FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (FOX 5 DC) — The Miss Wheelchair America competition kicks off July 1. There are some contestants from our area, including Miss Wheelchair Virginia. The 22-year-old suffered a spinal cord injury three years ago and while overcoming adversity herself, Vicki Varner has been helping others as well.
Varner, of Fredericksburg, is determined and was crowned Miss Wheelchair Virginia in January. She says she’s not stopping there. Next month, she’s heading to Little Rock for the national competition.
It’s not something she ever would have imagined three years ago. The college freshman was home on winter break during Christmas Eve in 2015 when a car crash changed her life forever in a matter of seconds.
“I was in the back seat with my brother, he was driving, and my boyfriend was in the back as well. He was going around some curves too fast on a back road, it was like a new road so we didn't really know it, and within like three seconds of being able to walk, I went to completely not being able to move my toes,” said Varner.
Varner was a former high school softball star in college on an athletic scholarship. She says she cried when doctors told her the injury to her spinal cord meant she would never walk again.
Nevertheless, Varner refuses to focus on the negative. This young woman has an unstoppable spirit.
“You have two options in a moment like that — it's either to lay down and just let it kill you mentally and emotionally or rise above it and try to make the best of your life," said Varner.
Vicki currently cares for children for two families, attends college online and is wedding planning. She and her now fiancé, Tyler, will be married next year.
As Miss Wheelchair Virginia, she’s already been giving talks — even participating in a podcast — working to motivate others with disabilities. She plans to encourage gyms to provide more equipment for people who don’t have use of their lower bodies.
“Activity after disability is much more important because you're sitting all the time, you need to find some way to get your cardio and find some way to get heart your pumping,” said Varner.
If she wins the national crown, Varner also wants to focus on advocating for more men and women with disabilities to be visible in the media.
“People view people with disabilities as being so abnormal and they just don't understand that it can happen to anyone at any time, but if we're represented more in the media then it won't be as taboo, we won't be treated as differently, they'll realize we're just normal people like everyone else,” said Varner.
You can watch parts of the competition and interviews online and voting is open to the public for a one dollar donation. Click here to vote.