Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Plan or His

Have you ever heard the saying, “Trust in God’s plan”? Sure you have, hasn’t everybody? We talk of God’s plan for each of us, we accept God’s plan, but until the end of our lifetime, I don’t think we’ll fully understand God’s plan.

We may never know God’s plan and as a society who always wants answers, this saying is often hard to fathom. We crave reason and logic.

I’ve been asked numerous times if I really thought God planned for me to become a quadriplegic and I always say have replied, “I don’t know.” Well, I now have an answer to that question. No, I do not think God planned for me to dive into that river, break my neck, and become a quadriplegic. I think God planned for me to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

And as of today, I think I’m doing a pretty decent job of fulfilling that plan. I couldn’t be happier for where I am at in my life, my career, everything. Plus, I must say that I have been given so many opportunities that I didn’t necessarily think would happen.

I now live close enough to see my niece, Karlee, and nephews, Jake and Eli, numerous times a week if I want (as well as the rest of my family). I have been backstage at not only one, but two Kid Rock concerts. I have met his drummer and have a pair of her sticks she had used. I was given an opportunity to help coach high school volleyball last year…who by the way made it to State.  I have experienced Houston humidity where the moment you walk out the door, your glasses fog up. Also, who would of thought I’d ever try out for a pageant…and actually win? I truly can’t wait to begin traveling throughout the state sharing my story and platform. Plus, the National competition is in Rhode Island in August. I have never in my life thought I’d be traveling to Rhode Island.

God may not plan out the specifics of our life, but know he always provides us with many opportunities. Those opportunities are the moments we’ll never forget! Keep the in His plan!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Small Town Blessed

Bucklin, KS - 
27 miles Southeast of Dodge City
Population: approximately 700
Hometown of Eddie Sutton
Home of the Bucklin Red Aces

It’s no secret, I’m from a small town. I have lived in Bucklin almost my whole entire life and I couldn’t feel more blessed to be from such a community. I was reminded of this fact once again today.

The community of Bucklin has watched me grow up from the time I was in diapers until the time I graduated high school. They supported me throughout my extracurricular activities, such as volleyball and basketball, and have always provided me a helping hand whenever needed.

When I had my accident in 2006, my mailbox became filled with cards and letters, my inbox filled with emails, and my phone never stopped ringing. I had so many people praying for me and supporting me, it was unbelievable. They had numerous fundraisers, including a volleyball tournament, street dance, hamburger feed, and a boot drop, just to name a few. When I would tell people in the hospital these things, they just couldn’t imagine - nobody understood the small town lifestyle.

Volleyball Tournament

Street Dance
I will never forget the first day I got home from Houston a little over a month after my accident. When we turned off of Hwy 54 onto Main, the same street I had spent countless nights cruising up and down for four years during high school, there were “Welcome Home Emily” signs all the way up and down the highway. When we pulled into my driveway there were signs in my yard and a ton of people in my house. It was amazing…from that first day until the December 13th when I returned back to Houston for therapy, my door was practically revolving. So many visitors with so many friends and so much food!

Almost six years later, my doorbell is not as busy as it used to be, but I still have the constant support for all my dreams and endeavors (including Ms. Wheelchair Kansas).

What many do not understand is that, this town and this community support each other. We are each other’s extended family and we rally together in times in need and are willing to do anything and everything to help. It’s remarkable.

I am a small-town girl. I am extremely proud of where I come from and I truly am blessed. 

Thank you all for your continual love and support. 
Without you, I would not be where I am at!

Picture of Bucklin from Water Tower

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Just Another Day in the Capitol

My first official appearance as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas was a success! Mom and I spent this morning at the Capitol Building in Topeka. Before I get to all the details, I must say if you have never been to our Capitol building, you need to. It is amazing and absolutely gorgeous.For the past 10 years or so they have been remodeling the building to look as if it did (same wall colors, decor, etc) as it had when they built it in the 1860s. 

After arriving, we made our way up to Governor Brownback's office where the Secretary of Commerce Pat George met us. I briefly got to meet with the Governor and was able to get my picture taken with him. Unfortunately there was no time to discuss programs for the disabled, funding for education, turkey and pheasant hunting, or wind turbines...all topics people suggested I mention. Maybe next time, guys!

Secretary of Commerce Pat George, Governor Sam Brownback and myself

After my meet-and-greet with Governor Brownback, Secretary George took us for a brief tour up to where the Senate was getting ready to go in session. We hung around for a little bit and got to hear the discussion on a few amendments. They were discussing education funding while we were there and although I did not have much idea of what was being discussed, my mother sure did. She is a Junior High Special Ed Teacher here in Bucklin. The discussion of the state's new core curriculum really interested her.

The coolest part of my day was when Senator Garret Love, who I have known since high school, introduced me during as a guest during their session. It was an amazing feeling having all the Senators stand and applaud for me...I was truly in shock! 

Senator Garrett Love and myself

I must send a big thank you to all three of these gentlemen mentioned above, especially Garrett, for taking time out of their day to meet with me and their kind words of encouragement!

