GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A national competition that took a year off due to the pandemic is back this year thanks to a new partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.
This is the 50th year of the Ms. Wheelchair America competition, featuring 30 women with disabilities from across the country. It will happen virtually this year with the help of the Mary Free Bed marketing team.
Judging has already started, but the competition will air virtually from Aug. 9 to Aug. 14 with virtual workshops on leadership training, self-care and advocacy.
Tamara Green is the Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana contestant. She won that state’s competition in 2019 and has been waiting until this year for her chance to take home the national crown.
“We get to meet with other individuals where it’s not about beauty, it’s not about our disability, but because of our disabilities, we have this great platform where we get to share our ideas and share our thoughts and just get together and support each other and show the world that we are just as human as they are,” she said.
Green was in a car crash as a teenager and lost the use of her legs. She has since become a mother of three, a business owner and an author. She launched her book “You See My Glory Here’s My Story” on Jan. 31, the same day she celebrated 20 years as a paraplegic.
She is pushing for the inclusion of mental health services for those with physical disabilities as her platform for the competition. Programs like Medicaid’s long-term care disallow travel to mental health appointments.
Ms. Wheelchair America promotes the achievements and needs of people with disabilities. The judges look for the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for people with disabilities.
“No matter the physical limitation, if you set your mind to something, you can do it,” said Green.
The public will be able to watch two specials at the end of the competition. On Friday, Aug. 13, contestants will share their platforms, and the winner will be announced on Saturday, Aug. 14.
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital leaders say they didn’t want to see the competition cancelled again and partnered with the organization to put the show on in the virtual format.
A panel of judges has spent the last week at the hospital, watching virtual speeches and asking the contestants questions in virtual interviews.