Shine Bright & Be Bold!
The Ms. Wheelchair Washington-America competition will be held virtually on October 3, 2021. Watch for our Facebook link to view the competition and crowning!
1:00 – 2:50 pm Contestant Interviews
Note: Not for public viewing
3:00 – 3:10 pm – Emcee Welcome
3:10 – 3:20 pm Kaitlin’s Video
3:20 – 3:50 pm Speeches
3:50 – 4:00 pm Danielle M. Harada Art Grant Awarded
4:00 – 4:20 pm Random Questions
4:20 – 4:30 pm Ms. Wheelchair America 2022, Christine Burke Video
4:30 pm Emcee Announces Ms. Wheelchair Washington 2021-22
Facebook Viewing (with cleaned-up Closed Caption version) coming soon!
The Crowning will be a Facebook live event (to be determined)!
Ms. Wheelchair Washington 2020-21
Kaitlin Skilton, born on September 19, 1996, with Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele as well as other underlying disabilities, lives in Seattle with her family and cat Lana. She is passionate about photography, music, sports, reading, and writing. But recently she found the committee for people with disabilities and fell in love with it.
Kaitlin says, “Growing up, I shied away from activism or even talking and/or writing about my disabilities because I felt a lot of pressure in my community to do so.” This made Kaitlin feel as though people did not see there was more to her than her disabilities. However, she says her Seattle Adaptive Sports and Kiwanis Camp Casey communities have greatly and positively impacted her as they understood her thoughts and opinions. She expresses that she is extremely grateful to have found so many wonderful friends and a home away from home. Kaitlin continues that she would not have all these things if not for her disabilities.
Kaitlin desires to educate about her platform; inclusivity is necessary for everyone as inclusivity goes beyond accessibility and gives people a sense of belonging.
Emcee, Barry Long
We are honored to have motivational speaker, Barry Long, as the emcee for our 2021 Ms. Wheelchair Washington competition. After a near-fatal crash in 1991 left him paralyzed from the chest down, Barry discovered that choosing to live with a positive attitude, setting realistic yet achievable goals, and learning to ask for help can make anything possible. Since then, he has shared his uplifting message with people around the world, giving voice as an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. Barry also has had a career in sales and marketing and has built his livelihood on relationship building and a passion for helping others. This lifelong dedication to service, paired with his experience on the Marketplace Sotheby’s International Realty team, gives Barry’s clients peace of mind in any real estate transaction, no matter how large or small. Barry is proud and excited to offer his clients a one-of-a-kind selling experience that includes the distinct capability to market accessible, age-in-place, and universal design features that bring the highest home sales values.
As a long-time supporter of the MWWA program, Barry is proud to help crown our new Ms. Wheelchair Washington.
Captioner, Nick Harang
Nick Harang, from Issaquah, Washington, is a Computer Science major and the president of the Signing Vikings Club at Western Washington University.
Nick is conversationally proficient in American Sign Language (ASL) and understands the need to incorporate accessibility into web design. Nick also enjoys reading, art, and hiking.
Meet the Judges
Elaine Stefanowicz is currently a Program Coordinator with the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment (GCDE). She previously served as a committee member of GCDE for four years. Elaine has held positions as a WorkFirst job coach, adjunct college faculty member, career counselor, and educational planner. In 1997, as Washington State’s first representative, Elaine won the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant.
During her one-year reign, she visited President and Mrs. Clinton at the White House and met actor Christopher Reeve. In 2003, she was awarded Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts Pacific Peaks Council.
Melissa DEL RIO
Melissa DEL RIO is an Employment Consultant and works with one of the schools to work transition teams at Northwest Center. She joined Northwest Center in January of 2020 and has over 6 plus years of experience working with children and adults with disabilities and in disability advocacy. She loves watching her clients grow and make strides towards their goals. Melissa is also very passionate about inclusion for minority groups and people with disabilities. She serves on the Equity Committee Team at Northwest Center. Additionally, she was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Before going into Employment Consultant work, she studied at Seattle Pacific University in theology and sociology. At SPU she co-founded the first-ever disability awareness club and assisted in coordinating their first event titled, “What is Normal?” for redefining the word “Normal.” She has a tremendous passion for this field of work due to her personal life with disabilities (ie. a learning and processing disorder as one of them), network connections, and previous work experiences such as a camp counselor for Lions Camp Horizon (A Camp for Adults with Developmental Disabilities). Additionally, she is a spoken word artist for intersectional systemic justice. She has performed virtually and in person at past events at SPU. This January she had her first spoken word professionally published. It is titled “Accessibility” and speaks on the intersections of race and disability.