Here are a few more pictures from today!
Senate Chambers 

And again..the decor is so elaborate and ornate! Absolutely gorgeous!!

Tragic Prelude, by John Stuart Curry

Monday, March 19, 2012

Could it be...Is it really...Raining?

We have arrived in Topeka and are getting settled in for the evening. It is a 272 mile trip from Bucklin to Topeka and for approximately 116 miles of the journey, from El Dorado to Topeka,we drove through rain. Not just a little rain, but quite a bit.

Rain is a sacred thing where I come from and trust me when I say we are in desperate need of it. Our livelihoods depend on it - it affects everything from our crops to our cattle. 

For my whole entire life I have enjoyed rainy days...I love the freshness and smell of rain, the gloominess in the sky and the desire to curl up and read a good book during these days. It makes everyone in Bucklin happy, and farmers act as if they are kids in candy stores.

Now that I'm in a chair, rain makes things just a little difficult...I have to constantly watch where I wheel - avoiding all mud and most of the large puddles. I'm not certain if it is possible to hydroplane in a wheelchair, but I really do not want to find out...that would result in a hospital visit, no doubt! Rain also makes my grips super slippery, it will take me 5 minutes to move 20 feet. Last, but not usually takes me a few minutes to get in and out of vehicles and then to make it inside anywhere I go - this is a sure way to soak my seat cushion and/or backrest and definitely ruin any kind of hairstyle that I have going on that day.

While there may be more negatives on paper when it comes to rain, I will never truly complain about it...Like I said, it is a sacred thing around Bucklin and the last place I want to end up is with the devil himself...Difficult or not, I'll take all the rain we can get!!


Be sure to check in tomorrow a big day meeting Governor Brownback! Can't wait to fill you all in!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friends in All Places

In the past six years, I have traveled to both TIRR in Houston, TX and the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery in Detroit, MI several times for physical rehabilitation.  Both are amazing facilities that have essentially kicked my butt, helping me to become stronger and more independent, but what makes them both such great facilities are the people inside…and I’m not just talking staff members, but the other clients as well.

The first time I walked into CSCIR in Detroit I saw a picture of a girl standing with her leg braces on. I instantly looked up to her…I had no clue who she was, but I looked up to her and I wanted to be able to do just what she was doing. A few days into the program, I met that girl in the picture, and it was Miss Stevie Beale.

Over the past few years, I have gotten to know Stevie and let me tell you she is one of the strongest, most caring, hard-working, and smartest girls I know. She has been through so much in such a short time. In 2006, Stevie was a high school senior and athlete with a bright future, until a horrible car accident changed everything. The car Stevie and 4 of her friends were riding in hit a tree at 75 mph. Stevie sustained life-threatening injuring, including her paralysis from the waist down, and her best friend Charlie died in the accident. Since then, Stevie has made remarkable strides. She kills it during therapy every other day, recently graduated from college with a pysch degree, lives on her own, and is competing in the Ms. Wheelchair Ohio pageant this weekend!

Please keep her in your prayers this weekend as she goes through the pageant process. I know she’s going to do great. I hope to see her in August for the National competition in Rhode Island!

Good Luck Stevie!!
Stevie was recently awarded with the Courage Award at the DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan Gala. Here is the video they played before she accepted her award. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Define Yourself...Don't Let Others Do it for You

The biggest task in preparing for all of this was developing a platform..what was something that I was passionate about and something that I could possibly talk day-in and day-out about? My mind instantly went to my high school volleyball girls - I know volleyball, I know about being a girl, and I know about some of the trials and tribulations that high schoolers and young adults face.

I knew talking about volleyball or being a girl wouldn't get me the title so I went with trials and tribulations. I truly think one of the hardest issues teenagers and young adults face is learning to define themselves. Every move we/they is scrutinized by friends or parents and nobody is 100% confident of who they are. We care about what others say and think about us..we want to all "fit in". So I decided that my platform needed to be about learning to define ourselves and not letting other people or certain situations do so.

When I had my accident, I realized early on that I had a choice to be upset about everything that happened and think "woe is me", or I could look at the positive aspects, put a smile on my face and move on with my life. It was an easy decision for me and I truly think that having this positive attitude has helped me to get where I am today. I was bound and determined to not let my chair or my injury define me as a person.

During my on-stage speech, I mentioned that with every situation we face in life, we have choices and it is those choices that can define who we are as people. Being a teenager and a young adult, these choices are often hard to make because of that constant desire to fit in as well as the influence of our peers. When someone is ridiculed for having blue hair, being overweight, their family dynamic, or skipping out on going to the club every night (just to name some random situations) - we begin to perhaps think that maybe we are exactly what our peers are saying. 

The truth is..we're usually not that person. It is our own responsibility to choose how these people, their actions and words, or the situation, itself, affect us. We are the ones responsible our character and provide the facts of our lives, not Sally Jo down the street.

So now that you know a little bit about my platform, I must say whether you're 13 or 30, remember to always Define Yourself - Don't Let Others Do it for You!

