When she was fourteen years old, Sarah Lashbrook’s life changed in an instant. A Christmas Eve visit to her aunt’s home in Sudbury just an hour’s car ride away turned into a nightmare when her parents’ car was hit head-on. The accident took her father’s life and left her mom with traumatic brain injury, and Sarah a paraplegic.
“Right after the accident my head was in survivor mode. I wasn’t thinking about the future. I didn’t really see a future for myself. I was injured. That was my future. That was the only future I could see.”
Now, more than 20 years later, Sarah is living her full potential as a successful writer, wife, and mother of two, credits Sunshine for helping her realize her dream and find her passion and purpose in life.
After the accident, Sarah spent two and a half years in hospitals, learning how to live a new life in a wheelchair and take care of herself and her mother. Despite having the support of aunts, friends, and medical professionals, she struggled to stay positive.
“I had a physiotherapist who said to me ‘You have every right to spend the next 10 years of your life miserable and frustrated. You can also spend that next 10 years laughing and enjoying life. Whichever way you choose is fine, but just remember at the end of those 10 years you’re still going to be paraplegic. So how do you want to live?’ It was the best thing I could have heard in that moment.”
Following that realization, Sarah had another life-changing moment when a nurse introduced her to Sunshine and encouraged her to apply for a dream. Sarah, who had begun sending letters to soap operas at the age of 10 asking them to hire her as a writer, decided to ask Sunshine for a “behind-the-scenes” dream come true.
“I always had a passion for writing. When I wrote, I got to explore and go to the places I wanted to escape to,” says Sarah, whose dream was to meet actress and comedienne Roseanne Barr in Los Angeles, California. In addition to being a creative inspiration for her, Barr had also suffered a head injury in an accident and had become a role model for her.
Sunshine sent Sarah and a friend to LA for a five-day adventure and arranged for her to visit the set of the show and meet Barr in person. It was on that set that Sarah says she realized what she was meant to do with her life.
“I got to see behind the scenes of a show being created and I had a script of written words in my hand. I watched them develop that and it came to life before my eyes. I realized that’s something I’m capable of and it had nothing to do with my wheelchair. It had nothing to do with my disability or my accident or the trauma. That all didn’t matter,” she explains. “At no point did I think ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can do this because I’m a paraplegic’. That wasn’t even a thought. It was this overwhelming sense of ‘This is who I am. This is who I’m going to be’.”
Since then, Sarah hasn’t looked back. She returned from her dream trip determined to succeed in school and in life. In high school, she earned a national scholarship from Global Television that enabled her to complete the Journalism Program at Humber College and included a two year internship at the station. Her successful writing career includes the publication of the novel Where the Stream and Creek Collide, a subsequent screenplay based on the novel, a short film titled Dearly Not So Departed, as well as numerous articles and news features.
In addition to her writing career and busy home life, Sarah also spends time giving speeches and volunteers for Sunshine, raising awareness about Sunshine’s mission and 30+ year history, sharing her story and spreading the message about the power of a Sunshine dream.
“When I look back now at where I came from to where I am, the definite changing point was the dream. It was the switch – the ‘on’ switch for who I am and for who I’ve become. A dream isn’t just an experience or a trip. It’s an impact on a child – on a life. “
“My trip wasn’t just a trip to meet Roseanne. It gave me passion. It gave me a future. It gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an identity that wasn’t about my disability. I can’t be any more grateful than I am now for what it’s given me,” she says. “Something I truly believe from the bottom of my heart is that the doctors saved my life, but Sunshine saved my soul.”