An Omaha native, Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter was born with stars in her eyes. Her earliest memories are of wanting to perform. Somewhere in the recesses of her mother’s basement lives a Rubbermaid tote with a yellowing picture of toddler Bridgit doing ballet barre exercises on a stair railing.
Between dance, voice and acting lessons, Bridgit kept busy. In high school, she performed in school and local stage productions, including Westside Story, Once Upon a Mattress and Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Her path seemed secure. At 20, she was studying vocal performance at Grace University and upon graduation, had been invited to study at the American Music and Drama Academy in New York City. Then her path jolted and seemed less secure.
At 21, Bridgit was diagnosed with a severe viral infection, pneumonia and septicemia. She finally started to recover after two months in the hospital, rounds of treatments and medications and a revolving door of specialist. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of four, this extended illness compromised her diabetes. Along with other minor health issues, she started to become blind.
She never realized just how independent she was though until she became blind. As soon as her health stabilized, she attended a training center in Des Moines, IA to learn nonvisual skills. She also met her future husband while in training. She graduated from the Iowa Department for the Blind in 2005. In 2006, she married her fiancée, Ross, who is also blind.
After taking a year to figure out what to do, Bridgit enrolled at the University of Nebraska Omaha in its Writers Workshop program. Writing had always been a hobby, but she decided to study it formally. She graduated with her Bachelor of Fine Arts creative writing degree in 2011. She is a literary writer, and has several publication creds but freelances as a PR writer and editor to pay the bills. A huge opportunity came when Live Well Nebraska.com, a sister site for the Omaha World Herald, contracted Bridgit to blog about diabetes and blindness. During her tenure, her blogs were frequently published simultaneously in the Omaha World Herald itself, and she had one of the highest trafficked blogs on the Live Well site.
In 2012, Bridgit and her husband welcomed their first child, a boy, Declan. Declan had complications at birth and developed health issues. Bridgit decided to focus on being a mom for the time being. In 2016, her son started preschool, and she enrolled in UNO’s Master of Fine Arts writing program. During this time, she and Ross had another boy, Duncan. After years of writing and changing diapers in between, she graduated with her Master of Fine Arts degree in 2019.
Bridgit’s involvement in activism in the disability community led to various opportunities including being a spokesmodel for the 2009 Nebraska Medical Center campaign and local news and radio spots about Bridgit. She recently moved her activism to the performing world, advocating for inclusion in the performing arts. Her oldest son is also on the Autism spectrum, so her activism is extending to changing perceptions about Autism. In all her efforts, it’s about giving actual disabled people a voice, ensuring people with disabilities have a seat at the table.
Bridgit’s writing is diverse, but she often focuses on the disabled experience. Two essays published in 2020 address this topic. “The Body” published in Hippocampus literary nonfiction magazine, and “Imperfection” in Random Sample Review. She’s a freelance marketer by day, a creative writer by night. Bridgit is trying to write a collection of personal essays, but amidst loud children who believe every space is their playground, it’s a tedious progress. Look for her memoir on shelves in about a decade.
In her dreams, she’s a Broadway star. In her reality, she’s a late-30-something, mom of two, easing her way back into performing. She loves a good book, but she also loves a good binge session and streams at night once the kiddos are tucked in bed. If you’re ever invited to her house, bring your appetite. She will make a smorgasbord. She loves experimenting with recipes and is often banging around in her kitchen, throwing utensils and cursing until she gets a recipe right. She does tend to swear like a sailor, but she promises to behave in public—most the time anyway. She enjoys everything from a jog around the neighborhood to yoga to a dance party at home to unwind. Keeping up with her two boys is also an exercise in-and-of-itself. She’s still learning and figuring out the future. A constant work in progress, she’s placing puzzle pieces together as each is handed to her.