Being a C-1 C-2 quadriplegic paralyzed from the neck down and on a ventilator can be challenging at times. Despite my disability I strive to find ways to be positive, live life to its fullest, overcome obstacles, help people and most of all educate others. I’ve always loved teaching and helping people, but after my car accident November 1, 2002 it became prevalent that this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life.
In 2006 I started motivational speaking; my first engagement was to a class of about 30 high school students. Since then, I’ve been telling my story to anyone and everyone I meet. I have had the privilege to speak at over 20 different engagements to a variety of populations being able to change my story and message for each. This includes speaking to various high schools about destructive driving, educating children at elementary schools about people with disabilities, and talking to the injured about staying positive. My favorite (and most impactful) was a 15 min. speech to about 1200 high school students and teachers after a mock car crash just before prom.
When I received an e-mail mid-March about the Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011 contest, I immediately felt the need to fill out an application. I thought to myself, “what an opportunity to show others the abilities of people with disabilities” and “this would be the biggest way I could educate others about people in similar situations as me.” After filling out the packet in the most detailed and professional way I could have, I sent it in and waited for a response.
I was elated when I received a call saying that I was in the contest. The excitement I was feeling at the time was similar to a kid waking up on Christmas morning knowing there’s presents under the tree. I couldn’t stop smiling at the fact that I could be crowned Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota and have the chance of a lifetime. It was pure joy and happiness from then on. I did everything I could to prepare. This included shopping for new clothes and writing/practicing a two-minute speech about my platform. This was the speech that would be presented to the audience and judges the night of the contest. April 11, 2011 couldn’t have come soon enough.
That day, I had a professional makeup artist come to my house to beautify me. I put on a new outfit and headed to Running Aces Harness Park with butterflies in my stomach. First task was a 15 min. question and answer with the three judges. I was first up. Afterwards, I waited for the other four contestants to do their interview and then the contest began. I was also the first one to give my speech. Afterwards I was able to just sit back and wait for the results.
When they called my name as the winner of Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011, I was shocked but overjoyed! I went to the front of the stage and Mrs. Minnesota (also one of the judges) put the sash and crown on me. I was then bombarded with people and flashing lights. I guess you could say I learned a little bit about what celebrities go through with the paparazzi. It was very tiring and somewhat overwhelming.
Some of the duties of Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota are speaking engagements, attending events, and being a spokesperson. My first assignment was to visit the capital and meet people on the board of MAMES (Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Suppliers). Since then, I have spoken at Glen Lake Elementary School to about 75 third-graders and also attended the Walk and Roll-A-Thon put on by AccessAbility. I’m hoping to have more engagements coming up fairly soon.
The biggest thing I’m doing right now is preparing for the Ms. Wheelchair America contest that will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan the first week in August. I will be documenting my journey throughout this process and will be posting on the EasyStand Blog. Look for future posts by me, Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota!
If you would like me to attend your event or speak at your engagement, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also please join my Facebook Page Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011 and visit my blog “The Site That Breathes.”
Do you have any questions about what it’s like being Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota?