I’ve written previously about my involvement with the Ms.Wheelchair America organization. I have had the privilege of watching women from across the country grow as advocates and challenge stereotypes. When I started blogging, I was excited to discover the current Ms. Wheelchair America, Sam Schroth, has a blog of her own called Never Sitting Still. We began to email and she accepted my invitation to write a guest post for my blog.
Sam is new to life with a disability, and has adapted to life on wheels with humility and humor. Rather than sitting in self-pity, she has chosen to seek guidance from others and continue to roll forward. I’ll let her tell you about her experiences in her own words.
WHAT A RIDE!
“Sam, what has your year as Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 been like so far?” Unsurprisingly, that’s a pretty common question. I mean, it sounds simple enough, right? A few short sentences should prove sufficient. But like so much in life, things aren’t always as they seem and it’s a question I often struggle to answer. I struggle to find a way to adequately portray my experiences, my thoughts, and my emotions about an opportunity I never imagined having. Hmmm, where to begin…
First things first, I’m a complete wheelchair newbie. I’m still in the early stages of my walking to wheeling transition and just hit my year and a half mark of being a “wheelhead” as a good paraplegic friend of mine calls it. If you don’t know my story, I’m 22 and a week after graduating from college (May 2013) I incurred a spinal cord injury in a freak event when a dead tree fell on me as I was standing in the front yard of a friend’s cabin. My life changed pretty drastically in that moment and I don’t think I’ve really stopped to slow down since then.
When you transition from walking to wheeling, you’re forced to look at the world in a way you never had before. You begin to realize how much you took for granted and how wrong so many of your perceptions were about the world you live in and the people you encounter. At least, that’s what I began to realize. That simple acknowledgement is what brought me to the Ms. Wheelchair America organization. I wanted to change those perceptions, those very perceptions I used to have myself.
I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin 2014 in March 2014 and I was excited to travel to Long Beach, CA in August to compete for the title of Ms. Wheelchair America 2015. In complete honesty, the last thing I expected was to come home from the competition with that coveted title. Instead, I went to Long Beach looking forward to meeting some really cool wheeling women who could teach me more about advocating and wheeling life and teach they did. That week is one I won’t soon forget with stimulating workshops, enjoyable sightseeing, and empowering women wheelers. It was so encouraging seeing and talking with other individuals who shared my passion of breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes. After having so many great conversations, you can probably imagine my shock when I, the youngest and newest wheeler of all the title holders, was announced in the top five and my even greater disbelief when I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2015.
I can still remember that moment and all the feelings that coursed through me when my name was announced. I’m pretty sure shock was first, followed by my excitement of what the upcoming year would entail, but then the nerves hit. Me, they picked me, little newbie me, to advocate for the 54 million Americans living with disabilities. Now I don’t care who you are, those are some pretty big shoes, uh, tires to fill. But you know what? Those are some tires I’m so honored to be given the opportunity to make tracks with.
So what kind of tracks have I been making? Well, I guess it all depends on the week. My title has taken me on an exciting adventure to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to be apart of an internal broadcast on disabilities in the workplace at the headquarters of Comcast. I was a star at an amazing I CAN! Dancing with the stars recital where I danced with some awesome kids in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’ve spoken to 4-H clubs, been in parades, talked on the radio, thrown out the first pitch at a Miracle League baseball game, and was even a dignitary at a motorcycle rally to benefit Toys for Tots.
These tires, my tires, have been places I never could have imagined prior to my injury. These tires have challenged my outlook on life and the way others view their own lives. These tires have brought me face to face with people who never before realized all someone with a disability is capable of. These tires have allowed me to meet some of the most wonderful people.
These tires are tires I’m proud to be using and these tires aren’t going flat anytime soon.
Thank you Sam! If you would like to keep up with Sam, you can find her blog here or follow her on Facebook as Ms. Wheelchair America 2015.