Wolftever Creek Elementary School

I had a WONDERFUL time at Wolftever Creek Elementary School on Monday, April 29, 2013!!

Shortly after my visit to Westview Elementary, a friend from high school reached out to me about visiting Wolftever Creek Elementary. Christy Odum Penny is the PTA president and arranged for me to come and read to the WHOLE school!! I attended this school back when it was called Ooltewah Intermediate.

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I hate to keep sounding like a broken record but I really do love visiting with all these children. They really seem interested in learning more about me and why I need to use a wheelchair. Or it could just be that they love any excuse to get out of class. 😉 Whatever it is, I would like to think I could be making a little difference. When I hear back from the parents on my Facebook page about how their child came home talking about me, I know I must be doing something right.

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Christy made plans for me to read first to kindergarten and first grade, then to second and third grade, and finally to fourth and fifth grade. Since the groups were so large, we met in the cafeteria. I even got to use a microphone. 😉 Breaking the children into these groups worked great during the Q&A session. I was able to answer their questions and explain things on a level they could understand. With the older children, I was able to give more detailed information about my diagnosis.

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The highlight of my time with the children is during the Q&A session. You can’t get anything past kids. LOL!! One of the little boys from the first group asked me why my foot was purple. I really wanted to tell him I had super powers but instead I told him the truth, it was because my blood flow was bad due to the fact that I sit in my wheelchair most of the day.

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I had two great questions from the oldest group of children. The first question was if I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I told them that because of the Jain Foundation I had high hopes I would NOT need a wheelchair for the rest of my life. The Jain Foundation is doing an amazing thing in the science/research world by bringing scientists and researchers together to share data with the hopes of finding a cure/treatment sooner. The second question was asked by a young lady. She wanted to know what would be the first thing I would do if there was a treatment and I was cured. WOW!! Talk about being put on the spot. I have often dreamed of being cured, but never what my ‘first’ action would be. I really had to stop and think. My answer, of course, involved my daughter Annabelle. If I was cured, the first thing I would want to do is to scoop Annabelle up and run outside. To chase her around the yard and roll around in the grass with her. She loves to be outside. I can see it just as plain as day in my mind, can you?

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What a wonderful day!! I am truly blessed to be able to share a little bit of my story with these children. You never know when you will leave a lasting impression on a child.

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Later that evening, I sent Christy my email address so she could send the pictures she took to me. To my surprise, Christy immediately responded and told me that the PTA at Wolftever Creek Elementary School wanted to donate $100.00 to go towards my entry fee to the Ms Wheelchair America pageant. I was blown away!! Thank you so much to Christy and the rest of the PTA!!

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Donations, Fund Raising, and Sponsors

I have always been a very independent person. Some would say that as a teenager, I was independent to a fault. I have often wondered if my LGMD2B was God’s way for me to see that it’s okay for me to allow others to help me.

Due to my physical weakness, I except all kinds of help all the time. Even though I KNOW I need help and most people are always willing to help, I still dislike having to ask for help.

So, this will probably be my least favorite, but most necessary blog post.

The Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee is a nonprofit organization. As the current title holder, I am responsible for fund raising. Everything I am able to do this year will either have to come from my own pocket, from donations, or business/corporate sponsors.

I have already received donations from two local businesses. The first business, Bloom Photography, provided their services for head-shot photographs that I was required to have for the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. The second business, Diversified Companies, created and printed my business cards.

I still have a long way to go. The entry fee for the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant is $1,850.00. The first $925.00 is due by May 15th. The second $925.00 is due by June 15th. My goal is to raise the entry fee one dollar at a time. I would like to receive $1 from 1,850 different individuals. I would also like to reach all 50 states by having someone from each state donate. I feel this is a great way to help raise awareness to the Ms. Wheelchair America organization. I didn’t even know it existed until January 2013.

I have already collected over $100, but I still have a long way to go. In the beginning, I didn’t want to do PayPal or other website based donations because these company’s get their cut of the donations as well. Unfortunately, most people don’t carry cash anymore, not even a $1. As a result of this, I have signed up with Go Fund Me. This company takes 5% of all donations and then about 3% when you withdraw the funds.

The pageant entry fee does not include travel expenses. I am hoping that any business/corporate sponsors I recruit will cover these costs. Any left over funds will go towards my travel expenses for my year of reign. It is my dream to reach all corners of the state of Tennessee. If you think the company you work for would be interested in being a sponsor for the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization and my year of reign, please send me an email mwtn2013blisswelch@gmail.com. If you would like to make a donation towards my entry fee, please follow the link below.


Business Cards

If there is any truth to “You’re official when you have business cards,” then…..I am officially official!!

