United States Department of Defense Award winner, distinguished dog and horse shower, president of the River Riders chapter of Women on Wheels.
Those are all ways to describe Sonja Benavidez.
And yeah — she’s done it while being in wheelchair — but for her — this is normal.
The only one out of eight children in her area to survive Insyphalitis left her paralyzed below the waist and unable to walk without assistance until third grade.
Even then — she wasn’t going to be treated differently.
“My parents who live in LeClaire, Bob and Veronika Jones, they treated me just like my brothers,” said Benavidez. “If I fell down and I had braces on and I wanted to get back up, you better get back up. You’re gonn take care of yourself in life.”
She’s been showing dogs for nearly 25 years and riding her motorcycle for 12 years.
But 30 breaks in her foot, 3 surgeries, 5 plates, 16 screws and one staple eventually landed her in a wheelchair about six years ago and she thought those days were over.
But with some help from her Corgi Amber she got back to doing what she loved.
And though she doesn’t see herself as special, others find her to be an inspiration.
“I get it all the time. They’ll tell me I saw you in St. Louis and now I’m up here and guess what, I’m getting a chair, I’m gonna do it too,” said Benavidez.
Recently she was given an award out of thousands of people by the secretary of defense for her work as a disbaled civilian.
But while the awards and recogniton are nice, for Sonja, its all about getting to do what she wants and having fun.
“Find what you like to do, and just go do it. Yeah, maybe you can’t do that whole thing, take the first step,” said Benavidez. “It took me a couple years to get back where I was. Take the first step towards what it is you want to do and little by little, you’ll get there.”