If you have nothing but negative comments to say ...
don't come in!
That was the sign Pam Pomeroy posted on the door of
her neice Julie's hospital room after a nurse
told her that the 15-year-old girl would never speak
Three years after suffering the massive stroke, Julie not
only spoke, she graduated from Mater Dei High School.
That year her mother started the Julie Inman Courage
Award, giving scholarships to Mater Dei seniors who
didn't let a disability or death in the family or some
other tall hurdle stop them from graduating.
Julie is 37 now and taking her Courage Award
countywide. On Monday she received an award of her
Julie was one of eight Outstanding Women of Orange
County honored by the Red Cross. The 10th annual
Clara Barton Spectrum Awards ceremony was held at
the Hyatt in Irvine. Julie was honored for starting the
nonprofit SupportAbility. Her organization raised
$11,000 in scholarship money this year for 14
courageous students at five schools.
One of the students, a 17-year-old girl, worked night
jobs, including cleaning offices, to help her mom who
was fighting ovarian cancer. The girl's father died when
she was 13.
Another girl stayed in an abusive home to care for her
grandfather until he died, and then moved in with
friends to finish school despite serious kidney
"They're the ones who need so much applause," Julie
says. "If you're not the top grade winner and you're not
the top athlete, sometimes you slip through the cracks
and you don't get recognition for what you
Julie believes she wouldn't have come this far without
all the positive words and pats on the back. "You can
see how it could have easily gone the other way, her
On Jan. 1, 1981, an aneurysm from a congenital brain
malformation burst while she was skiing with her
family, and doctors said the athletic teen would never
leave a rest home. She couldn't lift her head or
swallow food. She could hear but she had no
If her family put her in a home, as doctors
recommended, she would probably still be there
today, her mother says.
But they took her home and went to work.
"It's hard for me to put into words, I guess, how
fortunate I was," Julie says, sitting in her Irvine
apartment where she lives with her dog, a Shih Tzu
named Kiana. "It is so important I received recognition
and support for what I did."
Classmates, neighbors, family and the parents of
soccer kids she coached rallied around her. They
called it Operation Julie. And for years people showed
up at all times of the day to pace the driveway with
her, help her swim, rewrite her homework in extra
large letters so she could see it, teach her to read and
pour herself a drink.
"They're good memories," Julie says. "They really
make you proud." And strong.
From the day she woke up and saw her wheelchair,
she vowed to walk independently by the end of the
year. And at the end of every year she would renew
that vow. She did this for 19 years until she mastered
her walker in 2000.
Julie kept other promises to herself.
"I always wanted to go to USC. So I did. I always
wanted to rush a sorority. So I did. I always wanted to
live in a sorority house. So I did. I always wanted to
get a degree in English. So I did."
Recently her mother was diagnosed with multiple
sclerosis, so Julie got a special bucket-seat tricycle to
cycle the 100-mile Bay to Bay Bike Tour, raising
money for research while training.
Julie still sees everything with double vision. Her
balance is poor. And she still relies mostly on her
wheelchair, which she uses to tool around the UCI
campus, her dog on her lap.
She sometimes buys candy in bulk and then sells it to
raise funds for SupportAbility. She also stages monthly
golf fund-raisers, writes appeals letters and holds a
Valentine's Day tea.
She also serves on the Irvine Residents with Disabilities Advisory Board and she writes a free newsletter called EmpowerAbility.
"I was going to charge $10 a year but then I found out
the people I really want to read this really don't have
$10, so it's my pleasure," she said.
Julie doesn't want to be considered a Pollyanna. "I
have my down days, believe me. But I remember
when I was in the hospital, someone told me, 'The
world just keeps revolving.'"
It might seem like a mean thing to say to someone who
woke up to find a wheelchair next to their bed. But it
struck a comforting chord with Julie. "It's always going to
be going around," Julie says. "You just have to catch
Or as Julie's Aunt would put it, if you have something
negative to say, don't come in.
Awards honor Barton's spirit
The Clara Barton Spectrum Awards
are named in honor of Clara Barton,
who founded the American Red Cross
in 1881. She recognized the need for
disaster relief services after the Civil
War. During that war, she was called
"Angel of the Battlefield" for the care
she gave wounded soldiers.
• Clara Barton was born in North
Oxford, Mass., in 1821. She was first
a teacher, then the first female clerk at
the U.S. Patent Office. She learned
about the International Committee of
the Red Cross while recuperating in
Switzerland from her wartime work.
• The Orange County Chapter of the
American Red Cross was officially
recognized in 1965, but the American
Red Cross has provided services to
the community since 1898 when a
small group of Santa Ana women
gathered to send bandages and other
medical supplies to soldiers fighting
in the Spanish-American War.
• In February 1917, Newport Beach
became the home of the first Orange
• The Clara Barton Spectrum Awards
recognize women who have
demonstrated the same tireless effort
and pioneering spirit of Clara Barton.
Other winners of the 2002 Clara Barton Spectrum Awards
Youth: Veronique Robert. The Woodbridge High
School senior and member of the track team organized
the first-ever track and field training camp for the Dwarf
Athletic Association of America. The Irvine teen also
started a program called "If the Shoe Fits Take It,"
which collects single floor-display running shoes for
leg-amputee athletes from local retailers.
Humanitarian: Fran Andrada is fondly called "the Oak
View Angel," by Oak View residents, for all the volunteering
she has done to improve the Huntington Beach neighborhood's
quality of life.
Health Care: Gloria Reyes co-founded ABRAZAR, which
furnishes health care, social and educational services to thousands
of low-income people in Westminster, Garden Grove and Fountain
Valley. The Westminster woman raised $1 million to build ABRAZAR
a community center and another $1.5 million to develop affordable
housing for low-income people.
Art: Laurie Zagon, of Dana Point, has held free art
workshops for 20 years to help poor people, those with
chronic and life-threatening illnesses and caregivers cope
with grief, stress and loss. In 2000, she incorporated the
nonprofit Arts & Creativity for Healing. This year she trained
60 artists, educators and therapists to take the program
Education: For 29 years Nancy Lawrence has
nurtured the Color It Orange program, a community arts
education program that encourages students to submit
artwork for jury and exhibition. In 1974, 470 kids participated.
Last year 4,500 submitted work. Lawrence lives in Monarch Bay.
Preservation: Stephanie Barger is executive director
of the Earth Resource Foundation in Costa Mesa, which promotes
activities to save the Earth. She works with schools and mobilizes
Volunteer Group: Friends of Canyon Acres Society of
Anaheim Hills has raised $1 million to aid Canyon Acres Children's
Services for abused and neglected kids since forming in 1985.
Elizabeth Dole Glass Ceiling Award: Gayle Jones started
at the construction company Snyder Langston as a receptionist,
scheduler, secretary, mail clerk. Nine years later the Irvine woman
was partner. She has opened the door for women in the