The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. This piece of legislation prohibits the discrimination of people with disabilities. This vital piece of legislation enables individuals with disabilities to have the same opportunities to participate in daily, mainstream activities as others without disabilities.
It is with a very, very heavy heart that we share the news that Savannah Miller – Little Miss Wheelchair Tennessee 2007/2008 (pictured on the far right in both photos below) passed away earlier today. A few of our MWTN sisterhood just spent time with her in December at the annual ABLE Youth Christmas party.
Please continue to keep this incredible young woman’s family in your thoughts and prayers. We are grateful that Savannah was a part of our Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee sisterhood. Her legacy, spirit and her infectious smile will never be forgotten.
Over the past year or so, the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization has been quietly transitioning while we have moved into a new chapter of growth. As of today, we wanted to officially announce this new chapter.
After almost 5 years of service to the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization as State Coordinator, Bliss Welch, will be stepping down from that role and transitioning into the role of Treasurer while also taking on other exciting, new endeavors. Meanwhile, Lindsey Becker (our organization’s current Historian) will be stepping into the role of State Coordinator. As an organization, we always strive to be one of the best in the state of Tennessee. We will continue to use our mission to empower women in wheelchairs with the incredible opportunity to advocate for people with disabilities in our state and beyond. Bliss set the bar high when it comes to carrying out the mission of the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee program. We have full confidence that Lindsey will do the same.
We wanted to take a moment to thank both of these women (as well as our Board of Directors) for their continued service to the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization. We cannot wait to watch these ladies continue to grow and shine as they both go into these exciting, new chapters!
As two new titleholders will be crowned next week, we wanted to congratulate our outgoing titleholders, Cyndi and Liberty, on a job well done during their reigns as titleholders. We are so proud of all of their advocacy work and can’t wait to see what else is in store for these two incredible advocates. Love,
The Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee Board of Directors
Cyndi’s Farewell Message:
From the time I competed in the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2016 competition, I have felt that being Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee was not God’s plan for me. Little did I know that He wasn’t saying “No”. He was saying, “Not yet”. Between then and now, I have met amazing women and children and have been blessed to be involved in this organization. I have loved supporting the titleholders in their adventures and volunteering when I can. I was very excited about serving as a judge last year, but as you know, that story played out in a very different manner.
So here I sit, closing out the most rewarding, exciting, and surprising chapter of my life. I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams what would await me this year. All I could think about was how was I going to do this job justice because I had such big shoes to fill. Bliss, the Board of Directors, and past titleholders have been with me every step of the way. They have guided me, answered questions, and prepared me the best they could for what was to come.
I have felt a sense of community like never before. The Walden’s Ridge Community on Dayton Mountain have supported me through this year. Immediately, they threw a fundraiser to send me to Ms. Wheelchair America. Within a month, we had the funds and that was checked off the list. Friends and family, as well as my church family, have supplied me with all the finances I needed to travel throughout the state this year. Channels 3 and 9, US101, The Dayton Herald and the Bledsonian Banner have done their best to cover my year and help us get the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee message out there and I am so appreciative. Thank you to the Tennessee Disability Coalition who did such a nice story on “The making of Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee”. They even showed up to cheer me on when I was introduced from the floor of the House of Representatives in Nashville. Thank you, Ron Travis, my State Representative, who made that happen and for handing me the microphone to speak without warning!
I have spent many days in Nashville advocating for those with disabilities. It was such an honor to meet so many politicians who truly do care and want to help make a difference. Chatting with Governor Bill Lee and meeting President George W. Bush were just some of the unexpected surprises I received throughout my year of reign.
My platform this year was to “Share the hope” with those who suddenly find themselves living life in a wheelchair. I have visited three Veterans hospitals, and Siskin and Patricia Neal rehabilitation centers. I can’t tell you what an honor it is to visit with Disabled Veterans. Their faces lit up when I rolled into the room. We talked about what lies ahead and I encouraged them to move forward and reach for their dreams. Those experiences have been such a blessing to me. I truly pray I made a difference in their day, if not their life. I know they have changed mine.
Another thing near and dear to me is addiction recovery. Behind every addict is a family that is suffering. My husband and I know this all too well. We both pray and hope that by reaching out and helping those who are trying to make a change, someone will do that for our family member someday. Speaking at their meetings and serving them Christmas dinner alongside my granddaughters was a highlight and is something my husband and I will continue to do in the future.
I suppose my biggest surprise this year was an email from Permobil wheelchair company asking me to do a promo video for their new line of active height, active reach and standing wheelchairs. What an experience! This video was shot in Nashville and I was treated like a star. The video has been very successful for Permobil, which makes me really happy.
Making rural downtown areas more accessible was on my agenda as well. I met with the Dayton city officials regarding their downtown area. We reached an agreement that downtown curbs would be ADA compliant by the end of this year. Although it looks like it will be more like the end of 2020, the project is in the budget and has begun. That’s the important thing.
A citizen of Pikeville, Tennessee made a complaint on social media about the Bledsoe County courthouse not having an automatic door opener. I immediately met with the Mayor and he contacted a contractor while I sat in the office. We went outside and discussed the logistics of where the opener should be. I am excited to say that the courthouse now has an automatic door opener. It has been a pleasure to work with city officials who see the need and want to make changes. I love public speaking and I am grateful to have gotten an opportunity to gain some experience at that. I have had 18 speaking engagements and 9 media interviews. Some of those were not expected, so I learned to always be ready to share my platform and talk about Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee with others. You never know when you could be meeting a potential sponsor.
When I began this year, I chose a bible verse to see me through this journey and it has. God’s word is true. I prayed this for my Ms. Wheelchair America sisters and today, I pray this for all of you.
Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be discouraged: for the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go.”
Thank you to the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization for a very memorable year!!
God Bless, Cyndi Leach
Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2019
Liberty’s Farewell Message:
One thousand four hundred and thirty-five days. That’s how long the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization has been a part of my life.
In that length of time, I have grown so much. I was 11 the first time I participated in the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee Competition, and now at almost 15, I’m finally saying goodbye.
Throughout the years I’ve worn four crowns, but it was never about the crowns for me. It was about the family that came with it… a family that has taught me so much about accepting who I am and believing that I can make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.
I hope going forward to be a mentor to all the future title holders in any way I can. I hope to be someone that the future Junior and Little Miss Wheelchairs can look to for advice. I hope to be someone that can help others believe in themselves and the power of their voice. I hope to be what everyone else in this organization has been for me.
As I continue into my high school career and set my sights on Stanford University, it’s time for me to take a break from being a titleholder. So, I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not goodbye, just goodbye for now, and Thank You, all of you for your love and support through the years. I hope I’ve made you proud.