Starla Hilliard Barnes
By taking a first glance into Starla's life you would never know that she is a T4 paraplegic. You constantly see pictures of her boating, skiing, kayaking, horseback riding, zip-lining ect... The list could go on for ever but that's not why I am here. Starla grew up as a very active child. She played almost every sport you can think of and on top of that add cheer-leading, dance and gymnastics while keeping a high G.P.A. Her family spent the summers on the lake wake-boarding, knee boarding, and skiing ect. and if they weren't at their families lake house. Then they were camping, dirt biking, fishing, hunting or traveling. Her parents tried giving them a diverse lifestyle. Teaching them to try everything and to give everyone they meet an opportunity. Almost everyone that I came in contact with about Starla would tell you that she is the most selfless, loyal and loving person.
Life wasn't always this way for the Hilliard Family. They are no strangers to the trials of this life. Starla at an early age learned that you can loose the ones you love and your life can change in an instant. This is one of the many reasons why Zeph and Wendy decided to move the kids back from Santa Barbara to the their home town Kalispell. They wanted the best life for their children and California wasn't giving it to them. While their they endured their house burning down, earth quakes ect. Wendy and Zeph didn't want the kids to grow up around the crime that they were surrounded with. So, Zeph and Wendy packed everything up and moved the family back home, but what they didn't know was life was going to take another turn. Starla's father, Zeph, was crushed in a collapsed building in 1993. He wasn't supposed to make it through the night but as miraculous as our lord is he gave Zeph another opportunity at life. Her mother, Wendy, was working three jobs just to keep the family fed and to pay the bills. Over the next few years things would become very difficult. The family moved to Havre, So, Zeph could accomplish getting his Civil Engineering degree and her Mother (LPN). Only there a few short years Wendy, Zj (Starla's brother) and Starla would have to return to the Flathead due to renters destroying their home. Zeph over the next few years while going to school would travel back and forth between Kalispell and Havre to see Wendy and the children. (There are a lot more trials in this time period, but I don't want to bore you.)
After Zeph graduated he returned home. Things were starting to look up for the family. During all of this Zeph and Wendy always put the children first. They gave them an active lifesyle and always reminded them that the lord would not give them any more then they could handle. The next few years seemed blissful compared to the first few years of Starla's life. Zeph and Wendy are phenomenal parents. They pushed Starla to follow all of her dreams from Modeling all the way to graduating early from highschool. But, as parents they could never be prepared for what was going to happen next in Starla's life. You think when you marry of your daughter that she is going to be well taken care of and loved. Starla went through three years of abuse until she had enough and told her husband she was leaving, but that didn't stop him from hitting her over the head with cane and knocking her out, breaking her back and sternum. Starla needed to escape after this event so she went to manage the Sleep City in Great Falls. After, being a way from her family for a few years she decided to return home. She became a State Farm Agent Producer for Matt Downing State Farm. That Summer, June 23, 2009 Starla went for a ride on her crotch-rocket and a white Chevy Silverado ran a red light. Throwing Starla from her motorcycle. Upon the officer arriving, Starla was moving her legs, but after the EMTs tore off her jacket and took of her helmet her legs stopped moving. They unfortunately never caught the driver, leaving Starla with 1.7 million in hospital bills. Starla's body was so broken up,(she broke everything from t2 to t8, broke eye orbital, clavical, scapula, ribs and punctured her lungs) that the hospital wanted to put Starla in a long term care facility. Her mom refused and brought her back home. Starla returned to work that week and until she learned to do everything over again. Her parent's devoted their time to her. Starla ended up with pneumonia a few weeks later so it was round two in the hospital. After recovering, she returned back to work and traveling for her online business.
"We should never stop rocking, just because we roll!“- Starla Hilliard-Barnes, Ms. Wheelchair Montana 2014 -
Now here comes the best part of Starla's story. She met an amazing man Shannon who never saw the wheelchair just the amazing, ambitious woman in front of him. He quickly fell head over heals for her and asked her to Marry him. They were married on Dec. 10, 2011. That following year they had a beautiful baby girl Elissiah (E-Lee-see-ah).She came two months early, but that didn't stop Elissiah from being a fighter like her mother. Being a little over three pounds Elissiah quickly grew into the smart, opinionated toddler that she it today. Elissiah is the highlight of Starla's day. Starla wanted to make a difference in her community. So she started working on making it more accessible. This is were you come to her winning Ms. Wheelchair MT and starting Moving Forward.