them, but I find almost every movie with a quadriplegic character to be very problematic from a disability rights perspective.

Rarely are the movies written by someone with any actual experience of the disability and so they rest heavily on prejudiced assumptions made by people with no connection to spinal cord injury. Bear that in mind if choosing to view these movies!

The first two on the list are ones that I do not like, but the last three are movies that I highly recommend.

Image from http://www.truthaboutnursing.org/media/films/brook...

NUMBER FIVE

Million Dollar Baby

I really personally dislike this movie, but it won a lot of awards. Probably because it fed right into what people who have never experienced spinal cord injury think about quadriplegia.

Spoiler: the main character, the female boxer, is paralyzed at the end and begs to be helped to commit suicide.

Of course. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

I don't know why this plot is so tempting to people when it's ridiculously overdone and not very realistic. Sure it's a tough adjustment, but my quadriplegic friends have expressed to me how grateful they are to be alive and how much they learned from the experience of disability. Those are the stories that we should be seeing in movies.

Not this maudlin BS.

However, it is the most high profile movie with a quadriplegic woman, so it makes the list.

Photo from http://wn.com/Million_Dollar_Baby

Trailer

Get it at Amazon...

NUMBER FOUR

He Was a Quiet Man

This movie I have not seen and I don't plan to. It sounds incredibly creepy. From the description on Wikipedia, it seems that it has not only the detested quad-wants-to-die plot (Review: Me Before You), but also a stupid "she can wiggle her finger, maybe she'll recover." And then there's the "If she got better, she would leave me." From the preview it doesn't look like she's in a wheelchair that she can move herself, which just doesn't make any sense. So it's rife with terrible disability prejudice.

The plot has to do with someone who wants to murder his coworkers and it sounds just awful to me personally!

More information and spoilers at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_Was_a_Quiet_Man

Image from http://www.totalfilm.com/he-was-a-quiet-man (Where it states "(Elisha Cuthbert, the most unconvincing quadriplegic ever).")

Trailer

Get it at Amazon...

NUMBER THREE

Hilary's Straws

This one is a short, and you can watch the entire three minute film free online.

I wish it were longer!

It's the story of a quadriplegic woman who is able to create, with the help of friends, a system by which she is able to sail a boat with her mouth. She actually uses this system to sail solo around Britain. Very impressive!

Image from: http://www.disabledandproductive.com/blog-posts/si... Which is a blog I'll be looking at more closely, it looks great!

Other videos about Hilary Lister

Related Media at Amazon

Here are some books and videos about disability and adaptive technology

NUMBER TWO

The Brooke Ellison Story

This is a movie based on a real person, so it already has a lot more going for it than movies based on an able-bodied person's idea of what quadriplegia must be like. Not only is it based on a real person, it was also directed by Christopher Reeve post-accident.

This movie, though, errs on the side of feel-good and is over the top inspirational at times.

Still, I would recommend it because it shows so much of what can be done despite what appear to be overwhelming obstacles.

Photo from (http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/brooke_ellison_sto...

Preview - (More of an overview, it has spoilers)

Get it from Amazon... - (Also available at Netflix streaming, last I checked)

NUMBER ONE

The Other Side of the Mountain

This one I actually can recommend! It is based on the memoir of a woman who is an Olympic hopeful who is then paralyzed. I think it doesn't shy away from the difficulties but also shows the hope that comes after one has rebuilt a life.

There is also a sequel movie.

Image from http://filmfanatic.org/reviews/?p=11183

Tribute Video

What Movies Am I Missing?

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    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Great to hear from you! I agree, I wish the world was more accessible and knowledgeable about disability issues. I really think it's important for all of us. You never know when you or someone you love will be temporarily or permanently affected by disability.

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @JennySui: Thanks!

    • profile image

      JennySui 5 years ago

      Congrats on LotD!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I just watched the Brooke Ellison movie and was stunned to see your lens on the blog topic list as I wasn't even looking it up. Good lens. I sometimes work with amputees and am inspired by their courage and tenacity, I am also ticked off with a world that still can't be more disabled friendly.

    • profile image

      Tiredofpreviews1 5 years ago

      Joni (1979)- I saw the film when I was a little girl. It was a young female who dove into a pond and broke her neck. She ended up being an artist. She paints with a brush in her mouth. I made a profound effect on me then. Never dove again but also inspired me to see beyond handicaps.

    • profile image

      kayla_harris 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this spectacular Lens!

    • themeaparty profile image

      themeaparty 5 years ago

      Oh, wow, amazing list. Nice work.

    • KittySmith profile image

      KittySmith 5 years ago

      You are intriguing.Great lens, perhaps it will spark some improvement.

