FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Hilary Muehlberger
Byron Center, MI – July 8, 2019 – Hilary Muehlberger of Greenwood, Missouri was crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2020 in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 6, 2019.
Hilary is the first Ms. Wheelchair America from the state of Missouri in the organization's 48-year history.
She competed for the title of Ms. Wheelchair America from July 1 through July 7th at the Little Rock Marriott Hotel. She represented the state of Missouri alongside 22 other state titleholders. Although the contestants are showcased in a competition format, physical beauty is not a consideration. The week long competition required Hilary to demonstrate an ability to advocate for people with disabilities across the nation. She was judged through a series of interviews, participation in advocacy and leadership workshops, her presence and public poise, and the substance of her platform speech.
Other finalists during the Ms. Wheelchair America competition included first runner- up Taria Jackson of Birmingham, Alabama and second runner-up Jennifer Spaulding of Leslie, Michigan.
Aside from being named Ms. Wheelchair America 2020, Hilary received The Emerging Leader Award at the competition. The Emerging Leader Award was given to the state titleholder that the judging panel believed had shown great promise and initiative, and the judges feel that she will make a great impact as she continues on her advocacy journey.
As Ms. Wheelchair America 2020, Hilary is eager to serve the community and provide mentorship and encouragement for those living with a disability across the nation. She will use her platform: “Achieving Independence through Adaptive Sports” to guide her advocacy efforts throughout her reign. She plans to focus on educating individuals living with disabilities about the benefits of adaptive sports and how they can live independent lives.
While traveling the country, Hilary will also empower others through her role as a spokeswoman for the disability community as a whole. In addition, she will have the opportunity to visit advocacy groups, make public appearances, participate in parades, and is available to conduct interviews.
Hilary uses a wheelchair for mobility because she has a spinal cord injury. She was in a car accident in 2015. However, she does not let the circumstances stop her. She lives life to the fullest and aims to shine a positive light on disabilities. Through advocacy and education, she sets an example for other individuals who also use wheelchairs for mobility.
Currently, Hilary is a Patient Account Specialist at Cerner Corporation. She is also passionate about speaking to students about the importance of safe driving and wearing seat belts. In her spare time, Hilary enjoys playing, tennis, surfing the shelves at half-priced books, and hanging out with family or friends.
To schedule an interview or event with Hilary, please contact her by e-mail at Mwa2020@mswheelchairamerica.
Please note: Press Release is reprinted with permission from Ms. Wheelchair America Organization.
Q&A with Hilary
mW: Can you tell us a little more about your injury?
HM: In 2015, I was a passenger in a car accident. My friend had been drinking; he wasn't paying attention to the road and ran us directly into a house at 50mph. I sustained a T12 spinal cord injury among MANY other injuries.
mW: Why did you decide to enter Ms. Wheelchair America (Missouri) Competition?
HM: The week after Karen Roy, Ms. Wheelchair America 2019 was crowned, she happened to be in Kansas City for the MidWest Abilities Summit. She made time to sit down with me for lunch, she explained the organization and what it really stands for and I was sold! I left there that day and filled out my application for Ms. Wheelchair Missouri.
mW: Can you tell us more about your platform? Why did you choose this specific platform and why is it important to you?
HM: My platform is "Achieving Independence through Adaptive Sports". You would be hard pressed to find someone living with a disability who has never tried or currently participates in some form of adaptive sports. The day that I went to my first adaptive tennis practice with the Kansas City No Coast team, my whole perspective changed. Over time, my body was stronger and I was dealing with less pain in my back and shoulders. I noticed that I sat up straighter and spoke with more confidence. I applied for and received a job that I would have NEVER thought that I would get. I was out of my apartment and hanging out with my friends and family. I was competing again; adaptive sports gave me my life back. Now I want to give back to the disability community what was so freely given to me.
mW: What plans/ideas do you have to execute your mission?
HM: I am already working with The Whole Person in Kansas City to recruit more athletes to participate. We also partner with other local professional sports teams on different events, to help promote. My goal is to help get more adaptive programming started nationwide, creating a community of athletes who have each other for support and resources.
mW: What advice would you give to someone struggling with their disability?
HM: Get up, get out of the house, and start doing something, literally anything that makes you happy. Whether you find that in adaptive sports, art, music, work, higher education, the possibilities are endless. Living with a disability is NOT the worst case scenario. It is just a different way of life. My life got significantly better after I was injured and that can be your reality too. Just keep taking the next right action to better yourself and watch the world around you change.
mW: What advice would you give someone considering entering Ms. Wheelchair in their state?
HM: The FIRST thing I would do is visit the website at http://www.mswheelchairamerica.org/. Familiarize yourself with what the organization is about then reach out! There is a "Connect with Us" option on the website and a member of the board will get you in touch with your State Coordinator. This experience has been life changing. I was doubtful of my ability to compete with the strong, independent, beautiful women who were representing their states. Little did I know, I would end up with 22 new best friends. Not a day goes by that I don't hear from AT LEAST one of them. Community has saved my life, having people who understand the struggles we as women with disabilities face. We never have to be alone again if we choose to get out there and connect.
mW: Any other goals or dreams for the future?
HM: Everyone has their own experience with disabilities and I hope to create a community big enough for us all, where we can ask the burning questions and find real answers. Where we can get the resources we NEED to have a real chance at the most independent, fulfilling lives we can achieve.