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2012 Best Mom on Wheels Winner Edna Escher-Gaston

By: Janelle LoBello

Edna with her daughter Karen and two of her six grandchildren at Halloween.
Edna with her daughter Karen and two of her six grandchildren at Halloween.

Edna Escher-Gaston, 61, from Swarthmore, PA has been crowned the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation's 2012 Best Mom on Wheels. With almost 2,000 online votes cast, Edna received close to 25% of the total votes. Edna's daughter, Karen, who lives nearby in Westchester, PA, reached out to local radio and TV stations and through her personal Facebook page to drive the voting for her mom.

Living with paralysis from the waist down due to a car accident in 1981, Edna was genuinely surprised and felt this made for a lovely Mother's Day present. Crying and incredibly thankful for the honor when contacted by phone about being the winner, Edna said, "I'm dumbfounded! I read all the other entries of the moms as well. Just to be in the top ten among them was so humbling."

"She has never let a day go by without putting a positive spin on this," her daughter adds. "I never saw her upset about anything, ever. She always tries to put a bright side on the situation."

Karen, eight-years-old at the time of her mom's accident recalls, "she just wanted to make life as normal as possible for me," says Karen. "When it happened, she realized 'I need to do something about the world I'm in right now.' She always felt she was young enough to make a difference, and that the situation happened to her for a reason, because she has a voice and was able to speak for people who couldn't speak for themselves."

Edna with her husband Doug.
Edna with her husband Doug.

Edna went on to be a co-founder Barrier Awareness of Delaware County, PA and was one of the initial signers of the Americans with Disabilities Act in Washington, DC.

"She drives and picks up the grandkids if they are sick at school," explains Karen, "and can outswim just about anyone I know! The funny thing is when she gets in the pool, there is no wheelchair, and the kids try to jump on her!"

"People think just because you have a spinal cord injury means you are not capable of being a mother," says Edna of being just that to her daughter, two step-daughters (she remarried in 1999 to Doug, pictured), and her six grandchildren. "Karen used to tell me when she was very young, 'You're still my mom.'"

Read Edna's Best Mom on Wheels entry
I cannot begin to tell you the number of lives my mom has touched. A 1981 car accident left my mom, who at the time was a 31 year old single mother with an 8 year old daughter, paralyzed from the waist down. With a passion for life, she was determined not to let her situation get her down, but rather to inspire, motivate and make a difference in the barrier-filled world around her.

She co-founded Barrier Awareness of Delaware County and was one of the initial signers of the Americans with Disabilities Act in Washington, DC. She re-learned to drive with hand controls, to swim and to ride horses. An avid swimmer, she even swam laps for a national cancer charity event with our local swim club. As a member of Kid's on the Block, she visited pre-schools and elementary schools educating children about people with disabilities. She has also been a guest speaker at several Universities. It was during one of her lectures that she met my step-father. She remarried in 1999. She is not only my mom, but my best friend and role model. She is also the proud Mom-Mom to 6 grandchildren.

Edna's grandkids: Cara (2), Kyle (6), Vincent (7), Chloe (3), Christian (4), and Aiden (5).
Edna's grandkids: Cara (2), Kyle (6), Vincent (7), Chloe (3), Christian (4), and Aiden (5).

And the winner receives
Edna will receive a $500 gift card from Tilt-A-Rack®, and an elegant Blue Imperial Peony HDS Medallion® CarryAll bag, designed exclusively for the Best Moms on Wheels contest.

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