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @Teapixie LM: Thank you! :)

    • Teapixie LM profile image

      Tea Pixie 5 years ago

      Spectacular article! I love your reviews-even the ones about movies you haven't seen. I am looking forward to reading more of your work and I hope to see your opion smeared everywhere. Great work.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 5 years ago from California

      Thank you for the thoughtful reviews of these movies. Very informative. Bear hugs, Frankster

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 5 years ago

      @RuthMadison: I just watched the Brooke Ellison Story. Excellent!

    • AgingIntoDisabi profile image

      AgingIntoDisabi 5 years ago

      It's good to see people with disabilities shown in a positive light.

    • profile image

      coolmon2009 lm 5 years ago

      Nice listing and Interesting lens.

    • profile image

      johnrichardjack 5 years ago

      This is a really interesting lens. I never heard of some of these movies. What about My Left Foot, Monkey Shines, or The Bone collector?

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! I saw "Other Side of the Mountain" many years ago and it made a deep impression on me. Thanks for the thoughtful lens and reviews.

    • profile image

      What_to_Know 5 years ago

      You have just become my new favorite lens writer. I feel the same about individuals with disabilities in media. I am multiple disabilities myself among them being in a wheelchair. I am an english major in hopes of becoming a writer in which characters portray real emotion and depth and people with disabilities are not either played as the victim or "something" greater then themselves. I don't like seeing us as this burden/gift sent to be the great hope. I also don't like the perpetual victim roll seen in many rolls.

      I WOULD ADD "Avatar" to the list. I don't like that even in a virtual world the main characters first desire would not be disabled. Even in fantasy being seen with a disability would not be accepted. I think for disabled youth who already struggle with image it sends a bad message.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Congratulations on getting LoTD! Obviously, well deserved.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Thanks for all your hard work in putting this together. It is important that any films about the disabled are inspiring and yet realistic about the challenges the disabled face. Pinned to my movies board and squid angel blessed.

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 5 years ago from Central Florida

      I'd only heard of Million Dollar Baby before, and didn't like it either. I'll have to watch the ones you recommend. A former coworker of mine has incomplete quadriplegia from a diving accident and she's done so much...doing a half-marathon on her hand-pedaled bike included...and she's done some motivational speaking. I definitely admire her.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      A friend of ours did a documentary about one of the guys in my husband's touring car racing club who is paralyzed. Now he's producing a pilot for ABC Family about people with disabilities who participate in sports. I hope it makes it to the series level. Of your picks, I've only seen "The Other Side of the Mountain," which is excellent. Congratulations on LOTD.

    • profile image

      lessermortals 5 years ago

      I've always loved films of this kind. They inspire and motivate people and shows that us women are strong. Truly amazing and inspiring share.

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @auntjennie: Thank you!

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      DebMartin 5 years ago

      I think you've got them all. I had only heard of Million Dollar Baby. Well done. d

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @darciefrench lm: So true!

    • auntjennie profile image

      Jen 5 years ago from Canada

      I love the honesty of your film critiques. I think it gives a reader a path to explore these movies and raises awareness of what makes a good movie.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 5 years ago

      Great article - so much we do with the mind gets lots in the presentation of the body. We assume we need arms and legs to go, but we don't :)

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @PromptWriter: I think you're probably right. And the trouble with movies like this is that the character dies before he or she has the chance to come to that place of appreciation or acceptance. This is why I think people with recent injuries need really good counseling and definitely not access to the means to end their lives until they truly understand what they are choosing.

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @anonymous: A few people have mentioned Joni's movie! I knew of her but didn't know she had a movie. I'll have to look it up.

      It is interesting that Jill Kinmont just died so recently!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 5 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      It has been a while since I watched Million Dollar Baby but as I was reading your comments my first thought was there is a process of acceptance I think that needs to be worked through. While I am sure thinking death is necessary at one point, it is probably an emotional state that must pass once they come to terms with the changes in their life. I don't think gratefulness is something that occurs immediately after an injury but is something that comes with time. Obviously, I am guessing at this point.

      I have not heard of most of the others but will definitely watch for them.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I loved The Other Side of the Mountain! Sadly Jill Kinmont died February 9, 2012. My personal favorite has already been mentioned here. It's called "Joni". This is a true story about Joni Eareckson Tada who became a quadriplegic at age 17 after a diving accident. Her life is an inspiration to me and I'm sure to many others. View the trailer for the movie at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6JkW8Bq-38

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      soaringsis 5 years ago

      Congratulation on your LotD and the Purple Star award, well deserved.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Congrats on LotD. Great subject for a lens, although I disagree with Million Dollar Baby - I think her reasons for wanting to die were more than being a quad.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 5 years ago

      I saw Joni Earkeckson Tada's movie in the 70s and it so impacted my life. She is an amazing woman with an amazing story! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080966/

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      Really loved the Three Straws short. Hope it is expanded into a full documentary if it hasn't already been done. I have previously viewed some of these films (The Other Side of the Mountain and the Brooke Ellison Story). I love realistic films about individuals with heroic spirits. Congrats on LotD!

