GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Shelly Loose looks back on her time on stage at the Ms. Wheelchair America competition fondly.
“It was definitely an, ‘Oh my gosh moment,'” Loose said.
Loose was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Michigan back in 2007 and made it all the way to the national event, competing against 30 other women. While she was ready to beat out every contestant going into the competition, something changed once she got there.
“When you advance to nationals, this change happens,” she said. “You go to nationals and you are going to win. Then you get there and after you meet everyone you start wanting everyone else to win. You think, ‘No, no, no they’re the competition.’ But at the end of the week, you could see why any of them would be great titleholders.”
And although she didn’t win the national competition, Loose said she didn’t leave defeated. In fact, she didn’t leave the competition at all. After returning back from the event, the state coordinator told Loose that she was stepping down and offered the position to Loose, telling her she could either let the program die or lead it.
“This was something you want everyone to experience,” Loose said. “So, I took the job.”
And she has been with the Ms. Wheelchair organization ever since, now serving as both the state coordinator for Michigan and the president of Ms. Wheelchair America. This weekend, she’ll be ready to help crown the next Ms. Wheelchair Michigan.
Now in its 51st year, the competition will be held at Mary Free Bed’s Professional Building this Sunday from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The winner will then move on to the national competition which will also be held in Grand Rapids next August.
Contestants must be over the age of 21 to compete as well as use a wheelchair or scooter for mobility and be passionate about becoming an advocate for those with disabilities — something Loose says is the most important quality in a titleholder.
“This competition is one way to break the cycle, to let people understand that people with disabilities can do anything they want,” Loose said. “They have goals and dreams like anyone else.”
Ms. Wheelchair competitions have a massive impact on those living in a wheelchair, but Loose said it also helps the women who decide to compete realize their potential.
“You get this feeling of, ‘Wow, this is a whole lot bigger than me. I’m representing everyone with disabilities like me,” she said. “I’ve seen these shy women become great speakers and hold important jobs afterward.”
The event is free and open to the public with doors opening at 3:30 p.m. The crowning ceremony will be held from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. The winner of the Little Ms. Wheelchair will also be crowned.
You can watch a full conversation with Loose from the WOOD TV Livedesk in the video player above.