She enjoys photography, sign dancing, music, writing, and exploring parks in the Pacific Northwest! Finally, she is planning to publish a poetry book somewhere down the road.
Jayme Reyes Brunner
Jayme Reyes Brunner is the reigning America United Mrs, where she is living out her platform through #Volunteerism; she encourages people to find formal or informal ways to serve their community. She received the Gold for the President’s Volunteer Service Program by serving over 500 hours with Reading Partners and local WA organizations.
Jayme graduated with her Bachelors from South Dakota State University and her M.S. in College Counseling from Azusa Pacific University. She and her husband work as first responders at the DigiPen Institute of Technology and happily live in Washington.
Born with Spina Bifida, paralyzed from the knees down, Krystal Monteros ran for and became Ms. Wheelchair Washington in 2010, which launched her lifelong mission of being an advocate for kids and adults living with disabilities. Krystal currently works with Tacoma Public Schools to better the school experience for kids of all abilities.
She also works with the Tacoma Police Department in regards to how people living with disabilities are treated when interacting with the police. She continuously advocates for better mental health and other services, specifically within the minority, prison, and homeless communities.
Meet the Contestants
Cynthia “Cindy” Wise
Cindy is an outgoing woman who is friendly and helpful. She loves working on beads and participating in the Special Olympics on the bowling team. Cindy wants to show people that she can live a full life.
Allegra Diane Keys
Allegra is a strong, independent, passionate woman who happens to be in a wheelchair. She likes dogs and horses. She loves to watch her programs and cuddle up with a blanket. She is the same as everyone else.
Leylah Denise Leonard
Leylah enjoys going to events like her high school homecoming and proms. She also enjoyed volunteering at the Morgan Family YMCA. Leylah is happy that she is a person in a wheelchair. She has a lot of family members and a lot of friends that support her disability and love her for who she is. Leylah has grown to love her disability and doesn’t let negative people bring her down and she doesn’t let people make fun of her disability.
Leylah says, “Don’t judge me for having a disability before you get to know me first. Let me be me and I’ll let you be you.”
Danielle M. Harada Art Exploration Grant
Our dear Ms. Wheelchair Washington (MWW) sister, Danielle M. Harada, passed away in July of 2020 from a sudden illness. Danielle was a distractible artist with many interests. She was a lover of geeky things and shows from the UK.
Danielle expressed herself through art–drawing, painting, writing, paper art, and photography! Danielle had such a love for art, her patience and detail were unmatched. She made pictures out of tiny origami stars. She also made impressive coffee paintings even though she was not a lover of drinking coffee. It brought her joy to give her creations away.
When she wasn’t creating art, Danielle could be found playing tabletop games, attending a convention, watching too much television, or reading one of the many books from an ever-growing list. Her volunteer work with various non-profits was very important to her as well.
Danielle positively impacted many lives, in many different communities from Comicon to MDA to MWW to Camp Promise, and will be deeply missed. MWW has created this grant in her honor to continue her love for art exploration and provide encouragement to those who share a similar dream.
The recipient of the Danielle M. Harada Art Exploration Grant will be announced at the MWW 2021-22 competition.
About the Program
The mission of Ms. Wheelchair America is to provide an opportunity of achievement for women who happen to be wheelchair users to successfully educate and advocate for the more than 64 million Americans living with disabilities. Unlike traditional beauty pageants, Ms. Wheelchair America is not a contest to select the most attractive individual. It is instead a competition based on advocacy, achievement, communication, and presentation to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for persons with disabilities.
The selected representative must be able to communicate both the needs and the accomplishments of her constituency to the general public, the business community, and the legislature.
Ms. Wheelchair Washington (MWW) is a disability advocacy program that empowers women on wheels to educate about and advocate for the disability community.
MWW is not a contest to select the most beautiful person. Titleholders are selected via an annual competition. Participants are judged on their ability to put forth a demeanor that is professional and pleasing to the public as they carry out their duties as an advocate for the disability community.
Kyann Flint held the title of MWW2017 and was 2nd runner-up at Ms. Wheelchair America 2018 where she received the “Emerging Leader Award”. With a platform of Defying the Defined Disability, Kyann views her wheelchair as a freeing device that is a sweet and unique accessory. Kyann is the Director of Accessibility at Wandke Consulting and is the Co-founder of Camp Jericho. She is a native of Bellingham, Washington, and graduated from Western Washington University with a BA degree in Humanities and Social Sciences.
Kyann is the author of the Blog Life from a Lame Perspective and is currently writing her memoir about the parallels between having a disability and being a Christian.