My lovely sister Michelle reached out to another one of her amazing contacts at Diversified Companies about printing me some business cards a couple of weeks ago. In the email, Michelle informed them that I would be paying for the cards personally and wondered if they would be willing to offer some sort of discount. Co-owner, Hal Chatfield said he would do the business cards at no charge!!

Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

These business cards are truly AMAZING!!! I did not take part in designing them (once you see them you will find that hard to believe). They are perfect!! And they scream, ME!! For those of you that don’t know me personally, I often say that pink is my signature color.

Tell me what you think!?!?!

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Pretty awesome, right?

It is because of people like Hal Chatfield at Diversified Companies and the girls at Bloom Photography that will allow me to be more successful this year. I can focus more on reaching people instead of raising funds.

If you have any printing needs in the future please reach out to Diversified Companies. I promise you will be more than pleased with their work. Don’t forget to tell them Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee sent you!!

Thanks again, Hal, for the outstanding business cards!!

Snowhill Elementary School Visit

I had a GREAT time at Snowhill Elementary School on Thursday, April 25, 2013!!!

My brother Michael is a first grade teacher at Snowhill. He really wanted me to come visit with his children. Michael, aka Mr. Sheets, started talking to his kids about me weeks ago. He told them all about the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee pageant and that I was going to come for a visit.

A few weeks before my visit, one of their in-class activities was to color a picture and write a letter to me. Michael, I mean Mr. Sheets, dropped the pictures by my house. I have looked at these pictures and letters on multiple occasions. I just LOVE them!! I have to share one of my favorites with you.

I was running a few minutes behind schedule because I had a stop that had to be made before my visit. Mr. Sheets let one of the children call me to ask where I was at. They really were excited about seeing me!!

Once I arrived, Mr. Sheets introduced me to his ‘friends’. He told them that I am married and have a little girl. He told them I work and go to school. And he told them a little about the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee pageant. After the introduction, Mr. Sheets’ ‘friends’ had a few questions for me. They were curious about how my wheelchair worked, they wondered if I was able to drive, and they were interested in the things I can do with Annabelle.

After the first mini Q&A session, it was to the rug for story time. I read ‘Susan Laughs’ and ‘A Rainbow of Friends’. My new ‘friends’ really enjoyed my books. Mr. Sheets came to sit in the floor next to me. He read a few pages from ‘A Very Special Critter’. This story is about a rabbit that uses a wheelchair. Mr. Sheets read it to his class before my visit so they would understand a little bit about someone who uses a wheelchair.

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Mr. Sheets and his ‘friends’ thought ‘A Very Special Critter’ would be another good book for me to read when I visit other schools. I was very happy about having another story to share with other children.

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We had another brief Q&A session. One little girl told me about her brother who has Osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). I was so happy to share with her that one of the contestants that will be at the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant also has Osteogenesis imperfecta. I will have the pleasure of meeting her this summer in Houston, Texas.

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It is such a blessing to visit these children and these schools. Each visit assures me that changing my platform is the right decision. Education should start with the children. They are so opening to learning and are truly interested in how I am able to function. I honestly believe that educating our youth about individuals with disabilities will result in a more compassionate society.

Westview Elementary School Visit

I had the BEST day at Westview Elementary School on Friday, April 19, 2013!!

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Michelle (my sister) has her two youngest children at Westview Elementary School. Michelle arranged for me to visit Lila and Blake’s (my niece and nephew) classrooms to tell them about Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee.

I knew visiting children would be something I would want to do as Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee. After the pageant, I immediately started the hunt for a couple of storybooks I could read to children when I went to visit with them. I quickly found two books that would work great.

The first storybook is called “Susan Laughs” by Jeanne Willis. This book is very simple and tells all the things Susan can do. Susan laughs. Susan sings. Susan’s good. Throughout the storybook, you can tell Susan is a very active girl. On the very last page, you realize Susan is in a wheelchair. So, Susan is just like you and just like me!

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The second storybook is “A Rainbow of Friends” by P.K. Hallinan. This storybook tells how each of our friends are different in their own way. It encourages us to be kind to everyone, regardless of their differences. And, of course, one of the friends is in a wheelchair.

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Both of these storybooks are great! The first one teaches that there are countless things you can do while being in a wheelchair. And the second one teaches us to be kind and accepting of others and their differences.

I first visited with Lila and her classmates. Lila is in a Pre-K Inclusion class. These children were all so well behaved and interested in the stories I read to them. They had lots of questions and not all of them were about the stories or Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee, but that was perfectly okay!