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      I remember The Other Side of the Mountain also. It was a fantastic movie! I was the Nurse for a Quadroplegic little girl who became that way from a very minor traffic accident. The parents were driving with a younger child and instead of using a car seat for both they put the younger one in the car seat and her in a seat belt. The accident barely scratched the cars but the child was thrown forward and backward stretching her cord and damaging it. Sad thing she could feel but not move. That means she can itch but not scratch. It is a hard life but she is grown now. I haven't seen her in years and she is still in my prayers.

    • MillBucks profile image

      MillBucks 5 years ago

      Congrats on your Purple Star and LoTD, very well deserved indeed. This article is very inspiring and I enjoyed my visit here very much.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 5 years ago from Northern California

      I remember watching The Other Side of the Mountain. Very inspiring.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      How about the movie about Joni Eareckson Tada? She has quadriplegia and has developed a worldwide ministry and written many books. Her website is "Joni and Friends" I'm not sure where the movie about her is available, but I saw it at the theater years ago. She also has a TV show on the Christian network and many inspirational interviews with people who have disabilities are available. Also Nick Vuicick (spelling?) has a website called "Life Without Limbs"

    • montanatravel52 profile image

      montanatravel52 5 years ago

      Very nice and easy lens, as well as fun and quick to read! Thanks

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @flinnie lm: Awesome! Thank you!

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @AgingIntoDisabi: I do wish we saw more of that!

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @TravelingRae: I guess I'll have to give it a chance!

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      congratulations of LOTD! hilary's straws was an amazing short...

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 5 years ago from GRENADA

      Congratulations on your well-deserved Lens of the Day (LOTD) and Purple Star Awards.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi congrats on LOTD and the purple Star. I have seen two of these movies, I like your lens. Blessed by Squid Angel flinnie, and added to my lens...Squid Angel flinnie.

    • tslizzy profile image

      tslizzy 5 years ago

      great lens. Congratulation for LOTD

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 5 years ago

      A Quiet Man is actually really good, with, *spoiler*, a twist ending. I'm off to get more info about Brooke Ellison. :::blessed:::

    • profile image

      mizrae 5 years ago

      I cannot add any more than what's already been said, this is a wonderful refreshing lens...pass these inspirational movies on to the next generation, so they will know not to give up when times are difficult!!!!

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I like your honesty about the not so good films. A very important subject. Blessed

    • profile image

      gwilliam812 5 years ago

      thanks

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @ruthsmith927: I have no idea! I've been here since Sept and this is the first time it has happened. I think getting to know some of the high level squids by participating in the forums and things like that is probably very helpful because otherwise they won't know you exist!

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @Jennifer Einstein: Oh, that's a good thought! I will change it.

    • Jennifer Einstein profile image

      Jennifer Einstein 5 years ago from New York City

      I totally remember The Other Side of the Mountain from when I was growing up. Thanks for all this research. One of my sister's has spina bifida, so these things always pique my interest. I actually thought that these were going to be 5 movies about one women. What do you think of calling this lens Five Movies with Quadriplegic Heroines?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      In 1979 a movie "Joni" was made starring Joni Eareckson-Tada. She was a young woman who broke her neck in a diving accident a few years earlier. She played herself in the film, which basically is about how she came to terms with her disability and how her Christian faith was tested in the process.

      Certainly worthy of a mention in your lens!

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @designsbyharriet: Thank you!

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @ccsonian: I didn't realize she had a movie. I've read about and heard about her for many years! She's an amazing woman.

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @hntrssthmpsn: Funny, isn't it? I had a hard time finding movies for this list!

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @miaponzo: What wonderful news! I'm so glad for you that your son is recovering.

    • profile image

      ruthsmith927 5 years ago

      RuthMadison can you give me tips... how i will make my lens Lens of the day ?

      Congratulation!

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @purpleslug: Yay!

    • andreaberrios lm profile image

      andreaberrios lm 5 years ago

      Very nice and inspiring lens. I have seen some of these movies and they are amazing. Congrats on the Purple Star and LOTD.

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      I am so honored to be the lens of the day today! Thank you so much to everyone who has visited and read and commented! I'm really touched.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Oops, just realized that you already have a lens with Paraplegic Heroes. Good coverage.

