Bio

Ambitious. Determined. Motivated. Jen Onsum is a motivational speaker, consultant, model and advocate with the tenacity and drive of a tri-athlete, packaged with the poise and grace of a supermodel.

A two-time Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota USA (2013 and 2014), First Runner Up to Ms. Wheelchair USA (2014) and former Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota America (2003), Jen, of Brooklyn Park, Minn., strives to move people to make change – in their own life, in someone else’s life or in their community.

Jen Onsum Judd Sather PhotographyAt first glance, someone might just see a wheelchair. But look again and they’ll see Jen’s flowing blonde hair and sense of style. And that’s the double take Jen strives for – she doesn’t want people just seeing a disability, but rather the person in that wheelchair, who likes to keep up with fashion trends, has personality and who is capable.

Diagnosed at the age 18 months, Jen is just one of the faces of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic neuromuscular disease that affects muscles throughout the body, but cognitive abilities are not affected. Despite her diagnosis, Jen has remained active and believes those who are disabled are just as capable of being active as able-bodied people.

After graduating from Robbinsdale Armstrong High School, where she was a decorated member of DECA, Jen attended the University of St. Thomas, obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in journalism. There she was a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma national service sorority and the Public Relations Student Society of America. Later, she attended Minnesota State Community & Technical College, earning an Associates of Applied Science in health information technology. Onsum has spent most of her professional career in public relations and social media. Currently she provides creative consulting services to companies and organizations, while also speaking at companies, organizations and events.

As an adult with a disability and in her role as Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota USA, Jen strives to be heard. Jen believes in being a self advocate. She believes that the best way for people to learn is to hear from and see those who are doing. Jen advocates for herself and others – and encourages others to do the same – in order to help others not only understand the needs of those who living with disabilities, but also their capabilities.

Jen is also passionate about sharing her story and experiences to motivate and inspire others (whether or not they have a disability) to pursue their own goals and dreams, realize their full potential and to live “the good life.”

Having been very active her whole life, Jen is a firm believer in getting out and finding something to do or be involved in, because she believes it will help one to have a healthy attitude. Jen believes attitude is everything, no matter what life brings.

Jen Onsum with Minnesota Viking Kyle Rudolph

This passionate advocate for people with disabilities practices what she preaches. One thing you can’t call Jen’s lifestyle is boring. Jen is out and about constantly, whether it’s at concerts, sporting events, fundraising events and other social opportunities.

When not working or playing hockey, Jen is a tireless and passionate volunteer. Jen currently volunteers for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in an advocacy and mentorship role.  Other organizations she keeps has kept busy with are the Minnesota PowerHockey League as Assistant Commissioner, board member, captain, player and press secretary. In 2012 she was a student dancer with the Young Dance Company.

Jen is the youngest of three, with older brothers Marcus and Steve (championship winning coaches for the Robbinsdale Robins Adapted Athletics).

Throughout her teen years, Jen played three sports – soccer, floor hockey and softball through the Robbinsdale School District, earning varsity letter during her time as a high school athlete. After high school, Jen continued her athleticism with PowerHockey, a sport she has participated in for the last 18 years. Through the PowerHockey organization, Jen has traveled to numerous states and Canada to compete in tournaments with other talented PowerHockey players. Many of the other PowerHockey players are men, but Jen still maintains her feisty and girlie presence while in the heat of competition.

Jen Onsum Bryden Giving PhotographyJen loves traveling and has been to eleven countries (so far), and is always seeking out new opportunities, experiences and adventures, especially ones that people think someone with her physical limitations cannot do.

Nothing holds Jen back from living “the good life” and believes nothing should hold you back, either.