LaDawn Prue dreams of the usual things -- a family, a career, perhaps even her own business.
But she also wants things most people take for granted.
"The things I really miss are the little things, like dipping your feet in a stream and feeling the cold through your toes. It's hard to even get to the stream now. And I do miss that instant gratification you get by kicking off your shoes
when your feet hurt from a long day of waitressing. It's the dumb little things, not the big things."
Prue is confined to a wheelchair from injuries suffered in a senseless, brutal assault on Christmas Eve morning 1982. Then-18-year-old Prue was coming home from work as a waitress when a man, recently released from an Ogden halfway house, forced her into his car. Heshot her twice in the neck and back and left her in front of her house.
For three months she fought to survive at the University Hospital. In March she went home, but life was different. A wheelchair had become her constant companion.
The news media and public were fascinated with her story. Some people offered love and moral support. Others made obscene phone calls. She became leery of dealing with the press because she was misquoted so often. A television reporter asked her if she was bitter. She said no, it would only hurt her to be bitter. When the 30-second story aired, the teaser was "LaDawn Prue: Is she bitter?" She decided she wanted to be left alone.
Instead of withdrawing, though, she became an activist for victim's rights. With others, she lobbied hard and successfully for formation of a Crime Victim's Reparation Board. Today she and other board members decide what kind of financial aid victims are entitled to.
She was selected Ms. Wheelchair Utah for 1985-86 and was named second attendant in a national competition. She started going to school, perhaps to enter the
ield of television broadcasting. She's been dating a long-time friend. Her life, she said, "is pretty much like everyone elses."
She also likes to teach people with disabilities how to water ski, snow ski and ride horses. Working with the Paul Hill Adaptive Sports Association, she and other instructors show people who are blind, deaf, mentally retarded or in wheelchairs how to use sporting equipment safely.
Entire families are included in the training, so that someone who has a disability can go on family outings and "be a part of it, instead of sitting on the sidelines."
She's patient and understanding - particularly with those in wheel-chairs.
She also started talking to others about her disability. Besides encouraging other young people, who through accident or illness find themselves unable to walk, she spends a lot of time talking to "able-bodied" people at area churches and civic groups.
"My disability has given me a lot of opportunities to help others see what their abilities are," she said. "I'm proud I can go talk to people."
How she looks is almost as important as what she says. With her long red hair and blue eyes, Prue helps to dispel the myth that women in wheelchairs aren't attractive. "There's a stereotype of girls in wheelchairs that they have to be ugly. I still take care of myself, and they need to, too," she said.
Along the way, Prue has developed poise and a type of assertiveness that goes with the territory when there are things you can't do.
Prue's not sure what the future holds.
"I never expected this; it's the type of thing that's supposed to happen to strangers. I think I'd like to own my own business someday."
"To tell the truth," she laughed, "I want a family and a career. I want to have it all."