The Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization is proud to announce the contestants for the upcoming crowning ceremony to be held on March 22, 2014 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in bustling downtown Knoxville, Tennessee! The following women and young ladies will be competing for the title of Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee, Junior Miss Wheelchair Tennessee, and Little Miss Wheelchair Tennessee 2014.
Amanda Northrup, of Cleveland is a mother and fitness enthusiast. She is focused on promoting health and fitness for individuals with disabilities. April Warren, of Alcoa works as a customer service representative and studies medical coding. Her goal is to advocate for access to medical care for individuals with mobility disabilities. Amanda Szidiropulosz, also of Cleveland is an elementary music teacher at Charleston Elementary school system. She would like to create a “no limits” mindset for individuals with disabilities. Kaylee Arrowood, of Johnson City is a Girl Scout, a member of her high school Sparkle squad, and does not like missing even one day of school. Kaylee wishes to educate individuals about what it is like to be an active youth with a disability. Skylar Vaughn-Hisey, of Ooltewah is a grandpa’s girl who loves sports and her music class at school. She is excited to make new friends and to be involved with the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization.
Each competitor will be interviewed by a panel of judges and participate in workshops which are both educational and fun. At the close of the evening, we will crown our new titleholders for 2014. These ladies will go on to participate in activities throughout the year which allow them to present their chosen platforms to groups across the state of Tennessee. The woman chosen to be Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee will also have the opportunity to travel to Long Beach, California this August to compete for the title of Ms. Wheelchair America 2015. It is a prestigious title and another opportunity to travel and speak on behalf of her community to promote awareness and positive change to the lives of all Americans.
Despite the government shutdown, people with disabilities are still raising their voices to save the wheelchair. Twenty-three years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, insurance companies are still able to deny reasonable requests for wheelchairs that are medically and functionally necessary for people with disabilities. Without the right wheelchair, it is difficult for people with disabilities to find and keep employment and maintain independence. In addition, healthcare costs can increase, as more assistance is required for daily activities and the risk for secondary complications goes up. Until insurance companies are forced to recognize the value of the wheelchair, these problems will persist. Healthcare is expensive, but in the current budget crisis, providing Americans with disabilities access to the right wheelchairs is the fiscally responsible choice.
On Wednesday, Ms. Wheelchair America 2014 Jennifer Adams made Chattanooga one of the stops on her U.S. tour. Jennifer Adams was born with partial limbs, yet she does not consider her struggles a burden, but instead a gift, for she has had the privilege to learn that beyond our limitations is fulfillment and life’s purpose. Her platform is Inclusion Revolution, an effort to spread the message of acceptance and awareness to businesses, schools and legislators in America and demonstrate to everyone that having a disability is cool. In an effort to do just that, Jennifer was joined by Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2013 Bliss Welch, former Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2012 Jean-Marie Lawrence, and Ann Eubank of UsersFirst. The group tried to meet with Senator Bob Corker’s staff to discuss HR 942/S. 948, the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act of 2013. If passed, HR 942/S. 948 will increase access to good wheelchairs by separating the durable wheelchairs used everyday, from those commonly found in hospitals. Unfortunately, the four advocates were turned away as a result of the shut down, and must return at a future date to discuss ongoing efforts to pass this legislation.
To learn more about the Ms. Wheelchair America organization, please visit www.mswheelchairamerica.org. If you would like to lend your support for this legislation, go to www.usersfirst.org/forms/join.
July 20, 2013, Knoxville, Tennessee
After a week of educational workshops, anxiety-provoking interviews, and of course, fun, Bliss Welch returns home to Tennessee as 1st Runner Up! If you have yet to hear of Bliss Welch, it is time to climb out from under your rock. While studying accounting at UT-Chattanooga, Bliss learned about the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee (America) organization and was encouraged by family and friends to compete in the upcoming pageant. Competition was stiff, but Bliss proved herself to be the best spokesperson for Tennesseans with disabilities. Upon winning the title of Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2013 this March, she grabbed up the reigns and slapped that pony! Bliss has visited several elementary classrooms to educate children on the importance of accepting individual differences, has begun her own campaign to spotlight other Tennesseans with disabilities, has presented her platform at the House of Representatives, has been on radio and television, and has even hosted her own Golf Tournament where she raised over $12,000.
On Saturday July 20th, Bliss of Harrison, TN was elevated to the top 5 of 27 contestants. After each of these five women answered final questions, the judges left to deliberate. When they returned, they named Jennifer Lynn Adams of Washington, Ms. Wheelchair America 2014. While Bliss did not bring the national title home, she says, “I know that regardless of the outcome, I was myself and always will be.” The Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization could not have been more proud of Bliss and all of the work she has done this year. She will continue to hold the title of Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2013 and complete the goals she has set for herself. Bliss will then pass her title on to another at the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2014 pageant. Since the establishment of the national organization in 1972, there has yet to be a Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee to win this title. Perhaps the first person to do so is reading this right now! For more information on how to get involved or to schedule an event with Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee (America), please visit www.mswheelchairtn.org.
Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee follows the guidelines set forth under the Ms. Wheelchair America (www.mswheelchairamerica.org) organization. Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee holds a competition to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for persons with disabilities across the State of Tennessee. Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee is charged with a continuing effort to educate the public regarding the dignity, productiveness and basic values of people with disabilities.