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SEASIDE — After a busy year in 2012, with a new national TV show, Sundance Channel’s “PUSH GIRLS,” and a touring dance troupe, Team Hotwheelz, Chelsie Hill and her roommates Kaitlyn Staten and Maria Gast are expecting an even more exciting 2013.
In early January, Staten (from Florida) and Gast (from Sacramento) moved in to Hill’s Seaside home. It was there that Sundance was recently filming episodes of the second season of PUSH GIRLS, which focuses on the lives of four young, beautiful women who are trying to make a career in the entertainment industry and are paralyzed. Team Hotwheelz is a wheelchair dance group made up of seven ladies with radiant, positive attitudes and a shared passion for dance. Part of the Walk and Roll Foundation, it’s a non-profit established by Chelsie Hill and her father Jon Hill after she was paralyzed in a car accident in 2010 while she was still a high school student in Pacific Grove.
In addition to presentations at schools urging students to make wise choices about drunk or distracted driving, Team Hotwheelz performs hip hop dance routines to inspire others to reach for their dreams, despite the challenges the dancers face.
After spending a week together in October for a dance bootcamp in preparation for a performance at Dance 4 Life in Salinas, members of Team Hotwheelz began toying with the idea of moving closer together. That led to Staten and Gast moving in with Hill.
“Kaitlyn and Maria ended up loving this area and wanting to come here, so they moved in with me,” said Hill. “It’s great to have the girls here so I can have someone to relate to, someone who really understands what we’re all going through. The team has been a huge thing that we can all lean on because we’re all so positive. If someone is feeling down, we can just talk to her and know that it will be fine.”
“We got so close so fast,” said Staten. “I feel like we’re a big family already. I know these girls are going to be my life friends. It’s so awesome to know that I’ve already met people who I know are going to be in my life forever.”
“It’s been a lot of fun moving here,” said Gast. “It’s wild when we’re in the hallways if one is going one way and the other is going another way. We enjoy working out together and talking like normal girls do.”
Gast’s fiance, Fel Ian Rabaino, is able-bodied and has become the jack-of-all-trades for the household.
“Three girls, three wheelchairs, there’s a lot of running around for me to do,” he said. “Hanging things, fixing things, going on the trips. It’s fun. I enjoy it. I get to cook for them, too. I’m a chef, so it’s perfect for me. I’ll usually cook and they’ll do the dishes.”
Since their October performance in Salinas, Team Hotwheelz has maintained a busy schedule that has taken them across the country. The team has recently performed at the San Jose Festival of Human Abilities, the Long Beach Abilities Expo at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and most recently at the Atlanta, Georgia, Abilities Expo Feb. 8 – 10.
“2013 is going to be a really big year for us,” Staten said. “We have events planned every month. We have lots of exciting plans; and we want to hold more dance bootcamps. This summer we want to have a national one so other girls in wheelchairs can come in and we can teach them routines. It would be a really good bonding experience. We have really big dreams.”
The second season of Sundance Channel’s reality television show PUSH Girls will air in June. Hill is one of the spunky, spirited young ladies in wheelchairs featured in the series, which has now been renewed for 14 episodes. Gast and Staten will also be making appearances.
When they aren’t dancing, traveling, speaking or filming television shows, Hill, Staten and Gast focus on working out and keeping themselves fit and healthy.
“We got a few good pieces of equipment for our home so we can do therapy there,” said Staten. “Maria, Chelsie and I are the youngest on the team and I think we’re the most passionate about recovering as much as we can. We have a special bike that gives us electrical stimulation on our legs. We’re going to try to stay as fit as possible.”
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