A nationwide competition is taking place this week as contestants advocate for people with disabilities.
Ms. Wheelchair America is kicking off its weeklong competition today at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, 187 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids, as 22 contestants arrive to represent their state in a series of events designed to find the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman among them.
The competition will run from Aug. 15-21, with competitors taking part in workshops on advocacy, self-care and leadership. They will attend nightly group dinners, a citywide scavenger hunt on Tuesday and a dance on Thursday night.
The competition will end with two events open to the public, a speech night at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the crowning gala at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Both events will be livestreamed on Mary Free Bed’s Facebook page. A $10 donation to Ms. Wheelchair America is asked for in-person attendees.
This year’s contestants include Ms. Wheelchair Michigan, Sarah Nassar of Dearborn, a law student and founder of the Disability Law Association; and Ms. Kansas, Marci Clare, a mother of four who worked in health care prior to her accident and who now has a goal of returning as a registered nurse.
Ms. Minnesota, Linda Hood, is a clinical scientist who has volunteered in eight Olympics; and Ms. Texas, Kristy Durso, owns a travel agency specializing in accessible travel.
This year’s event will be the first in-person Ms. Wheelchair America competition since 2019. The event was canceled in 2020 and held virtually in 2021.
The Mary Free Bed Guild is this year’s lead sponsor and has taken over the virtual aspects of the event to help keep contestants safe and broadcast to thousands online.