Sheri Melander-Smith, MBA
Speaker, TV Host, Former International Model

Sheri Melander-SmithABOUT SHERI:

Sheri Melander-Smith is a highly sought-after inspirational and motivational keynote speaker. In her presentation, Sheri describes how she went from being a disabled child, to an international fashion model and soap opera actress.  Sheri went on to graduate with a BA in psychology from UCLA.  Sheri also went to graduate school and received her MBA degree.  Later in life however, the disability came back and has left her in a wheelchair.  Sheri has since created a new life for herself.  Today Sheri is not only extremely successful, she also beams with a radiant joy and has found real happiness.

Sheri shares her story in a down-to-earth, authentic and heartwarming style.  Sheri’s incredible life journey mesmerizes audience members with its ups and downs, twists and turns. 

Sheri understands how to overcome enormous obstacles and setbacks.  After hearing Sheri speak, your audience will gain a

* new perspective
renewed hope that anything is possible
* empowered belief of "I CAN"
* refueled endurance to "Never Give Up"
* sense of inspiration to make the best of any situation.






The story begins shortly after Sheri was born, her parents noticed that one of her legs was growing longer than the other.  When Sheri was 6 she had an operation that stunted the growth in her longer leg and soon her legs grew even in length.  When Sheri was 17 she had cosmetic procedure to further enhance the appearance of her legs.  It wasn’t until Sheri was in her 30’s that an official diagnosis of Klippel Trenaunay Weber was made.  



Sheri’s interest in show business started in her early teens.  Beginning when she won a full scholarship to attend the Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis at 14.  Self determined, she mailed her school pictures to a local agent and was soon sent on auditions.  Her first audition, for a television commercial, she landed.  On September 25th, 1980, on her 15th birthday, a star was born. 



Shortly after her 18th birthday Sheri entered and won the Eileen Ford New York “Face of the 80’s” competition (Midwest region), the predecessor for “Supermodel of the World” contest.  Her roommate at the Ford’s personal home was Christy Turlington. Modeling in New York, catapulted Sheri into the world of high fashion modeling.  As her career progressed she had the opportunity to travel and work all around the world.  In addition to modeling, Sheri continued to pursue her acting career and appeared in many television commercials, small parts in movies, along with a stint on the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful”.  All of Sheri’s childhood dreams had come true, including falling in love with a real European Prince. 


Then, on December 16th, 1990, Sheri’s life took a cruel turn.  Living in Los Angeles at the time, Sheri got a call to come home because her father was seriously ill.  Shortly after arriving home, Sheri’s father, Keith Melander, died.  Only several hours later, Sheri herself had to be rushed to the emergency room for a spinal cord aneurysm.  The Dr.’s told her she might never walk again. 


Sheri has what she has called a “vision” in the hospital room.  From that point forward, she knew everything would be okay.  Nine grueling months of therapy later, Sheri was back in Los Angeles, this time to attend UCLA to receive a degree in psychology.  Sheri never returned to modeling or her famous boyfriend.


For the next several years, Sheri’s life was filled with “a college experience”.  Graduating from UCLA was a dream come true for Sheri.  Within 1996, Sheri graduated from college, got married, moved to Minnesota and had a beautiful baby boy whom she named Oliver.  Within one more year, Sheri was divorced.  Single motherhood kept her busy as she was happily raising her son Oliver.  Sheri decided to attend graduate school in 2001 and graduated with her MBA in 2004.  Sheri finally felt like her life had reached the pinnacle of success.  She had a wonderful career as a Principle Planning Analyst in a governmental role.  Oliver was growing into a smart, well behaved boy and everything seemed to be back on track.


Sheri started to notice that she was limping and it wasn’t until that she fell on the floor one day that she decided to go to the Dr.  After an MRI, Sheri found out that the AVM had returned.  Not only did it return but it had grown larger and was bulging out at one part, ready to rupture.  Sheri needed treatment and fast.  The procedure was high risk because the vascular malformation was located on the spinal cord nerve roots.  After some research, Sheri decided to see a Dr. in Canada to embolize the AVM.  The surgery didn’t help Sheri to walk better but did stop the neurological regression.  At this point, Sheri was walking with two canes but the prognosis was that good health was to be expected for several years until treatment was needed again.


Sheri continued with her research and found a Dr. in Phoenix Arizona.  He is a world renowned surgeon and Sheri trusted that he could help.  Most other Dr.’s wouldn’t even take the case.  Sheri did receive a second opinion at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, There; she was given a 10% chance of paralysis for removing the AVM.  The chance of anything going wrong in Phoenix was 2% and the Dr. had never had a patient who wasn’t doing better than before the surgery.  Sheri decided the best course of action would be to have the AVM removed so that she would not have to deal with this again in the future, or have it rupture unexpectedly. Sheri trusted her Dr. and felt assured that everything would be okay.


Everything was not okay.  When Sheri awoke from the surgery in October of 2005, she could not move or feel either of her legs.  She woke up a paraplegic.  Because of the location of the AVM pain emulated from the nerve roots that left Sheri bed bound for an entire year.  Curled up in the fetal position, Sheri contemplated life and decided that she was going to live the best life possible regardless of her disability. 

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Over the last several years, Sheri has continued with her physical therapy and has recovered most of the feeling back in both legs.  Sheri still cannot support her own body weight however.  Sheri has decided to live the best life possible regardless of her disability.  

Sheri currently fills her time by:·       

1)  Co-founder and Executive Director for Simply Artable.  A nonprofit that brings art programming and summer camps to children with disabilities.


2)  Volunteer for activists groups at the Capitol of Minnesota.

3)  Participate in the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.

4)  Host of Living Forward.  An award winning cable TV Show.

5)  Author of several disability articles.


6)  Writing a Book on her amazing life story.

Sheri is a living example of possibility thinking mixed with the right attitude of “Never Give Up”.

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