Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Her Parties Are Given in Celebration of Life

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Her Parties Are Given in Celebration of Life

Article excerpt

MICHELLE STEGER isn't like the rest of us. Her idea of fun is to rent picnic space in a park and invite the public. She enjoys asking businesses in her neighborhood for donations of goods to use as prizes at the picnic. And she delights in arranging for wheelchairs to be delivered to the site, for use by people with good legs.

Steger, 28, had a spinal cord injury in 1991 that left her paralyzed below the waist. On the first anniversary of her paralysis, she threw a big party to fend off depression.

It worked.

Steger invited everybody she knew and lots of people she didn't, people who used wheelchairs and people who didn't. She provided barbecue and soft drinks - all donated - for everybody who attended. She borrowed wheelchairs and set up an obstacle course for people who have never used wheelchairs. She bought a pinata and arranged some games for kids. She held an auction and donated the money raised to the Lupus Foundation.

"It was so much fun," Steger said last week, sitting in her kitchen l ooking at photos of that first picnic. "And it's gotten bigger and bigger each year."

Today is Steger's 5th annual "Celebrate Life" picnic. The fun begins after 1 p.m. at the pavilion in Kirkwood Park. Everybody is invited.

Each year, Steger has donated proceeds from the auction to a different organization. She picks groups dedicated to advancing the equal rights of people with disabilities and breaking down the barriers that exclude them from many parts of society.

This year, proceeds go to the Gateway Disabled Ski Program, which is sponsored in part by the St. Louis Society for Children and Adults with Physical Disabilities. Participants in the program use a specialized bi-ski, which allows people who cannot use their legs to sit and ski.

Steger skis. She also swims, rides horses and teaches a religion class.

"My disability has encouraged me to do much more than I might have if it hadn't happened," she said. …

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