Ms. Wheelchair Maine 2011
A 28-year-old biology professor from Scarborough, Monica Quimby was left paralyzed from the waist down following a skiing accident at Sunday River in January 2006 when she failed to land a back flip.
Eight years later, Quimby, who has learned to remain positive about life despite her injury, is not only achieving her goals, but she is living her wildest dreams. She serves as a prime example that there are no limits to what a disabled person can do.
Though her accident forced her to give up playing sports and to miss a semester of college, Quimby was determined to pursue her goal of getting a degree and becoming a biology professor. At age 23, she became one of the youngest adjunct biology professors at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland.
She now teaches courses online for the college, while she travels and goes after something else she loves: competitive sports.
This year, she began volunteering with Maine Adaptive, formerly Maine Handicapped Skiing, and she recently became a member of the USA Women’s Sled Hockey Team, an adaptive ice hockey team. She won the silver medal at the 2014 Lake Placid International Regatta this past July, has earned a spot on the regional Florida Sled Bandits, and is an alternate for Team USA’s Women’s Sled Hockey for the 2014-2015 season.
She began training for sled hockey and paracanoe in October 2013, she said.
“It’s definitely been a fun transformation,” she said. “I’ve had a pretty epic year. I can’t believe this is my life. Pinch me.”
In May 2009, Quimby graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. In 2011, she earned her master’s degree in college teaching and learning from Kaplan University in Portland.
Despite her busy academic schedule, Quimby somehow made time to serve as a role model for people with disabilities. Her message is to “use every obstacle as an opportunity to educate.”
In 2011, Quimby earned the title of Ms. Wheelchair Maine and went on to compete at Ms. Wheelchair America competition in Grand Rapids, Mich., where she placed in the Top 5. While the competition involves an interview session, pageant dresses and a platform speech, Quimby said the competition is not based on beauty, but about showcasing achievements.
Quimby became the representative of Maine and even created the Ms. Wheelchair Maine Leadership and Advocacy Organization, which is “about celebrating and empowering all people with disabilities in Maine.”
Encouraging others with disabilities to maintain an active lifestyle is also important to Quimby. Her goal is to show that, despite their handicaps, everyone has what it takes to pursue something they are interested in. In her spare time, Quimby enjoys traveling, adaptive water-skiing, cooking, painting and deep-sea fishing.
Quimby has also served as a board member for Alpha One, Maine’s only independent living center, and as an ambassador for the 2013 Boston Abilities Expo. She has also recently taken up motivational speaking up and down the East Coast, spreading awareness for people with all kinds of disabilities, and is working to help make public beaches and parks more handicap accessible.
“I love helping people,” Quimby said. “For me, to heal is to give back, and I continue to do that. I really want to help bring out the best in people.”