Adoptee and Miss Fresno County, Elita Damron, is using her platform to represent and advocate for children with special needs who are waiting to be adopted.
As she takes to the stage, Elita Damron reaches up to her ears and then sets something down on top of the piano before sitting down to play.
Her fingers travel furiously up and down the keyboard, playing Solfeggietto in C minor by C.P.E Bach — an impressively quick piece that seems to span every octave. But what makes it even more impressive is what the audience learns at the end — that she did it all without her hearing aids.
This performance was part of Elita’s latest competition in the Miss America Opportunity – where she was awarded Miss Fresno County. Her platform is one that is encompassed by her piano performance and who she is as an Asian American adoptee with a disability: Disability doesn’t mean inability.
Elita was adopted from China at 1 year old into her family in California. But it wasn’t until she was 3 years old that she was diagnosed with severe bilateral hearing loss.
“No one really notices that I have a disability unless I tell them,” Elita says. “It’s never been something that’s held me back, and I’ve lived my life to prove people wrong about people with my disability — people with disabilities are so capable of so many amazing things!”
Elita herself is a horseback riding trail guide, personal trainer and musician, and hopes to go into the medical field one day. She also hopes she can be a role model for others like herself, because she never quite had anyone similar she could look up to.
“There’s no one who I would wholeheartedly say, ‘I see myself in that person,’ because I’m an Asian American adoptee living with a disability,” Elita says. “So maybe getting to be that for a demographic that hasn’t had a voice and hasn’t had a person? It’s the coolest thing.”
As an adoptee, the chance to advocate for adoption and represent children with disabilities is especially meaningful to her, because she knows that it’s primarily these children who are waiting for a family today through international adoption. And she believes they deserve the same opportunities as any other child.
While prospective adoptive parents may be unsure or intimidated about what raising a child with special needs could look like, she wants to show that it may look different than they think. And as she speaks, acts and advocates on behalf their behalf, she uses herself as an example.
“There are so many amazing things that children with disabilities are capable of,” Elita says. “I want to highlight that and show that disability does not mean inability — and I hope to kind of change this as it pertains to adoption. I want to be that bridge and open the floor to conversation about this.”
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