A woman on a mission

ESCANABA – She’s definitely a woman on a mission.

When Bonnie Champeau takes part in the “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” disability awareness event on Saturday at the Delta Plaza Mall, she will be putting the spotlight on an issue that is near and dear to her – the installation of a traffic light on the intersection of 8th Ave. South and South Lincoln Road.

The event is sponsored by Delta County RICC, the Regional Inclusive Community Coalition.

Born in Bark River in 1942, Bonnie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age and is confined to a wheelchair. As a child, she found attending school difficult.

“I was in classes for the handicapped but people were always making fun of me,” Bonnie explained.

She later spent two years in the Newberry State Hospital before returning to the local area where she began living in the first of three foster care homes.

“Then I lived with my mom until she died in 1995,” she said.

A former employee of Lakestate Industries, Bonnie now makes her home at Willow Creek II, an apartment facility where the majority of residents have some kind of disability.

Sitting in her comfortable living room, Bonnie stated, “I like it here. I used to be real lonesome but now I have lots of friends. Plus, I’m too busy to be lonesome now.”

Bonnie has been a member of RICC since 1975 and has found the group has helped her by giving her a voice for advocating for herself – something she never realized she had the ability to possess.

“RICC has given me a purpose,” Bonnie said. “I’ve been able to get out in the community. There are a lot of people like me who are shut-ins who want to get out but aren’t sure how to do it.

Her quest for the traffic light is her current passion.

“People have no idea how hard it is to get across the highway in a wheelchair,” she said. “If I want to go to The Store or to St. Anne’s Church, many times I’m not able to go because I can’t get across the road.”

Bonnie, along with other residents of Willowcreek, have met with State Senator Tom Casperson and District Representative Ed McBroom, all voicing their request for the traffic light.

“We’re meeting with McBroom again on March 14,” Bonnie said. “Hopefully he’ll have good news for us.”

But even if he doesn’t, Bonnie pledges to carry on her campaign for the traffic light.

“I’m going to keep on fighting for the people who need it,” she said with a determined nod of her head. “And I’ll work until I’m blue in the face…I’ll never stop!”

She grinned as she added, “But I hope I don’t get too old to enjoy it in the meantime. I really want to see it.”