Former NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence

Former NASA Astronaut Wendy Lawrence to Serve as Keynote Speaker at Paralyzed Veterans of America’s 2024 Igniting Change Gala

Post Date: March 21, 2024
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WASHINGTON, March 21, 2024  -- Paralyzed Veterans of America today announced retired NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence as the keynote speaker at PVA's Igniting Change Gala on April 12 at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Lawrence was the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to fly into space and she has four space shuttle missions under her belt. In addition to her inspiring career with NASA, she is also a retired U.S. Navy Captain, engineer, and helicopter pilot.

During the program, Lawrence will share memories of her time in space and highlights from her career with the Navy and NASA. Lawrence will also discuss the barriers she overcame and the experiences she had as a female leader, as well as recognize the grace and grit of the women of PVA and all female veterans. 

"As a veteran and former NASA astronaut, Wendy Lawrence is a trailblazing inspiration to us all," said Carl Blake, Chief Executive Officer for Paralyzed Veterans of America. "We are honored to have Captain Lawrence as our keynote speaker and eager to hear how her experiences can help shape PVA's mission in support of our women members and all veterans moving forward."

PVA's Igniting Change Gala will celebrate Women Veterans, influencers, and innovators – like Lawrence – who work hard to create an inclusive world in the areas of accessibility, employment, and medical care. The star-studded affair will feature entertainment by award-winning country music artist Martina McBride and bring together industry, government, and the public sector to honor those leading the fight for disability civil rights. Sports broadcasting icon Hannah Storm will serve as emcee and sports industry pioneer Bonnie-Jill Laflin will be a special guest speaker. Among the evening's honorees are the Target Corporation, which will receive PVA's 2024 Inclusivity Award. Many more honorees, special guests, and presenters will be unveiled in the days ahead. 

The gala is made possible by a variety of generous sponsors and supporters, including the Jeffrey M. Carlton Foundation, Penske Automotive Group, Penske Truck Leasing, and TriWest Healthcare Alliance.

Companies or individuals who wish to learn more about PVA's Igniting Change Gala, become a sponsor, or purchase a table should contact or visit PVA photos will be available upon request, please contact PVA's Director of Marketing & Communications, Oname Thompson, at (703) 864-5980 or for more information.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or diseases. The organization ensures veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitors their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funds research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis. As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, PVA also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families, and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at

About Wendy Lawrence
Retired U.S. Navy Captain Wendy Lawrence is an engineer, helicopter pilot, and former NASA astronaut. Lawrence graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Ocean Engineering before becoming a Naval Aviator and logging more than 1,500 hours of flight time. She earned a Master of Science in Ocean Engineering from the MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. She was also selected by NASA for astronaut training in 1992 and has flown on four space shuttle missions. Her last spaceflight aboard Discovery was the first Shuttle "Return-to-Flight" mission after the Columbia accident.