A diverse group of women from 27 states — college students, volunteers, office workers, grandmothers — will gather in Rapid City this week to compete for the national Ms. Wheelchair America title.
The 37th annual pageant will be at Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn. In 2000, the national winner was Tracy Charlton-O’Conner, whose parents, Terry and Karen Charlton, live in Rapid City.
This year’s winner will succeed the reigning Ms. Wheelchair America Michelle Colvard, who is the executive director of the City of Houston’s Office for People with Disabilities.
If you go:
The 37th Ms. Wheelchair America pageant will be at Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn. Public programs include:
- Friday, Aug. 28 — 6:30 p.m., contestant platform speeches.
- Saturday, Aug. 29 — 6 p.m., pageant program
Tickets are $7 for the semifinals, $10 for the finals or $15 for both.
Contestants and their background, according to the Iowa-based Ms. Wheelchair America organization, are:
Ms. Wheelchair Arizona — Jolene DeTiege lives in Tempe, where she is pursuing a degree in organizational management. She volunteers at Improbably Theater Company and enjoys acting and all performing arts. DeTiege uses a wheelchair due to congenital myopathy.
Ms. Wheelchair Arkansas — Jacqueline Bettis lives in Little Rock. She enjoys working with children and their families to help them accept and cope with their disabilities. She received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Central Arkansas. Bettis uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy.
Ms. Wheelchair California — Alyson Roth lives in Foothill Ranch. She is employed at Free Wheelchair Mission, an agency that helps people with disabilities in developing countries. Roth received her master’s of science degree in Elementary Ready and Literacy from Walden University. She has used a wheelchair since 2000 due to an automobile accident.
Ms. Wheelchair Colorado — Kelly Shellman lives in Brighton, where she is an active volunteer at a local hospital. She received her degree in automated accounting from Mansfield Business School. Shellman plans to become a rehabilitation counselor. She uses a wheelchair due to a traumatic brain injury she sustained in 2000.
Ms. Wheelchair D.C. — Angela Miller lives in Washington, D.C., and works completing medical billing and clerical duties. She volunteers at the National Rehabilitation Hospital and serves as a mentor for other people with disabilities. Miller has used a wheelchair since 1997.
Ms. Wheelchair Florida — Shanda Cromuel lives in Tampa, where she is employed with UPS as a customer service agent. She is studying criminal justice at ITT Technical Institute and plans to become a probation officer. Cromuel uses a wheelchair due to a gunshot injury in 1997.
Ms. Wheelchair Georgia — Kathleen Rice lives in Conyers. She volunteers at various nursing homes and serves as an adult mentor to children with spina bifida. Rice has attended Brenau University and the University of West Georgia. She uses a wheelchair due to spina bifida.
Ms. Wheelchair Indiana — Emily Munson lives in Indianapolis, where she expects to complete her law degree in 2010. She plans to pursue a career helping to improve the status of people with disabilities. Munson uses a wheelchair due to spinal muscular atrophy.
Ms. Wheelchair Iowa — Angie Plager lives in Cambridge, where she is employed at United Medical Providers as a territory manager. She has earned associate degrees from Des Moines Area Community College. Plager volunteers for many organizations, including the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Iowa. She uses a wheelchair due to a motor vehicle accident in 2003.
Ms. Wheelchair Kansas — Marie Clement lives in Mayetta. She is the proud caregiver for her son, grandchild and grandnephew. Clement also volunteers at Three Rivers Independent Living Center. She enjoys serving as a role model for others with disabilities. Clement has used a wheelchair since 1997 due to incomplete quadriplegia.
Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky — Amy Foster lives in Louisville, where she is a full-time student. She expects to graduate in May 2010 with a degree in the area of forensic anthropology. Foster has volunteered as a cheerleading coach for elementary school students and served as a teacher in the Mock Trial summer law institute. She has used a wheelchair since 2004 due to an automobile accident.
Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana — Tiffanie LeBlanc lives in Lafayette, where she works as an assistant unit manager training new real estate agents. She received her SLCC and Insurance license in May 2007. LeBlanc also volunteers at Good Will of America. She enjoys reading spiritual books and learning more about her faith. She uses a wheelchair due to quadriplegia.
Ms. Wheelchair Maryland — Hayley Waters lives in Bethesda. She received her bachelor of arts and master of public affairs degrees from the University of Texas. Waters enjoys reading spiritual books and is an active volunteer in her church. She uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy.
Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts — Ashley Speicher lives in Lynn. She received her degree from Southern New Hampshire University, magna cum laude and is employed at Action Inc. as a Social Service Advocate to assist low-income and homeless families. She volunteers with the New England Organ Bank to raise awareness about organ donation/transplantation. Speicher uses a wheelchair due to glycogen storage disease, a diagnosed form of muscular dystrophy. She plans to earn her master’s degree and continue work in the nonprofit sector.
Ms. Wheelchair Michigan — Amber Marcy lives in Saugatuck, and works at Boathouse Restaurant as an office manager. She also volunteers at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. She hopes to return to school to complete her education and pursue a degree in counseling at Western Michigan University. Marcy uses a wheelchair due to an automobile accident.
Ms. Wheelchair Nebraska — Carrah Cotton lives in Omaha. She is attending Metropolitan College and works in retail sales. Cotton plans to obtain her degree in speech-language pathology and would like to continue serving as an advocate for others who have disabilities. She uses a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury she sustained in 2007.
Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey — Santina Muha lives in Branchburg. She received a bachelor of arts degree in communications and sociology from Rutgers University. Muha volunteers for the New Jersey State Independent Living Council and enjoys public speaking. She uses a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury sustained in a motor vehicle crash in 1989.
Ms. Wheelchair New York — Deanna LaBuzzetta lives in Saratoga Springs. She volunteers at Cornell Cooperative Extension for the Master Gardeners, and is a member of Unlimited Gardens, Where Abilities Grow. She enjoys serving as a peer mentor for other women who are adjusting to disability. LaBuzzetta has used a wheelchair since 1986 due to a stroke.
Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina — Erika Bogan lives in Huntersville. She is employed by Medical Mobility Center and is working towards her bachelor of arts degree in psychology. She is proud of her children and enjoys serving as a positive role model and advocate for people with disabilities. Bogan uses a wheelchair due to an automobile accident in 2002.
Ms. Wheelchair Ohio — Danielle Brown lives in Danville. She has training in business technology and office technology from Knox County Career Center. Brown volunteers at Aktion Club and enjoys traveling with her family. She uses a wheelchair due to spina bifida.
Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma — Lynda Miller lives in Tulsa. She is a full-time student working towards a master’s in divinity. Lynda also volunteers at her church as a chaplain of adult education. She would like to run her own hospice program to help families with end-of-life issues. Miller uses a wheelchair due to Frederick’s Ataxia.
Ms. Wheelchair South Dakota — Mindy Williams is a student in an animation program. She enjoys volunteering at her son’s school and extracurricular activities. Williams plans to continue campaigning for stem cell research.
Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee — Lorrinda Mabry lives in Antioch, and is employed at Disability Coalition. She received a liberal arts degree from Middle Indiana State University and plans to pursue a master’s in social work. Mabry enjoys volunteering and has served on several community nonprofit boards. She uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy.
Ms. Wheelchair Texas — Ana Calvo lives in Houston and is employed at Shriners Hospital for Children as a transition coordinator. She received her bachelor of arts and master’s in social work degrees from the University of Houston. She enjoys singing, acting, and serving as an advocate for others with disabilities. Calvo has used a wheelchair since birth.
Ms. Wheelchair Utah — Kimberly Yeoman lives in Cedar City and works at the Disability Law Center. She received a bachelor’s degree in social work and international development from Brigham Young University. She has volunteered for Operation Smile and Best Buddies. Yeoman enjoys playing wheelchair sports and plans to attend graduate school. She uses a wheelchair due to spina bifida.
Ms. Wheelchair Virginia — Joan Manley lives in Lexington. She is employed at Valley Associates for Independent Living and works in advocacy and peer counseling for people with disabilities. Manley has attended the University of Rhode Island and James Madison University. She is a founder of the Volunteers at Rockbridge Area Transportation System and Rockbridge Advocates for Community Involvement. She uses a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury sustained in 1984.
Ms. Wheelchair Washington — Janette Saxton lives in Lakewood. She is employed at Mobilization and Deployment Program, Fort Lewis. She received a bachelor of arts degree from Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Arizona State University and a master’s of arts degree from the University of San Diego. She plans to pursue her National Counseling Certification. Saxton uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy.
By Journal staff