GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — This weekend, a new Ms. Wheelchair America will be crowned. Thirty contests from across America have been vying for the honor of the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for people with disabilities.
All 30 women bring their own remarkable journey to the competition. Laura Jackson is Ms. Michigan. She suffered a spinal cord injury at 14 during a cheerleading accident. She, like the 29 others, has been trying to impress the judges throughout the competition with her advocacy, achievement, communication and presentation. The winner will represent more than 64 million Americans with disabilities.
It almost didn’t happen this year. Like last year, organizers thought they may have to cancel the competition. But thanks to a partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation in Grand Rapids, the 50th annual competition was able to be held virtually. And this weekend they will help live stream the finals.
Judging began the week of July 19th and culminates this week with virtual workshops on leadership training, self-care and advocacy. There is also a People’s Choice Award where the public can help pick their favorite contestant. Each public vote is also a way to give back — it’s a $1 donation and the winner’s state program will receive 40% of those funds raised. You can vote here.
There are two special programs that wrap up the nearly month-long competition, both will be streamed on the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Facebook page. The first is tonight at 6 p.m. where viewers will meet all 30 contestants and learn more about their causes. The final is tomorrow, Saturday the 14th at 6 p.m. where the top five finalists will be featured. Hear more from some of the contestants here.