On October 28th, I was working at the Abilities Expo when a woman approached me and gave me a card and said I should run for Ms. Wheelchair California. I was intrigued but put the card away and didn’t think seriously about it until I got an email one day.
Weeks had passed when I received an email from a friend, Barry, with DRAIL (Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living).
Barry and I hadn’t spoke in months and here he was out of the blue telling me I should definitely be looking into running for Ms. Wheelchair California 2018 and DRAIL would sponsor me!
I researched the Ms. Wheelchair California competition and knew this was something I wanted to be part of. I quickly emailed Barry, and said, “Yes! I’ll do it.”
Over the next couple of weeks I created my vision board for the competition capturing everything that I felt represented who I was. This was a practice I had used times before for my business, my health and even for my personal life. Creating a professional vision board was illuminating. I went back to my company‘s mission statement to draw inspiration. As a small business owner and designer, I knew the importance of collaboration, and incorporating the unique perspectives of everyone involved in the design, marketing and selling process. Slowly my platform began to take shape, focused on how powerful our communities and our nation could be if we included the unique skills and talents of those who have disabilities.
On March 10th. I traveled to JFK university in Pleasant Hill California to compete for Ms. Wheelchair California 2018.
I was incredibly nervous. My mom told me to focus on learning, sharing and enjoying the experience. Before I knew it I was meeting incredible women in wheelchairs whose backgrounds were as unique as their disabilities. I was participating in incredible workshops. I was singing songs from the musical Greece with Dr. Alette’s daughter in the lobby while waiting for my interview with the judges. I was learning, sharing and having an amazing time.
As I approached the microphone to give my speech, I looked out at my 16 month old niece, my sister, my mom & Dad, my Aunt Vivian, my grandmother and best friends. Everyone had come out to support me, encourage me, and even help tape my dress in place. I gave my speech and finally breathed a sigh of relief. The speeches given by the other contestants were powerful, eye opening and informative. After what felt like a lifetime, the judges came back with their decision. I came in 1st runner up and couldn’t have been happier! I made lifelong friends that day, it was an experience of a lifetime.