HARRISBURG – When Jenny Pruitt took her two sons, her husband Adam and her mother Janice
Russell with her to Washington D.C. for the inauguration of President Donald Trump, it wasn't just another day at her job.
Pruitt is a district aide for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, and runs the Harrisburg office for the Congressman. The trip to the nation's capital, though, meant something more than simply attending a political function.
"When I was growing up, my parents used to take us to many historical places to visit," she said. "It was more than just saying we had been to a particular place. They wanted us to know the significance of why we were visiting that place in history."
At one time in her life, Pruitt said she thought about creating and operating a "therapy ranch," by which those with developmental disabilities may work with horses and sometimes other farm animals for therapeutic benefits. Pruitt, from Broughton and a 2003 Eldorado High School graduate, eventually found a job she loved at Trade Industries in nearby McLeansboro.
However, she developed the eye disorder retinitis pigmentosa, which began to cause her to lose some vision after the birth of her first son, Billy. After her second son Sean was born, she said, she lost a considerable amount of her remaining eyesight.
Because of the disabilitity, she was unable to work, and the couple ended up losing their home.
Pruitt, however, said she refused to let the difficulties keep her down.
"I could have gone on disability, but I felt like I had more to give in my life," she said.
She went back to school to Southeastern Illinois College, and got her associate's degree. Currently, she's working on finishing her bachelor's degree through an accredited online degree program. In the meantime, she said she was offered the chance to go to work for Shimkus' Harrisburg office, which she said she never imagined would be possible.
"This job has been such a blessing," she said.
She said she wanted to attend the inauguration last weekend to pass her love of politics and things historical to her two boys. Adam and Janice drove, because Jenny cannot, and they went straight through to and from Washington.
She said they enjoyed being a part of the crowd for the inauguration, and also witnessed protests Friday and Saturday with the women's march on Washington.
She said that while she might not agree with the political positions of those in protest, seeing them in action reaffirmed her love for the U.S.
"There's not many countries where you can protest your beliefs and they bring in police and military to make sure you're protected," she said. "I'm proud our country gives us this freedom."
She also said she's pretty sure her boys, especially Billy, appreciated the trip.
"He's really into politics, and when he and Sean sees Congressman Shimkus, they always say, 'That's our buddy,' They watched some clips of the debates during the campaign and seem to have a good understanding of things for their age.
"I think they'll be glad they'll be able to say they were a part of this when they're older."
She also said her dad, William, who died in October, would have loved the trip – just like the old days.
"It was great to be there with Mom, and it felt like Dad was there, too," she said.