made us whole': Flower Mound girl recalled on plain a world
By Lee Hancock / The Dallas Morning News
LOBUCHE, Nepal Shannon Ardoin never walked, spoke
or saw the world around her, but her struggles taught even
strangers profound lessons about life, compassion and community.
A Texas-based group of people with disabilities honored the
Flower Mound girl and her familys unending devotion
by erecting a stone memorial on the glacial high plain lined
with stone chortens, or pillars, built for the fallen heroes
of Mount Everest.
It wouldve been very easy for her parents to
put her in an institution. They chose to keep her at home,
said team leader Gary Guller of Austin. They recognized
that her life had meaning and worth and dignity.
Her life represents the true meaning behind Team Everest
03, from my point of view: the freedom for anybody to live
in the community of their choice, he said.
The groups Tuesday memorial service arose from a chance
meeting between Shannons father, Ken Ardoin, a governmental
affairs director for Pfizer Inc., and the head of the Austin-based
group sponsoring the Team Everest 03 Challenge Trek, the Coalition
for Texans With Disabilities.
Coalition director Dennis Borel said he was introduced to
Mr. Ardoin earlier this year and told him about the Team Everest
03 Challenge Trek, now within two days of bringing nine Americans
and two Sherpas with disabilities to the worlds highest
The group is traveling to Everest to shake misconceptions
about the potential
of the disabled. After they get to Everests base camp,
Mr. Guller and three U.S. and Canadian climbers will try to
reach the mountains summit. If successful, Mr. Guller
would be the first person with one arm to stand atop Everest.
Meeting with Mr. Borel, Mr. Ardoin talked about Shannon,
his youngest daughter, who died last April at age 17 after
a lifelong struggle with a brain condition that left her unable
to move, speak or communicate other than by crying.
Touched by Shannons story and her familys decision
to keep her integral in their lives, Mr. Borel arranged a
meeting between the pharmaceuticals executive and Mr. Guller.
He and Mr. Guller proposed honoring Shannon during Team Everest
03s journey to Mount Everest.
Mr. Ardoin and his wife, Annette, sent the group some of
their daughters belongings: a lacy sampler with her
name cross-stitched in pink that was given to her at her birth,
and a rosary from her godmother made from pressed rose petals
and blessed by the pope.
The group carried them up one of the most difficult stretches
of the trek - a steep, rocky hill formed by the terminal moraine
of the Khumbu glacier, the giant ice floe cascading from Everest.
At the hills crest, near a chorten honoring a famed
Sherpa climber who reached the summit of Everest more than
any other person and died on the mountain in 2001, some of
the groups Sherpa guides and one of its climbers stacked
flat rocks on a high boulder.
the stones stood 4 feet high, they topped them with a center
stone and covered that with Shannons needlepoint sampler,
her rosary and a yellow silk kata - a ceremonial scarf given
by Buddhists in the Everest region to show respect.
Members of the challenge trek stood silently, overlooking
some of the worlds highest peaks, as they listened to
one of their members read an essay written by Shannons
family. Part of a memorial booklet of poems and photos, it
described her as an angel who touched all who encountered
Sherpas burned juniper, used in their Buddhist ceremonies,
and a Sherpa lama traveling with the group chanted Buddhist
Team members wept as Mr. Guller closed the service with a
message from Shannons family in her memorial booklet.
In her brokenness, she made us whole. Her suffering
crushed us beyond words, Mr. Guller read, tears streaking
his cheeks. Yet it strengthened us beyond imagination.
She taught us more than anyone else has ever been able to
do. No book, no speech, no person could convey in a thousand
words what she gave us in her silence.
Team members said they were particularly touched because
the organization sponsoring their trek is fighting a pitched
battle to maintain state funding in Texas to help people like
Shannon live in communities.
Courage to fight
Team member Gene Rodgers of Austin is among an estimated
62,000 people who could lose such assistance if the Legislature
approves cuts proposed for community services for the disabled.
Mr. Rodgers, unable to move below his neck since being paralyzed
in a fall from a cliff at 17, said the cuts would leave him
without attendants who help him to and from bed and dress
and feed him daily.
Team member Mark Ezzell of Raleigh, N.C., said such cuts
are among the constant battles facing people with disabilities.
a damned shame that we have to fight so hard to keep the things
that other people take for granted, said Mr. Ezzell,
who was born with spina bifida and is a lobbyist for the North
Carolina governors crime commission.
The best way we can honor the memory of Shannon is
to create more Shannons - to create a situation where all
people, regardless of ability or disability, can live at home,
with their families, in their communities.
Mrs. Ardoin said her family had to wait five years to get
into one Texas community assistance program and seven years
She said the programs gave nursing care and other services,
easing the burden of caring for Shannon and allowing the Ardoins
and their other three children time for things other families
take for granted - things as simple as going out together
I can remember writing letters to the Legislature begging
them to increase funds so I could get on one of these programs,
she said. Such programs made all the difference in the
Mrs. Ardoin said her daughter attended the local high school,
becoming a favorite of the students, and was beloved by her
siblings friends. Football players would visit her at
the familys home the night before games and they once
presented her with a homecoming mum.
These children have a mission here on earth, I truly
believe that, Mrs. Ardoin said.
Shannon touched people like you wouldnt believe,
she said. She was caught in this body that couldnt
tell us anything other than to cry. She was a fighter like
you wouldnt believe. I had to sense her every feeling
just through a spiritual sense.
Mrs. Ardoin said she was touched almost beyond words knowing
that Shannon was honored by a group such as the Team Everest
03 group in the worlds highest place.
loved being outdoors, Mrs. Ardoin said, so I think she
absolutely would like that place. Thats her chance to
be someplace she never could have gone on her own, she
said. To me, its just a miracle that her things
are being placed there. Its so spiritual, Shannon being
a part of this still.
CTD's current legislative work: No Cuts to Community Services
In a response to the state's budget crisis, Texas health and
human service agencies are proposing huge cuts to community
services for people with disabilities of all ages. As many
as 70,000 Texans with disabilities currently receiving services
would be cut. Some would be forced into nursing homes. All
would suffer a substantial loss of independence in their lives.
Many would seek basic health care in local clinics and emergency
rooms, with a result of a poorer quality of health at a much
higher cost. CTD is doing legislative office visits, testimony
in hearings and has organized a march and rally on the Capitol.
We have participated in two statewide teleconferences to inform
the grass roots. "No Cuts to Community Services"
is the most important disability issue of the year.
Contact Dennis Borel at (512) 478-3366 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for a media kit, sponsorship opportunities and to learn more
about TE '03 and the advocacy work of CTD.
Messages and questions
for the team
show by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning News
The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities is dedicated to
ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy equal opportunities
to live, work, play, and participate fully in the community
of their choice. CTD has consistently delivered important
results for persons with disabilities for the past 24 years,
and needs your support to fight the discrimination that faces
individuals with disabilities in almost every aspect of their