This city contains multitudes, to borrow from our old friend Walt Whitman.

And Kalyn Rose Heffernan is an exemplar of that abundance. The front person for the hip-hop band Wheelchair Sports Camp, a one-time mayoral candidate, a playwright, an installation collaborator at Meow Wolf Denver, and an access rights and LGBTQ+ force, Heffernan has added another role. She confesses that recently she has been getting in touch with her “little demon.”

Kalyn Rose Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp performing“These sources on Google say ‘Heffernan’ derives from the word ‘demon,’” she says, as she shares a satisfying mound of nachos with chicken at El Noa Noa, a mainstay on the Art District on Santa Fe not far from her home. “It’s so fitting. If you know my family, you're like, ‘oh, yeah.’ But I've never really identified with the name. It's clunky. It’s long. I'm not super close to many people on that side of the family. And now I'm like, oh, I got to check this out. You don't just get that name from, like, baking bread.”

She ends that insight with a trademark laugh, one that can go from sly chuckle to wry, high cackle in an instant.

While she eats, Heffernan’s fleet beast of an electric wheelchair nuzzles the table. The artist-activist was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, often referred to as “brittle bone disease.” In a line she penned in “Convenient Store Love Story,” a fierce and playful monologue about her randy affection for a newish crush, she refers to herself as “the little brittle.“ The piece was written for the 2022 installment of one-acts presented by Phamaly Theatre Company, one of the nation’s premier disabilities-centered companies.

Heffernan and Allie Cannington, the subject of that monologue, have since wed. On January 6  of this year (2024), no less. It wasn’t intentional but it’s a fitting rebuff to an otherwise dark date. And it is representative, perhaps, of the sly ways the couple sees the world.

“I finally found a match that’s into that kind of sh*t, too,” she says.

Local's Tips: Food, Theater and Roller Skating

Panaderia Rodriguez. When not playing shows in the Bay and elsewhere, Heffernan might be found eating menudo at this strip mall haunt in Lakewood or in northeast Denver at  El Toro on Colorado Boulevard. “They’re known for their fried tacos, but Eddie’s (Garcia) menudo is a classic flavor unique to him.”

Phamaly Theatre Company was founded by five actors yearning to put on a show or countless seasons of them. The first production coincided with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The nationally known theater company produces original work — i.e “Alice in Wonderland" — but also makes new classics: “Chicago,” “Cabaret,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” among the stellar productions. See the upcoming schedule at

The Rainbow Dome. The mission statement of this art-roller skating gathering is to “steward our collective joy.” Which is more than enough of a call to lace up skates or take the wheelchair for a spin around the rink on Federal Boulevard. “Their vision is for a more playful world that values accountability and connectedness,” say Heffernan about Dome founders Frankie Toan and Therin Zimmerman, who are fellow Meow Wolf Denver alumni. “I feel really proud of Denver for forming such a dope collective. They're always a good time and it’s so sweet to be safe and for kids to be able to be around. It’s also still very homoerotic but not inappropriate. It's just a really good collective of people that I love and trust.”

—Kalyn Rose Heffernan

With its mix of socially conscious rap and layered cool sounds, Wheelchair Sports Camp has been a local quasar since the 2010s. The band and its mighty and tiny lead have been featured in the Village Voice and Spin Magazine, and included in 2020’s edition of Krip-Hop Nation’s mixtape showcase of artists with disabilities.

She is a firebrand about town. In 2019, Heffernan ran for mayor on a platform promoting access for people with disabilities and migrants, and for artists and others wanting to make art and a life in an increasingly pricey housing market.

“The theme of her campaign is ‘access,’ whether it’s referring to physical spaces or the government itself,” a Denver Post article stated at the time.

In a rap-the-vote video released ahead of the city’s 2019 election, Heffernan launched into one of the band’s best-known songs, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Gimp.” “Because it is,” she says into the mic, clad in brown mustard overalls and a tan ski cap. She then begins to riff on the stinging track with the seductive, got-her-back playing of Wes Watkins on synth, a Steinway and a cornet, Joshua Trinidad working the trumpet, and Gregg Ziemba beating out a lounge-friendly cadence on the drumkit. The song’s refrain? “There’s a stairway to Heaven. So, tell me how we going to get in…” If you’re into wax, “Gimp” is the B-side to the even better song, “Yess, I’m a Mess.”

Yes I’m a mess
Yеs I’m in debt
Yes I'm upset
But I got outta bed
So it can’t be that bad
Can it?

Recently, the MC of “Denver’s Biggest Smallest Band,” has been exploring the unruliness of punk.

“I think I'm going to lean a little more punk,” she said at El Noa Noa. “Going to lean into some, like maybe darker, darker sh*t.”

Heffernan also discovered some directions she’d like to explore when she was cast as one of three performers playing the Cheshire Cat in Phamaly Theatre Company’s first commissioned work, “Alice in Wonderland,” written by David Jacobi with music and lyrics by Heffernan and Michelle Rocqet.

“I think through ‘Alice.’ I finally started to play with my voice more. I think I had subconsciously wanted to make my voice sound less like it does.”

Heffernan and Wheelchair Sports Camp will be doing the rounds in the Bay Area, performing at the Tentacle Fest, put on by the alt-punk label of Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys fame. Alternative Tentacles Records released their vinyl album in 2023.

“It’s like the longest still-going independent record label in the country. It's got a good history. They put out like an Angela Davis record, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Noam Chomsky.”

Heffernan and Co. will be back in town for a new single and video release in late May 2024. 


A University of Colorado Denver graduate, Heffernan is pictured above performing at the school's Accessibility Operations Team's Spring Fling concert in March 2024​. Image via X