Episode 7: Melissa Stockwell Show Notes

March is National Women’s Month, so this the first episode focusing on inspiring stories about amazing women, not that Claudette, Amanda and Kamala aren’t amazing women in their own right (See Episodes 1, 2 and 4). Here’s what we cover this week:

  • Amy brings us the Mask Tree Lady who is surprising people with handmade masks during the pandemic. 01:53
  • Teresa covers paratriathlete Melissa Stockwell, who despite losing a leg in Iraq, is killing it as an amazing athlete. 04:53
  • Finally, Teresa shares the ambitious Keah Brown, who refuses to let her disability define her. She started the hashtag #DisabledandCute, which has gone viral. 22:20
  • Total Episode Time: 36:46


This story is from our own backyard in Portland, Oregon. Ursula Hood had a kidney transplant in 2011. Following the surgery, her doctors recommended that she start wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help prevent her catching illnesses that might risk her kidney. Even the flu can cause severe complications or even death with a compromised immune system and organ donors are at high risk. So she started wearing a mask anytime she was in a public place. When Covid-19 hit, she wanted to help. So she started sewing masks for her friends. Then she started sewing masks for strangers. Then she started leaving masks out for people to take at trailheads and along pathways. She sewed masks for her community center, as well. Finally, she came up with the mask tree, where she hangs her creations in ziplock bags for anyone to take. Ursala’s daughter, Maxine, made a video of her mom making the masks and showed all the places her mom was leaving these masks as a gesture of kindness and support of her community. Maxine entered the video into a contest done by Mazda called the Mazda Heroes Program, which awarded 50 people who made a difference a new Mazda. Ursula Hood was one of the Heroes chosen by Mazda for her efforts in her community and she received a brand new Mazda. This is one of those things that really makes you think there really is karma.

Melissa Stockwell isn’t going to let losing a leg get her down. In fact, she considers herself lucky and isn’t going to let the loss of a limb limit her life. Melissa joined the ROTC in college and shortly after college. Melissa was a senior in college when 9/11 occurred, and shortly after graduation, she entered the US Army. In 2004, while serving as a 1st Lieutenant in Iraq, her convoy vehicle hit a roadside bomb. As a result of the explosion, Melissa lost a leg. However, when she awoke, she realized that many others of her squad were not as lucky. Several people she served with were more severely injured and a few were killed. Melissa was happy to be alive. She was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Following her recovery, she began working with prostheses and working with the Wounded Warrior Project. She also got back into swimming. Melissa was the first Iraq war veteran to participate in the Paralympics, which is the Olympic Games for athletes with a range of disabilities ranging from loss of limb, decreased motion, muscle impairment, vision impairment, and intellectual disability. She swam three events at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, and although she did not medal, she made a good showing. Following Beijing, she changed her focus to triathlons, which is swimming, biking, and running in one event. In 2010 Stockwell was selected to represent the US in the ITU Paratriathlon World Championship where she won first place. She defended her title in 2011 and 2012. She won a Bronze medal in the triathlon in the 2016 Paralympics. Melissa Stockwell is now a coach for other disabled triathletes and has started Dare2Tri, a non-profit based in Chicago that helps disabled people participate and compete in triathlons.

Keah Brown is #disabledbutcute. She is also an activist, journalist, author and trying to tear down barriers for disabled people. Keah Brown has cerebral palsy, but that has not stopped her from being a journalist writing about books, fashion, sports, and popular culture. She also writes about being disabled and how society treats the disabled differently. Keah came to national attention in 2017 when she started using the hashtag #disablebutcute to challenge the idea a disabled person can’t be attractive. Keah started posting pictures of herself looking cute and promoting fashion, and the hashtag started to take off encouraging others to post their own #disabledbutcute posts. She also promotes more inclusion of disabled persons in entertainment, noting that there are no disabled people of color that are portrayed in film or television, or at least not in a romantic or comedic role, and in particular, not in a leading role. She wants fashion to consider disabled individuals and make fashion more accessible to people with special needs. Being disabled should not mean that you can’t look good, dress nicely, or otherwise be beautiful in your own skin.

Associated Reading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *