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Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Sunday, July 28, 2013

From the Beginning

When I started this journey last fall, I had no idea that I would end up where I am today- typing up a "bucket list" of how I would like the next year of my life to play out. And I owe it all to a pageant.

Yes, that's right, you read that correctly- a pageant. When I first heard about the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant last year, I immediately started having flashbacks of Sandra Bullock in the movie "Miss Congeniality."  I could see the talent portion now- "Wyoming contestant holds a wheelie while shooting her crossbow at a target across the stage..."

After serious support and encouragement from family and friends, and quite a bit of research, I discovered that this wasn't your typical beauty pageant. Instead of a swimsuit portion and speeches about world peace, women in wheelchairs from all over the country would be given a national audience to share what they were passionate about. Now that was something I could get on board with.

After winning the Wyoming state title in October (and I'm still not sure that I wasn't the only applicant), I started raising money to head to Stow, Ohio, in July. Thanks to multiple generous donors, I flew out of the Cody airport on Monday, July 15th. I had no idea what to expect. All of my close friends in chairs in Wyoming are guys, so I was interested to see what it would be like spending time with other women with disabilities.

I am passionate about accessible outdoor activities, and coming from a hunting group that is entirely dominated by males, the thought of inspiring interest in hunting in even one of these ladies made me very excited. The week flew by, and I quickly realized that this was different than other competitions. We were having so much fun that I forgot about any of the judging until Thursday night when we were reminded about our scheduled interview times for the following morning.

Although I was incredibly honored to win Ms. Wheelchair USA Saturday night, as well as the Ms. Photogenic Award that showcases the amazing Ms. Layna Hendrich and her phenomenal photography skills, one of the biggest highlights of my evening was being presented with the Ms. Congeniality Award. This trophy was voted on by the other contestants, their companions, and the staff and volunteers for the event.

The reason that this award will always be a special memory is because I went to the competition never knowing that I would leave with such an outstanding group of new friends, both those in wheelchairs and those who are able bodied. And I was able to stir some interest in hunting and other accessible outdoor recreation with not just one, but several of the ladies! That, to me, was icing on the cake.

I am so excited about what this year will bring as Ms. Wheelchair USA. I am looking forward to traveling and sharing my story across the country, with the hopes of encouraging others and empowering people in wheelchairs to get out and enjoy God's creation. If you have any suggestions for my bucket list, please let me know! I will try to post updates on my travel itinerary as it becomes finalized.

Thank you to all of my family, friends, and donors for allowing me to not only have this amazing journey, but also for letting me share it with each of you.

In His Grip,
~Ashlee
Romans 8:28

Best cheerleader ever!

4 comments:

  1. we will enjoy reading about your year and all of the adventures to come! Congratulations

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  2. You are such an inspiration. Looking forward to reading more.

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  3. Thank you, Martha! Looking forward to sharing with everyone about this exciting, upcoming year!

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