OVERBROOK — Carrie Sunday wasn’t expecting to be named Ms. Wheelchair Kansas.
“I was surprised that I won,” she said. “The other two contestants had really thought out speeches and they’re great advocates for women with disabilities so when I was chosen, I was really surprised.”
After four judging sessions, a platform speech and two on-stage questions, Sunday, 29, Overbrook, was crowned 2015’s Ms. Wheelchair Kansas after competing against Keara Hockman, Wichita, and Jessica Soderlund, Oakley, for the title.
Sunday plans to use her title to encourage those living with disabilities to lead full lives, according to a Ms. Wheelchair Kansas news release.
“Carrie wants to encourage people with disabilities to take every opportunity to be happy and live life on their own terms,” the news release said.
Originally from Topeka, Sunday was crowned in front of about 150 community members, friends and family March 15 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, Topeka.
As part of her title, Sunday is expected to travel across the state to educate and advocate about the importance of people with disabilities with the platform “Changing the Definition of Disabled,” according to the release.
“It’s spreading the message that people with disabilities are strong and accomplished people that have lives of our own and we’re far more than someone who just uses a wheelchair,” Sunday said.
In April, Sunday plans to attend the MDA Muscle Walk of Wichita, she said. In May, she’s headed to the Challenge Games, a sports competition for people with disabilities, in Derby, Kansas, she said.
Sunday’s disability traces back to 2003, when she was 17 and involved in a car wreck that resulted in a spinal cord injury, she said. A Washburn University graduate, she now works as a quality systems coordinator for Innovia Films, Inc. with plans to open her own photography studio. At her job with Innovia, Sunday takes care of training records and internal job instructions, she said.
She also works as a speaker, artist, advocate, and volunteer, according to the release. Sunday is a two-year volunteer with SilverbackKS, an organization that volunteers with other organizations to help the homeless and less fortunate, according to the SilverbackKS website.
Delaney Murphy, 10, Ottawa, the newly-crowned Little Ms. Wheelchair Kansas, will travel with Sunday to demonstrate the capabilities of people with disabilities. Murphy, a student at Garfield Elementary, 1213 S. College St., Ottawa, was born with Spina Bifida, the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States, according to Herald archives. Murphy plans to empower young Kansans alongside Sunday, according to the release.
“One thing about this competition that I didn’t realize going into it but with Delaney I feel like not only can I be a role model for people in the community but as she grows, I think that her and I will be close friends,” Sunday said. “I’m really happy that I won just because I think that her and I will be close friends for many years.”
In addition to the Ms. Wheelchair and Little Ms. Wheelchair crownings, the March 15 events included a speech from the 2010 titleholder, Tiffany Nickel, a farewell from the 2014 titleholder, Bridgid Schwilling, Leavenworth, and a tribute to committee member Rebecca Branam.
As Ms. Wheelchair Kansas, Sunday will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, in July to represent Kansas in the Ms. Wheelchair America competition. Sunday will compete against 30 women from states across the United States.
“I’m very excited about [the national competition],” she said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking to be on such a big stage with so many other strong accomplished women but I’m excited about it.”
?Kate Shelton is a Herald staff writer. Email her at email@example.com