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Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2013 April 5th & 6th Hilton Carillon Park ~ St. Petersburg, Florida

Beyond Limits ‌ Without Boundaries

A warm welcome from your State Coordinator

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Ms. Wheelchair Florida Pageant 2013 Evening Program Mistress of Ceremony: Ms. Keisha Pickett


Ms. Wheelchair Fl. Mission

Contestant Introductions

Contestant Speeches

Contestant Questions & Answers

Reigning Ms. Wheelchair Fl - Laura Minutello Farewell Speech Ms. Congeniality Award

Ms. Wheelchair Florida Pageant 2013 Evening Program (continued)

Contestant Placement Announcement of First & Second Runner Up

Announcement of Ms. Wheelchair Fl 2013

Recognition of Sponsors

Final Words from State Coordinator, Shari Wilson

Keynote Speaker

Ms. Perneita Farrar-fitzgerald In April, 2005, Ms. Farrar-Fitzgerald was diagnosed with Lupus. This diagnosis resulted in Perneita undergoing 17 surgeries, leaving her ultimately paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair. Holding on to her faith, she defied the doctors’ prognosis. In 2011, while still in a nursing home, Perneita enrolled in graduate school and completed her Master’s degree at the University of Maryland. Soon after, she regained her mobility through an intense rehab program in California, called Project Walk. Currently, Perneita works as an academic faculty member for a local Community College. In addition, she’s also a ministry leader at her church and a mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization. Perneita is currently working on a book, which should be available soon. Her goal, is to inspire others to never underestimate the power of faith, hope and love.

Honored Guest

Ms. Jennifer french

In 1998, as a result of a snowboarding accident , Ms. Jennifer French became a quadriplegic. In November 1999, she received the Implantable Stand & Transfer System Affairs; making her the first woman to receive such a system. Over the course of her MBA career, Jennifer has helped launch successful divisions in organizations as Bombardier Capital and PC Connection, Inc. Residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, she serves as chairperson to the committee to Advocate for Persons with Impairments for the City of St. Petersburg. Jennifer also volunteers at the local sailing center and is a state trained Peer Mentor for spinal cord injury. Most recently, Jennifer represented Team USA at the 2012 Paralympic Games in the sport of sailing and proudly brought home the Silver medal. Jennifer became the first woman with a disability to be awarded the Rolex Yachtwoman of the Year Award.

Ms. Ashley Applequist Ms. Ashley Applequist was born in 1986 with both Spinabifida and Hydrocephalus, causing her to need 16 surgeries before the age of 2. She attended public school in the Exceptional Student Education Program (ESE). “ I have realized that I have sufficient brain power to accomplish much more than I ever knew”.

Ms. Camile F. Araujo After serving 11 years for the Miami Dade Police Department, Ms. Camile Araujo was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down. Immediately filtering her life, Camile became an author and speaker. “I would not change one single second of my life. I’m finally becoming the woman I love to be”.

Ms. Chamara McGahee At the age of 23, Ms. Chamara McGahee became a paraplegic. Chamara is currently in pursuit of her Associates Degree at Polk State College in Lake Wales. Chamara is also a member of the New Life Deliverance Praise and Worship Ministries in Winter Haven. “Life is what you make it!”!

Ms. Latoya M. Nesmith Originally from New York City, Ms. Latoya Nesmith was born in 1985 and diagnosed with Cerebalpalsy at only 1 years old, Currently attending Hillsborough Community College, Latoya also volunteers with the Girl Scouts of the USA. In addition, Latoya participates in multiple PBS documentaries . “Be like water, because water takes any form”.

Ms. Lisa Jackson Born in 1967, Ms. Lisa Jackson was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. After earning her degree in Elementary Education from the University of West Florida in 1998, Lisa went on to teach for 5 years. At the age of 45, Lisa became a bilateral amputee. Losing her right leg in 2006 and the left in 2012. “To God be the glory, because it won’t always be this way”.

Ms. Ruth Gray Born in 1959, Ms. Ruth Gray is the oldest of 5 children. In 1995, Lisa was injured in a car accident by a drunk driver. Through taking her to church, Lisa found her love of kindness towards others from her mother and grandmother . Lisa enjoys passing on that kindness through speaking at her church now. “You have two fathers, the second one is the Lord”.

Ms. Sara Canali Born in 1986, Ms. Sara Canali was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth. Currently living in Sebring, Sara attends South Florida State College. In addition to her studies, Sara participates with the Special Stars and Miracle League Baseball. “You can do anything if you put your mind to it. You can achieve your dreams by not giving up.

Ms. Amanda Cookson Originally from Naugatuck Connecticut, Ms. Amanda Cookson was born in 1988. After high school, Amanda received her IFS Certification from Hartford Connecticut Job Corps. Amanda is currently in pursuit of her Pharmacy Tech Certification from Pinellas County Job Corps, which she plans to complete in May 2013. Amanda then plans to take her Pharmacy Tech Certification all the way to an Ultra Sound Technician. “My goal is to encourage other persons with disabilities and in a wheelchair to not be afraid of work in the medical industry”.

