This week is the 42nd annual Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. From July 15th – 21st Houston will play host to representatives from 30 states vying for the crown. This unique contest began organization in 1972 by Dr. Philip K. Wood, an Ohio physician. The idea behind the pageant is to promote the achievements and needs of people with mobility impairments. This year’s event is being held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston. During the week long event contestants will participate in a leadership institute, mentoring events and judging sessions.
The first winner of this prestigious event was Patricia Nevins of Michigan who took home the original crown in 1973. Since that time winners have come from all over the country including Mississippi, California, Maryland, South Dakota and North Carolina. Last year’s winner was Maria Kilbourne from Texas. A Summa Cum Laude graduate from Texas Lutheran University, Kilbourne is a published writer, accomplished public speaker and experienced fundraiser. During her year long reign Kilbourne spent time encouraging inclusion, increasing fair and equitable access to public facilities for people with disabilities and eliminating architectural and attitudinal barriers that have hindered the disabled community.
HDS MEDALLION® met the runner-up to Ms. Texas Wheelchair 2012, Tina Williams, at last year’s Abilities Expo in Houston. She became Miss Texas when Maria became Ms. Wheelchair America. We also met Ms. Wheelchair California 2012, Shira Leeder, in San Jose and Little Miss Wheelchair of Texas 2012, Alana Ashley Little, in Houston. And we met Miss Wheelchair 2013 of New Jersey, Maggie Reddan, at the latest trade show. To a person, they are great advocates of the issues facing people with mobility disabilities. We love the fact that they loved our bags!
This year’s contestants feature a diverse group of women from many different backgrounds including Paula Montgomery Rodney of Alabama (suffering from multiple sclerosis since 2005), Mary Colecchi of Colorado (a hemiplegic with acquired brain injury due to a stroke in 2008) and Lisa Jackson of Florida (a double amputee who is also legally blind). For a list of all contestants click here. This year’s event is being sponsored by companies including Jiffy Lube International, Spectra Energy and Salient Partners. This year’s winner will enjoy having the opportunity to travel visiting advocacy groups, make public appearances and conduct radio, print and TV interviews to help promote awareness for people with disabilities.
To keep up with the contest visit the Ms. America Wheelchair site.