"The one time that I feel free is when I'm scuba diving. I don't feel tied to anything. At all other times I need to use a wheelchair to get around," said Ana Calvo of Houston. "Scuba diving is the one activity that is completely normalizing." The 2009 Ms. Wheelchair Texas will be presenting Jim Elliott, founder/president of Diveheart with the Angel Advocate Award on Saturday, April 6th at the 2013 Ms. Wheelchair Texas Gala.
Diveheart provides scuba diving opportunities to children, adults and veterans with disabilities. Calvo, who was born without arms or legs, is a Diveheart participant and spokesperson. As a member of the board of directors for Ms. Wheelchair Texas, she nominated Elliott for the prestigious award.
The Gala is the culmination of the organization's leadership conference which is attended by all of the 2013 Ms. Wheelchair Texas contestants. "We want whomever is chosen as Ms. Wheelchair Texas to speak for others, who can't. The leadership conference addresses topics including the America with Disabilities Act (ADA), Social Security rights and more," said Calvo. "We started the Angel Advocate Award because we were seeing extraordinary people doing amazing things in the community for people with disabilities. The board votes on the recipient."
Calvo first met Elliott in 2009. "I heard that he was in town and I asked if I could come out and watch him," she said. "Right then and there he got me in the water." Several months later, Calvo became scuba certified while traveling with Diveheart in Bonaire. "It was wonderful. It was amazing," she said. At the time, Calvo was the transition coordinator with Shriners Hospital for Children Houston-Galveston where she
helped to prepare children with disabilities for independent adult lives She had Elliott work with a group of the young people with disabilities during summer camp. 'The program permitted the kids to learn about the different sports that they could practice, while also learning about independence. It was a time for them to hear about all of the things they can do, rather than the things they cannot do," she said. The kids loved scuba diving which helped to build their confidence and self-esteem.
Calvo is now the director of transition services for the Vocational Advancement Skills Training (VAST) at Houston Community College, working with young adult students with autism. She has a television show at HCC called No Barriers, and she is a spokesperson regarding various disability issues for state and national legislators.
The Ms. Wheelchair Texas Gala "highlights incredible women and incredible individuals who do amazing things for people with disabilities in the community," she said. "I'm proud to be affiliated with this organization, and proud to honor Jim and Diveheart."
For additional information about Diveheart, visit www.diveheart.org. For additional information about Ms. Wheelchair Texas, visit www.mswheelchairtexas.org.