Little Miss Sunshine in the World of 2020

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11Dave Bender introduces Shawn during UCP’s Humanitarian dinner in 2013

Little Miss Sunshine in the World of 2020

2020 has been filled with inconveniences for all of us. COVID-19 has limited our ability to travel, shop and visit with friends, and it’s forced us to rethink the way we go about our days. For individuals with developmental difficulties, it’s added another hurdle to a life already filled with challenges.

Yet when we spoke with Shawn Harr, a client of UCP’s Community Living and Support Program, we didn’t hear any complaints. Instead, we were inspired by her sense of resilience in a time of the unknown.  For an individual with cerebral palsy confined to a wheelchair, COVID-19 has changed the way Shawn goes about her day.

However, her sense of purpose made us realize that life is short, and even though it’s a little different than normal, it’s important to take it day by day and be thankful for all that we have, and with a little support, we can get through anything!

The following excerpts are from our recent interview with Shawn:

How do you cope with what is happening in the world?

“Everybody thinks they should be happy, and I am. At least I try to be. Sometimes I feel very anxious. I feel anxious when nothing goes right for me and the world. I don’t want to talk about religion, but God is helping me through all of this. I have a supportive church, family, and friends.”

Are there ways that help you cope?

“I like to keep learning. It helps me be positive.  Right now, I am doing tracing.  I have a lightbox and I put a picture on the light box.  Then I put a plain piece of paper on top of that.  I trace the picture.  One of my goals is to improve my hand movements so I can control them better.  As I get better with tracing the better, I feel.

I am grateful for online video calls. I really enjoy seeing and chatting with my family and their children. Otherwise, I would really miss them. Especially, the children who grow up so fast.  I also try to live up to the name I gave myself, “Little Miss Sunshine”.  I want to be happy and share my happiness with others.”

Describe how this stay-in-place time has affected you?

“It is like a nightmare.  Can this quarantine really be happening?  I want to resume my weight training.  The weight training helps me keep moving, which is important when I live in a wheelchair.  My sister is going to take me to the location for the weight training.  But I am nervous about going back. I do not want to risk getting the virus. I have an appointment with my Doctor on Zoom to make sure I am ready to resume my workout. Nothing is simple.”

What makes you feel unhappy?

“I used to go shopping by myself. I guess I could go grocery shopping. But right now, with the pandemic it is very hard to go places by myself. I don’t go out because I do not want to get the virus. Most of my days are all the same. It is like living in the movie “Ground Hog Day”. I love people and I really miss not being able to hug people anymore. “

Do you have support?

“I am grateful for the help I receive. I need help every day.  During the week I have a In-Home Supportive Services worker and on the weekends, I have a new company, A New Way of Living, helping me.  Alta Regional helps with equipment. I really appreciate the people who help from these agencies.  I would not be as good as I am today without their help.

I appreciate the help of UCP Community Living and Support Team and Patricia. They help me get the services I need. I would not be as good as I am today without their help.”

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Well, I really don’t have anything else to say except that God watches over us all.  I feel very, very honored to be with UCP and to share my story.


UCP’s Community Living and Support Program is designed to ensure Shawn has the tools to maintain her independence.  The program has helped Shawn with the skills to interview and select workers from other agencies who assist her. Shawn loves to bake, so UCP provides the training for cooking and works to find the best adaptive kitchen tools that fit her hands. UCP staff helps find new recipes for her to try while enabling her to cook some of her Mom’s favorite dishes. She’s learning how to grocery shop and purchase healthy foods at good prices.

In addition, UCP team members play an important role in health care by attending medical appointments so that she can better understand her care and ask questions. Learning how to be independent is important for Shawn. She wants to feel her best and appreciates UCP’s friendly reminders of what the doctor recommends for her good health.

UCP & Shawn – A Long History of Success

Shawn has been with UCP since 2006. During that time, she has told her story at the 2013 UCP Humanitarian of the Year, where she was thrilled to be introduced by one of her favorite weather forecasters, Dave Bender of KOVR (CBS-TV). She was also on national TV’s The Voice in 2019, when a UCP Transportation driver was featured.

Shawn’s sister, Christine, believes UCP has made all the difference for Shawn. When she and her husband were no longer able to help Shawn, she worried about Shawn’s future.  The last thing she wanted was for Shawn to be cooped up and isolated. Now, because of UCP’s support, she sees Shawn living independently, thriving, and staying connected to her family and community.

Final Note

Shawn’s interviewer had this to say, “Her positivity was contagious. She’s always inspired me, and she did so again during this interview. She could so easily give up but she refuses to do so. She keeps moving ahead with her life and spreading happiness wherever she goes. She really is Little Miss Sunshine.”

Interviewed by Stephen Horton Director, Development and Marketing UCP of Sacramento and Northern California.