• 2021 •
Jessica’s platform is stopping service dog fraud. Her service dog, Ford has been the key to her independence. She has partnered with Canine Companions for Independence to educate others about her platform.
See how Jessica’s service dog Ford helped her get through quarantine
Platform: Stopping Service Dog Fraud
• 2020 •
When I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania 2020, I had no idea what the world had in store. I dreamed of traveling the state from end to end to share my platform of “Inclusive Body Positivity for People with Disabilities,” something I am endlessly passionate about. As a new wheelchair user, achieving the title of Ms. Wheelchair PA 2020 was not something I had ever considered a possibility, I simply just wanted to find a community to help me relearn to navigate the world on wheels, and boy, did I achieve that goal! I gained not only a crown but an instant support network full of wheelsisters who understood the intricacies of wheeling through life.
Before COVID-19 shut down the world, I appeared at Ms. Wheelchair NJ Competition and Crowning Event, had the chance to speak at JCCLV’s “Celebrating Our Differences” and Pittston Area School District’s “Love Your Neighbor” themed in-service/ teacher education conference, and volunteered at Disability Pride PA’s MLK Day of Service event. As restrictions tightened and events were canceled, I turned to social media and Zoom to find opportunities, and was able to host a Titleholder Q&A on Facebook, as well as participate in the Disability Pride PA Virtual events, including the Ms. Wheelchair PA roundtable “We are NOT a Pageant.” Additionally, in the tail end of 2020 and throughout 20201, I was able to appear at a wide variety of events as a “bonus titleholder” thanks to the generosity of Jessica (Ms. Wheelchair 2021), who graciously agreed to sharing her year due to our experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This allowed me to continue to share my platform at the Miracle League of the Lehigh Valley’s Annual Trick or Treat for those with disabilities and their families/caregivers, partner with a local nonprofit to speak about my platform on Zoom and appear at the Lehigh Valley Pride Festival and Abilities Expo. MWPA opened many doors for professional development opportunities as well, such as the ability to participate in the TRAIL program, and through that, was able to speak at a Tele-Town Hall with Moms Rising and Congresspeople Susan Wild and Dwight Evans, and better my advocacy skills with the support of former Ms. Wheelchair America 2012, Dr. Josie Badger.
As for personal growth, I can only say that MWPA has allowed me to truly find my voice in leadership. I could not have succeeded in the program without the ongoing support of Barb Zablotney and Kristin Rebstock, who continuously provided guidance and support during the highs and lows of virtual events and Zoom-induced burnout. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I wish all involved with this program continued success.
Platform: Inclusive Body Positivity for People with Disabilities
• 2019 •
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• 2012 •
Dr. Josie Badge
As I reflect on the conferences, events, meetings, and appearances, the most amazing part of my experience has been the people. For me, the crown has not been about a title or a status, rather it has served as a spark to light the flame of empowerment. Disability is not synonymous with inability. During the first night of the Ms. Wheelchair America 2012 pageant, I presented my platform of “youth leadership and empowerment.” Youth empowerment is one of my passions and I was excited to share it with the other state titleholders, but little did I realize that I would soon be sharing this passion with the world.
Throughout my reign, I have had the opportunity to continue to share my platform and directly support youth development. I had the chance to attend the One Young World in Zurich Switzerland, an international youth leadership summit. Although I was representing America, I quickly realized that I was also there to empower people with disabilities.
In an attempt to warm up from the chilly Alaskan weather, I traveled south to support the Ms. Wheelchair Arizona pageant. But a northern girl cannot leave the cold for long so my next adventure was Ski for Light in South Dakota. I had the amazing opportunity to ski for the first time and ride a snowmobile (snowmachine). I then traveled to Alaska where I presented to the Association of Programs for Independent Living. Youth with disabilities who live in rural communities often face unique challenges in becoming independent, empowered leaders. I had the opportunity to assist youth in developing their leadership skills as well as discuss the barriers faced by this population of rising leaders.
Throughout the following six months I have been able to speak and volunteer in New England, Tennessee, Iowa, North Carolina, New York, and Rhode Island. This past year has been full of amazing experiences and new opportunities. I am so grateful to have had the chance to share my platform of youth empowerment and leadership throughout the world.
In April of 2011 I began my Ms. Wheelchair journey with the quote, “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” After this year of serving as Ms. Wheelchair America, I disagree. A candle is illuminated when it lights another candle. The flame of empowerment is uncontrollable.
Thank you Ms. Wheelchair America for allowing me to light this spark of empowerment across the world.
As Justin Dart would say, ”I love you, Lead on, Lead on.”
Ms. Wheelchair America 2012
• 2010 •
Kristin chose her platform as a result of obstacles she had to overcome when finding and securing accessible housing for herself. As a part of her professional development, she was an active participant in the Nursing Home transition team with CLASS. She understood that it was a universal issue that challenges many within the disability community. She worked closely with the Allegheny Housing Authority during her reign to help voice the concerns of Pittsburgh residents with disabilities. Some of her favorite experiences include traveling to Harrisburg to advocate for continued funding for Home and Community Based Services and speaking to local community groups and organizations about the importance of accessibility. Attending a conference spotlighting universal design and attending Nationals in Grand Rapids MI.
Kristin now lives outside Pittsburgh with her husband Justin and children Natalie and Zach. She works full-time at Aetna as a quality analyst within their Medicare division. She currently serves as MWPA vice-president and ambassador coordinator.
Platform: Affordable Accessible Housing for All
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• 1995 •
• 1981 •
Anita Louise Hermany
• 1980 •
Elelyn Rose Stypula
• 1979 •
• 1977 •
Peggy Lynn McCraken
• 1977 •