    • gigiee profile image

      gigiee 5 years ago

      great job on this list..

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      If you create another list with a hero, then you could feature the movie, Born on the 4th of July.

    • profile image

      laniparis 5 years ago

      Amazing lens. The ability that disabled people have is truly incredible and should be cherished.

    • VaBeachMatthew profile image

      VaBeachMatthew 5 years ago

      Sadly I haven't seen any of them - but will have to look for them to see where they are available.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I loved the Other Side of the Mountain.

    • profile image

      purpleslug 5 years ago

      First, Congrats on LOTD! Second, thanks to your wonderful lens, there are now a few movies I have to watch = )

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      reviews4autoshipping 5 years ago

      congr8s for getting the title of lens of the day

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 5 years ago from USA

      Congratulations, this lens was selected as Lens of the Day today! You can read all about it here: http://hq.squidoo.com/lotd/five-movies-with-a-quad...

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! Might I suggest Pollyanna with Hayley Mills. No spoilers, but Pollyanna falls from a tree and is paralyzed. It deals more with emotions than medicine, but it is a touching ending.

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      Congratulations on Lens of the Day! It's so very helpful to have your candid and substantiated reviews with these picks. Enjoyable read!

    • mattcut profile image

      mattcut 5 years ago

      Beautiful content & writing, thank you for this lovely lens :)

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 5 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Congratulations on having the LotD-very thorough reviews and nicely done :>)

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Great work on this list - and congratulations on LotD, very well deserved! Blessings from this SquidAngel! :)

    • profile image

      DeepikaBhardwaj 5 years ago

      ya really mind blowing....inspiring for all

    • profile image

      DeepikaBhardwaj 5 years ago

      ya really mind blowing....inspiring for all

    • profile image

      amiref 5 years ago

      Im also i have watched NUMBER Million Dollar Baby two times, it's so beatiful story.

      I like it

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      This is a great motivational lens. Those stories are touching and wonderful. Thanks!

    • VeseliDan profile image

      VeseliDan 5 years ago

      I love all these movies, especially a million dollar baby. *blessed*

    • profile image

      nancy4569 5 years ago

      that awsume ...when i watch all in the movie for rest time ...really awsume...

      http://careline.pk/index.php?m=services&ta...

    • nicks44 profile image

      nicks44 5 years ago

      That is quite an interesting list! Well done!

    • sunny saib profile image

      sunny saib 5 years ago

      wow.. all i have watched is million dollar movie.. you're right it's kind of overrated, but again if it works commercially, it surely works all the way..

      great lens..

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      That's good. I will watch all in the rest time

    • profile image

      cleanyoucar 5 years ago

      great list! gotta watch some of these movies!

    • profile image

      Success_At_School 5 years ago

      I saw the Brooke Ellison movie. Very touching story and she's a brave young woman.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      Thank you for this.. my son has the same disability as Hillary... but he was lucky and got better (some do, some don't)... and he is 99% OK now... :) Blessed by an Angel for this lens!

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Thank you for your honest review. Congratulation on LOTD!

    • Millionairemomma profile image

      Millionairemomma 5 years ago

      Now that you introduced me to them, I will watch them.

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @microfarmproject: I am too! It's great to see ways that technology can really help people.

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @Judy Filarecki: Thank you so much! :)

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      I just watched "Hilary's Straws," which was great! Haven't seen any of the others you mention here, but I'll check out "The Other Side of the Mountain." I'd never thought of it till I read your intro, but I paused for a moment before continuing to read and gave it a try, and I couldn't think of a SINGLE movie I'd ever seen with a quadriplegic heroine.

    • designsbyharriet profile image

      Harriet 5 years ago from Indiana

      This is a lens that comes from the heart with honest comment and great content. I will add some blessings to a great lens.

    • ccsonian profile image

      ccsonian 5 years ago

      My husband has been a paraplegic for 32 years. Joni Eareckson Tada was a huge influence on him when he was young. There was a movie made about her called "Joni." Seems I saw it years ago. Joni is pretty incredible, she has been active in painting and ministry for years.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 5 years ago from Canada

      I don't know what movies you might be missing. I do think you've done a brilliant job of representing the ones you discussed.

    • RuthMadison profile image
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      RuthMadison 5 years ago

      @IMKZRNU2: Thank you! So glad I'm not the only one :)

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 5 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      Wonderful lens on a difficult subject. I like the way you critique each film with an honesty and sensitivity that makes this lens special. Here's some angle dust from a Squid Angel.

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 5 years ago

      Hilary's Straws looks very interesting. I am inspired by people who use ingenuity to overcome big obstacles. Thanks!