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|Joni Eareckson Tada|
October 15, 1949 |
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Occupation||Author, artist, singer, radio personality, advocate for the disabled|
Joni Eareckson Tada (born October 15, 1949) is an evangelical Christian, author, radio host, and founder of Joni and Friends, an organization "accelerating Christian ministry in the disability community."
Joni was named for her father, thus her name is pronounced "Johnny" rather than the more conventional pronunciation for that spelling: "Joanie." John Eareckson, Tada's father, was honored as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1996 and participated in the 1932 Olympics as an alternate for the United States wrestling team.
With the example of her parents, Tada lived a very active life all through her growing up years. Tada enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and swimming. On July 30, 1967, she dove into the Chesapeake Bay after misjudging the shallowness of the water. She suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic (or tetraplegic), paralyzed from the shoulders down.
During her two years of rehabilitation, according to her autobiography Joni, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts. However, during occupational therapy, Tada learned to paint with a brush between her teeth, and began selling her artwork. She also writes this way, although for most writing tasks she relies on voice recognition software. To date, she has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for people with disabilities.
Tada wrote of her experiences in her 1976 international best-selling autobiography, Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman's struggle against quadriplegia & depression, which has been distributed in many languages. The book was made into a 1979 feature film of the same name, starring herself. Her second book, A Step Further, was released in 1978.
She married Ken Tada in 1982. For many years, Ken was a high school history teacher and coach, though he is now retired. Ken is sansei, meaning that he is the second generation to be born in the United States after his family relocated from Japan. Ken and Joni live in Calabasas, California.
In 2010, Tada announced that she had been diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Her treatment proved successful, and she was declared cancer free in 2015.
Tada founded Joni and Friends in 1979, an organization to "accelerate Christian ministry in the disability community" throughout the world. In 2007 the Joni and Friends International Disability Center in Agoura Hills, California, was established.
Led by Tada and Doug Mazza (President and COO), the Joni and Friends International Disability Center runs a multi-faceted non-profit covering a number of program outlets. The longest running program is "Joni and Friends Radio", a five-minute radio program begun in 1982. It now runs four minutes in length and can be heard each weekday on over 1,000 broadcast outlets. Tada also records a one-minute radio broadcast "Diamonds in the Dust" that airs daily. Both programs have received awards: "Joni and Friends Radio" received the “Radio Program of the Year” award from National Religious Broadcasters in 2002 and "Diamonds in the Dust" won the same award in 2010 in the short program category.
Other Joni and Friends programs include Family Retreats (a camp/retreat experience for families affected by disability), Wounded Warrior Getaways (which offer a similar experience for families of Wounded Warriors), and Wheels for the World (collects manual wheelchairs and other mobility devices which are refurbished by volunteers in prison restoration shops then shipped overseas where the wheelchairs are fitted by physical therapists to people in developing nations). Joni and Friends also has produced 51 episodes of Joni and Friends TV, overseen the formation of the Christian Institute on Disability (a training and advocacy arm of Joni and Friends), among other ventures. While the main office of Joni and Friends still resides in Agoura Hills, California, smaller offices can be found across the United States.
In 2005, Tada was appointed to the Disability Advisory Committee of the U.S. State Department.
Tada is a conference speaker. Her articles have been published in Christianity Today, Today's Christian Woman, The War Cry (Salvation Army), and newspapers around the world. Tada has appeared four times on Larry King Live.
In November 2009, Tada signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox Christians to work towards changing laws which permit abortion, and other matters that go against their religious consciences.
Tada has received The American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award; The Courage Award from the Courage Rehabilitation Center; The Award of Excellence from the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center; The Victory Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital; The Golden Word Award from the International Bible Society. She is inducted into the Christian Booksellers Association's Hall of Honor. In 2002, Tada received the William Ward Ayer Award for excellence from the National Religious Broadcasters’ Association. In 2003 she was given the Gold Medallion Award for her book When God Weeps. In 2004 she was awarded the Gold Medallion Award for co-authoring Hymns for a Kid’s Heart, Volume 1.
Tada was given the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. She was also named "Churchwoman of the Year" in 1993 by the Religious Heritage Foundation and was the first woman to be honored by the National Association of Evangelicals as their "Layperson of the Year." In 2009, Tada was inducted into Indiana Wesleyan University's Society of World Changers.
She also holds the following degrees:
Tada is the author of over 48 books on the subjects of disability and Christianity. Several of them have been children's books, including Tell Me The Promises, which received the Evangelical Publishers’ Association’s Gold Medallion and Silver Medal in the 1997 C.S. Lewis Awards, and Tell Me The Truth, which received the EPCA Gold Medallion in 1998.
Tada received media attention in 2014 for her performance of the title song from the Christian film Alone Yet Not Alone. While the song's writers initially received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song, the nomination was later revoked for what the Academy deemed improper campaigning by the composer, Bruce Broughton. Some controversy followed this decision, and subsequent media attention helped the song's official YouTube video, featuring Tada, surpass one million views.
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