Jefferson Award winner, September 2016: Monica Kamal - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Jefferson Award winner, September 2016: Monica Kamal

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MCFARLAND (WKOW) - Monica Kamal became paralyzed in a skiing accident 16 years ago.

"It was dusk, there were a lot of kids on the slope. A couple of kids were snowboarding and they came out, I went to miss them and as I missed them, my ski caught the side of the slope. I fell, I hit a tree, I broke my back and I severed my spinal cord."

Monica is now paralyzed from the chest down and bound to a wheelchair.

"I knew I still needed to be a mom, I still needed to contribute to society and I still needed to do the things that I love to do. The question was, how to do it? Volunteering has always been a part of my spirit."

It's that spirit that's kept Monica active outdoors, even back on the slopes.

"It's where I found peace."

Now, she's helping others find that.

Monica started the Madison Spinal Cord Injury group a decade ago to raise awareness of the challenges people with disabilities face.

Ayla Annac, with InvivoSciences, has often partnered with Monica in that effort and says, "She has been a really great voice and a strong voice for spinal cord injury."

"I've worked in being a spokesperson to talk to various government agencies," says Monica.

She also founded Access Ability Wisconsin.

Through that organization, Monica secures grants to make adaptive wheelchairs, kayaks and hand cycles available to rent, free of charge in Madison.

"When you're outdoors, with a disability, it really helps you to decrease depression, to increase socialization, not feel so isolated and really feel like you're living life again," she says.

Her efforts earned her nationwide recognition.

This year, she won the Pathfinder Award from the Safari Club International Foundation.

It's only given to two people in the country every year, to honor their lifetime achievements.

"In 42 years, there's only been one other woman that's been awarded that."

Annac says, "She is an inspiration to me. She is an inspiration to my children. She's an inspiration to everybody."

Monica's volunteering even extends into the classroom, where she's tutored students in math and reading for more than 20 years.

"It makes me feel that I have value and I think that's the most important thing for any individual. We can contribute to society when we find that area where we find value."

There are even more challenges Monica has overcome.

She's also competed in two marathons using her hand cycle.

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