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After my Pre-K visit, I was off to read to Blake’s kindergarten class. Blake’s kindergarten teacher is Mrs. Greene and she just so happened to be my kindergarten teacher when I was at Westview. (Mrs. Greene and I would appreciate it if you did NOT do any calculating to figure out how long ago that was.) To my surprise, all SIX kindergarten classes wanted to be apart of my story time. All of these children were equally as well behaved as the children in Lila’s class. They listened quietly as I shared a little about myself and the Ms. Wheelchair Organization. While I was reading the stories, David Moore, chief photojournalist from News Channel 12, tiptoed in and began filming. After story time, I took questions from the children. I love how curious little kids are. They have the BEST questions and I did my best to answer them in a way that they could understand. One popular question was how my wheelchair worked, so I finally caved in and went around and around in a circle for them to see. They loved it!!

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David Moore from News Channel 12 interviewed me in the hallway after my reading session with the kindergarteners. He was so kind and very patient with me. I still get tongue tied whenever there is a camera in my face. The Ms. Wheelchair America Organization has become so important to me in such a short period of time that I just want to be sure all the media coverage they receive, as a result of me, is positive coverage. Once you say something on camera or in print, it’s out there…..FOREVER. I know I still need a lot more practice at quickly composing my thoughts for the media.

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Before we left, there was still one special teacher I had to see. I was never a student in her class, but for some reason we just clicked when I was in kindergarten. She even took me home with her on several different occasions. The teacher I never had, that to this day holds a special place in my heart is Mrs. Ratchford. She is no longer located on the kindergarten hall like I remember, but is now teaching 2nd grade. When I poked my head in Mrs. Ratchford’s room, she quickly came out to give me a hug. Sometimes when you don’t see someone for a very long time, you forget just how special they are to you. This was definitely the case for me concerning Mrs. Ratchford. I just love her!!!

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Mrs. Ratchford told me she would love for me to visit with her class sometime. I had nothing else scheduled for Friday (well, I needed to study for my Corporate and Partnership Tax Final…..but that could wait) so we decided I would chat with her class right then. She checked and there were a few other teachers that thought their kids would enjoy the visit. After just a few minutes I ended up with three or four 2nd grade classes in the hallway ready to listen. My storybooks were a little juvenile for their ages, but they politely listened anyway. During their Q&A I could tell they really understood what I was telling them by the questions they asked. The older the children, the harder the questions, but I loved it. One of my mottos has always been: You never know unless you ask…..and ask they did!

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I can’t thank everyone enough for the wonderful time I had while at Westview. It was great to see people I haven’t seen in years, from high school friends to my very first boyfriend’s mother. You just never know who you will run into when you go back to elementary school!!

The overall experience made such an impact on me that I now have a new platform for the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant in July. I don’t have all the details ironed out yet, but I know I want to educate the children.

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Tennessee House of Representatives

Yesterday (Monday, April 15, 2013) the Tennessee House of Representatives took time out of their busy schedules to honor me for winning the title of Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee and to wish me luck at the Ms. Wheelchair America 2014 pageant.

State Representative, Gerald McCormick, drafted a resolution that was read on the State House Floor. It was an honor to have a few moments to share my platform. These sessions are always recorded and streamed live on the internet. Please take about 6 minutes and enjoy the video below.

And again, many thanks to Gerald McCormick for allowing my voice to be heard.

Nominate Someone Wonderful

As part of my platform, I want to shine a spotlight on people who lead active lives, are positive examples for others, live in the state of Tennessee, and just so happen to use a wheelchair. It is important to recognize the accomplishments of these individuals as they are not only amazing role models for our youth, but for everyone!!

I realize that most people will not nominate themselves. (My family had to encourage me to be a contestant for the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee pageant, and look at me now!!) So, I need help from you! If you know someone who fits the description above send me an email, tell me all about them, and attach pictures of your nominee. I have a questionnaire I can send back to you if you need help, but I’m sure you will have no problems at all telling me just how wonderful your nominee is. I will also need contact information for your nominee.

Once I receive the information from you about your amazing nominee, I will reach out to them and send them their very own questionnaire. I will compile the information I have on each amazing nominee and write a blog post about them. These blog posts will be shared on all my social media sites. I also intend to brag about these amazing individual in any future interviews I may do with the news.

Before the pageant, I thought I would just do one nominee a month for a grand total of twelve. During the pageant, I realized if I won, that one nominee a month wasn’t going to be enough and I should do one a week. Fifty-two sounded like a much better number than twelve. But then I thought, what if I have more than one nominee a week….how will I pick?? So, I have decided to try and spotlight everyone that is nominated. YAY!!

I can’t wait for the nominees to start rolling in. I am excited to shine a spotlight on these individuals. But I am more excited to see how these individuals are able to touch your life with their story. Ready, Set, Nominate!! Send nominees to mwtn2013blisswelch@gmail.com Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!