As a teenager, Joni loved life. She enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and loved to swim. But on a hot summer day in July 1967 (Sunday July 30) that all changed. While on a beach with some friends, Joni dove into Chesapeake Bay not knowing how shallow the water was. She broke her neck—a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels—and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. While her friends were preparing to go to college in the fall, Joni was fighting for her life and facing the fact that she would have to live the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Joni’s rehabilitation was not easy, and she struggled through it for the next two years. She was angry, struggled with depression, and had frequent thoughts of suicide. Her book relates her questions of how God let this happen to her. She participated in various rehabilitation programs that taught her how to live with her disabilities, and says she immersed herself in the Bible to become spiritually strong.
Despite her severe disability, she has led an adventurous life. She has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in a major autobiographical movie of her life and is actively involved as an advocate for disabled people. During her two years of rehabilitation, Tada learned how to paint with a brush between her teeth, and later began selling her artwork.
Tada wrote of her experiences in her 1976 international best-selling autobiography, Joni , The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression, which has been distributed in many languages, and which was made into a 1979 feature film of the same name, starring herself, which told of her accident, struggles and subsequent life. Her second book, A Step Further, was released in 1978.
Tada founded Joni and Friends (JAF) in 1979, an organization for Christian ministry in the disabled community throughout the world. The organization grew into the establishment in 2006 of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center (IDC). The building was designed by Vincent Dyer AIA and the interiors were designed by Gensler and Associates.
Joni and her husband Ken Tada have been married since 1982. In 2001, Mr. Tada received Family Life Ministries’ Robertson McQuilken Award honoring “The Courageous Love of a Marriage Covenant Keeper.” Mr. Tada retired from 32 years of teaching in 2004 to work with his wife. Ken Tada, along with Joni, are permanent members of the International Board of Directors of Joni and Friends.
Led by Tada and President and COO Doug Mazza, the Joni and Friends International Disability Center has four flagship programs. Joni and Friends, a daily five minute radio program, is heard over 1,000 broadcast outlets. In 2002 it received the “Radio Program of the Year” award from National Religious Broadcasters. The organization offers family retreats. Wheels for the World collects wheelchairs, which are refurbished by prison inmates and donated to developing nations where, whenever possible, physical therapists fit each chair to a needy disabled child or adult.
In 2005, Tada was appointed to the Disability Advisory Committee of the U.S. State Department.
Tada is a conference speaker. Her articles have been published in Christianity Today, Today’s Christian Woman, The War Cry (Salvation Army), and newspapers around the world. Tada has appeared four times on Larry King Live.
In November 2009, Tada signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox Christians not to comply with rules and laws permitting abortion, same-sex marriage, and other matters that go against their religious consciences.
On June 23, 2010 Tada announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She also announced she was scheduled to have a major surgery on Monday, June 28, 2010. Tada emerged successfully from breast cancer surgery and is hopeful of a positive prognosis. (biography via Wikipedia)