Topeka, Here I Come!

It's official...I have my first appearance next week! 
Tuesday morning I will be meeting Governor Brownback!

Now, what do you think it's going to take for this girl to meet the President??
(Just Kidding)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Inside Look of the Pageant Process

I left yesterday's post off with me mailing in my application for this I thought I'd take you through the pageant weekend!

Arriving in Topeka around 1:30pm on Friday, I was greeted just inside the hotel doors with a goodie bag and folder with my weekend agenda. All the girls were super sweet and I saw Russell Stover turtles in the bag - it was going to be a good day! After everyone got checked in, all three of us contestants as well as many of the steering committee members met and we got to hear about the pageant itself, Jenny's journey over this past month, and learned a little about one another. Friday evening, we all went out to eat at Los Charros and got to watch a little of the KU/Baylor game.

Early Saturday morning, we all met to eat breakfast and started in with our first informative session of the day, Advocacy. I don't have a lot of experience with issue so meeting Stephanie and how passionate she was about being an advocate really opened my eyes. Forgive my language, but she is a bad ass chick who is NOT afraid to speak her mind! 

After the Advocacy session came our first judging session, and lucky me - I was chosen to go first. I wasn't too nervous, but had no clue what they would ask. We had fifteen minutes with the judges and in those fifteen minutes, I was asked about my story, my accomplishments since my accident, my thoughts on certain issues, and many other things I do not remember. After my interview, Jessica and Shanell each had their turn with the panel and we had a little downtime to go work on our platform speech.

After lunch we had began our second round of interviews with the judges. This time around, they asked questions a bit more specific to me and what not. I remember certain questions such as "What would you do if you won a 10 million dollar library?", "Who is in our Kansas legislature?" (Please forgive me Moran and Roberts, the guy I could think of was Mr. Garrett Love himself), and my final question with the judges were, "If you could give your platform in speech, what would it be?"

The rest of the day was filled with more informative sessions. We had Working with the Media where I learned the tricks of the trade to give a good interview and Disability Pride where I learned to never be ashamed of myself or my disability. In our Self Defense session, I learned the best way to fend off an attacker was to run them over and in the Health and Fitness session, I got some great cardio tips. 

We ended Saturday with a pizza party and some games in Jenny's suite. 

Sunday came around a little too early, but thankfully we didn't have a whole lot on our agenda. This morning we practiced how the ceremony would go and then were sent to start primping for the pageant. Around 1:30, us girls met our escorts for the ceremony. (I have to send a huge shootout to Anthony Davis, former Chiefs and Ravens player, for being my escort, helping me up the ramp, and sweating bullets behind me throughout the whole ceremony). The ceremony promptly started at 2pm and we were off! I was the first to present my platform, Definitions - Empowering Youth to Define Themselves, on stage and answer my two questions. Shanell and Jessica followed suit and then we were escorted back off stage to watch a slideshow and hear from the key note speaker Angel. Jenny's presentation was next and then the news was announced. When I heard my name announced, I was absolutely in shock - I was sure one of the other girls had it...I then made it back to the center of the stage where I received my crown, sash, plaque, and flowers. I said my Thank You's and then got lots of pictures in! Here are just a few!!

Receiving my Sash

Thank You's

My escort, Anthony Davis


The Steering Committee

It was an extremely long weekend, but it was worth it. I'm still in shock, but I'm really excited to be given this opportunity to travel and speak about my platform! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Before the Crown and Sash

With this being my very first blog, I feel as if I should introduce myself. Most of who will be reading this probably already knows all of this, but nonetheless here I go.

My name is Emily Evans, I am 25 years old and live in Bucklin, KS - the same town where I was born and raised. I had an amazing childhood and great teenage years. I was an athletic kid growing up, even going on to play volleyball at Pratt Community College. In 2006, at the age of 19, I was on a float trip near Tahlequah, OK when I had my diving accident. It left me as a C5-C6 quadriplegic and my life instantly changed.

Throughout the past 6 years, I have been in and out of physical rehabilitation hospitals working to become stronger and more independent, but have still maintained to graduate from Fort Hays State University in 2009 with a Bachelors Degree in Human Resources Management and work a full-time job.

Now with all that being said, I must begin with how the pageant came about...

I recently bought myself a new pickup and am currently in the process of learning to drive again. In the midst of figuring out hand controls, signing papers, and everything else that buying a vehicle entails, Jay Hatfield approached me about possibly running for the title. I told him I would think about it, but as soon as I got out of the doors I said there's no way I'm doing that..I'm no "pageant girl".

For the next month or so it would creep up into my mind and therefore I started doing some research and even reaching out to Jenny, Ms. Wheelchair KS 2011. I learned it was not a beauty pageant, but yet a competition to find an articulate and accomplished woman to be a role model for the people with and without disabilities in Kansas. This was right up my alley and I thought if my story could help just one person, then it'd be worth it.

So that was it...I printed off the forms, filled them out, and sent them in! The rest is history.