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Varner says that being Ms. Wheelchair Virginia has given her ‘a new meaning in life, bigger than myself.’

Fredericksburg resident Vicki Varner is getting ready to head to Little Rock, Ark., in July for the 48th annual Ms. Wheelchair America National Competition.

The event focuses on women’s accomplishments and how the state winners make a difference, in their hometowns and states, for the more than 56 million Americans living with disabilities. The competition is not a beauty contest, according to a press release from the national organization.

Varner, 22, lost the use of her legs in December 2015 after a car crash near her Orange County home. She was home for the holidays after her first semester at Missouri Valley College, where she’d received an athletic scholarship after a standout softball career at Courtland High School.

She cried twice, when doctors at VCU Medical Center in Richmond told her on Christmas morning that she had a complete spinal cord injury in her lower back and would never walk again. Then, she told herself that was enough—and got on with her life.

Varner competed in Ms. Wheelchair Virginia—and was crowned the winner earlier this year—because she wanted to get behind a program that focuses on strong women making significant changes. She’s advocated for more gym equipment for people in wheelchairs, stressing that fitness is even more important to a person after a spinal cord injury.

“She lives life to the fullest and aims to shine a positive light on disabilities,” states a press release from Ms. Wheelchair America. “Through advocacy and education, she sets an example for others who also use wheelchairs for mobility.”

The competition will be held July 1–7 at the Little Rock Marriott Hotel. Varner and 22 other contestants will spend a week participating in a leadership conference, which includes working on their speeches and onstage questions. Contestants also will learn about ways to become stronger advocates for the disabled.

For the first time, the national contest includes a People’s Choice Award. It costs a $1 per vote, and the money goes to Ms. Wheelchair America, a nonprofit organization that relies on fundraising by contestants and local sponsors. Voting can be done at mwapeopleschoice.org/vote.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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