Ms. Maya Hill -Henderson Born in Washington D.C. in 1979, Ms. Maya HillHenderson was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 17. Living in Tampa since 1985, Maya graduated from Bennett College for Women in 2013. Currently, Maya works as an insurance agent for Affinity Insurance. “If God gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

New Horizons is a nonprofit organization that supports people with disabilities by encouraging them to become physically and logistically independent. The support group emphasizes self-advocacy, showing those with disabilities how, in many instances, they can become their own best care manager, and by overcoming the daily challenges of living with a disability. New Horizons has monthly meetings on the 4th Thursday of the month from 11am to 1pm. The meetings are held at BB&T Bank located at 4144 N. Armenia Avenue, Tampa, Fl 33607. For more information or to get involved, please contact the president and founder, Mr. Arizona Jenkins at 813-494-0111 or email at

Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2013 Extends Special Thanks to our Royal Diadem Corporate Sponsors and Donors

Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2013 Extends Special Thanks to our Grand Supreme Corporate Sponsors and Donors

Eddie Hall

Raised in Kalkaska, Michigan on his family’s farm until the age of 8, Mr. Hall moved North to Lakeland. There, Eddie was struck by a car, leaving him a paraplegic for life. Hall said, “The doctors were amazed that I survived the accident and declared it a miracle.” Hall returned to the Polk County School System, where he earned letters in three sports (football, basketball and track) and was the first wheelchair bound student. After graduating from Polk Community College with an Associates of Science degree in Computer Engineering, Eddie worked for Publix Supermarkets for 26 years. Eddie was the first wheelchair employee employed at Publix. Married with two children, Eddie now works at a Home Depot Store near his South Lakeland home. After many years as a local pioneer and advocate for the disabled and mobility impaired, Mr. Hall wants to continue serving the local community.

Jane Morse-Swett

Raised in Michigan. Ms. Morse-Swett has lived all over the world, including Brasil, Germany and Spain. During this time, she raised three children (all born in different countries), taught English as a second language, and became the founder of Happy Hands, work with Americans living overseas. She also worked on a bilingual cookbook that was sold to help a local orphanage in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Now a resident of Florida, Jane began working for Gulfcoast Oncology and then ran their Foundation that helped cancer patients with non-medical financial assistance. In September of 2012, Jane decided to start her own foundation, WOMEN WITH PURPOSE, to help our local foundations as well as women with disabilities. Their motto: Give where you live.

Ms. Sharon Welch

Native to the Tampa Bay area, Ms. Welch holds a bachelor of Science Degree from Florida State University (Psychology/Biology), a Master of Arts Degree from the University of South Florida (Education) and is currently completing a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership at Capella University. Currently, Sharon is the Computer Systems Development/GIS Manager for the City of St. Petersburg, as well as, an Adjunct Professor at St. Petersburg College in the School of Policy, Ethics and Legal Studies. Sharon has also served as a Mayor’s Mentor at Gibbs High School for over ten years. Actively involved in her church, Countryside Christian Center as one of the Choir directors, Sharon has a passion for missions and assisting others in discovering their God-given gifts and leading purpose-filled lives. Sharon is the proud mother of one of Disney’s most talented performing Artist, Rosharra Francis.

Ms. Robyn Stawski

Robyn Stawski is well diverse in disability issues and continues to change the mindsets and stereotypes of society through her own life experience and challenges of living with a physical disability. Robyn is a 2005 graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida with a B.A. in Public Relations/Journalism. In the past, Robyn has served as an employee of Shriners Hospital for Children assisting young adults with disabilities and their families in obtaining the resources for the patients to achieve their independence and reach their goals. Robyn currently holds national records for the shot put, discus and javelin. At the 2007 Para Pan American Games, Robyn captured the bronze in the discus and gold in the shot put, while also setting a new Para Pan American record in the shot put. Most recently, Robyn, competed in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing China in the discus, shot put and javelin. Today, Robyn currently, works at the New Tampa Family YMCA as a Welcome Center Representative and as a Missionary Associate with Special Touch Ministry, Inc.

Ms. Wheelchair Florida Pageant 2013 Educational Workshop Moderators

Ms. Rebecca Crosby: Relationships & Sexuality

Mr. Bob Turel: Effective Public Speaking

Ms. Stephanie Pollard: Women’s Health

Ms. Wheelchair Florida Pageant 2013 Educational Workshop Moderators

Ms. Candice McCoy: Heath & Fitness

Mr. Lindell Bright: Disability Policy

Pastor and First Lady Dr. Otha Leverette III Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church

The mission of Self Reliance Center for independent Living is to promote independence by empowering people with disabilities and improving the communities in which we live. Bingo for Charity Dirty Drag Style!!! Come for food, fun, bingo prices and a 50/50 drawing on June 4, 2013 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m! Proceeds go to Self Reliance for consumer activities and training. 2nd Annual Fundraising Breakfast Save the date for the 2 annual Self Reliance breakfast at Wyndham Hotel Westshore on October 17, 2013 from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. Jennifer French who own a Silver medal in the 2012 Paralympics in sailing is the speaker. Tickets are $35.00 a plate and there are sponsorships available for this event. Contact for more information. nd

Ms. Wheelchair Florida ‘05 Specialties Include: Creating a full and rewarding life with a disability Developing Sustainable self-care routines Letting go of perfectionism, procrastination, or black/white thinking Personal growth and development

(727) 282-5224 / / fb/BeckyBlitchCoaching

Thank You to all who made this night a success!

Thank You to all who made this night a success!

Thank You to all who made this night a success!

A very big thank you to the Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2013 Host Committee for their hard work and dedication to making this year’s event a success! Shari D. Wilson State Coordinator ~ Ms. Wheelchair Florida, Inc.

Dr. Devona Foster Pierre Autumn Gardaya Keisha Pickett Dwight D. Wilson Yesenia Zarzuela

Special thanks and consideration to Reigning Ms. Wheelchair Fl. Laura-Lee Minutello Bob Turel Sabrina Zarzuela And all our friends and family for their love and support of this year’s Ms. Wheelchair Florida Pageant!

OUR MISSION The mission of Ms. Wheelchair Florida Inc. is to provide an opportunity for women of achievement who utilize wheelchairs to successfully educate and advocate for all individuals with disabilities. 2013 Program  

2013 Program