New Ms. Wheelchair Kansas and Little Miss to empower and educate Kansans in 2018

Allison Merriam, left, and Ariana Hutchinson will represent Kansas as 2018 Ms. Wheelchair Kansas and Little Miss Wheelchair Kansas.

Allison Merriam, of Kansas City, Kan., was crowned the 2018 Ms. Wheelchair Kansas during a ceremony held March 11, 2018, at the DoubleTree Hotel, Lawrence, Kan. Merriam received the crown after participating in four judging sessions and other activities throughout the three-day event held March 9-11.

The weekend concluded with a formal crowning, when Merriam was chosen as the new titleholder and fellow contestant Melissa Monroe, of Lawrence, was chosen as the runner-up. The fourth Little Miss Wheelchair Kansas was announced as Ariana Hutchinson, Topeka, Kan., who will work alongside Merriam in the coming year to empower Kansans with her title.

The event consisted of platform speeches by the two contestants, as well as two on-stage questions. The audience enjoyed a slide show of memories from the weekend; a keynote speech from Paralympian Sarah Castle; and a farewell from the 2017 MWKS titleholder, Deb Young, Lawrence, and Little Miss titleholder, Sophia Beers, Wichita.

Merriam, the new titleholder, does not see limits. As a woman with quadriplegia, she has not let her disability hold her back from living a full life and achieving her goals. She experienced her spinal cord injury over five years ago, but, since then, she has achieved two college degrees, serves on multiple committees within her job, serves as an advocate in the community, and was recently married. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Finance from Kansas State University in 2014. She also obtained a certificate in international business. In 2015, she went on to achieve a Master of Accountancy from Kansas State University. Merriam currently works as the lead tax senior associate for RSM US LLP.  She is determined to succeed and show other people with disabilities that they too can be independent and accomplish anything!

Ariana, the new Little Miss, is an energetic and involved 12-year-old who does not let anything keep her from having fun! Ariana was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, which causes her bones to break easily. She currently attends 7th grade at Robinson Middle School in Topeka. Ariana likes to get involved and has participated in her school play this year. She loves making and creating things, and especially enjoys photography. When she grows up, Ariana plans to attend college and become a professional photographer.

Merriam will serve as a role model and spokesperson for people with disabilities in Kansas in the coming year. She will strive to educate, advocate, and empower all people in our state. She will have the opportunity to travel throughout Kansas educating various groups about the issues of importance to people with disabilities. She will share her platform of “Transformation of the Perception of Disability” with Kansans of all ages. With this platform, she will work to break stereotypes and challenge perceptions against people with disabilities. She will ultimately represent Kansas in the Ms. Wheelchair America competition, held in Grand Rapids, Mich., in July, where she will compete for the national title alongside 30 other women from various states. Ariana will work alongside Merriam to show the capabilities of people with disabilities. She will empower people of all ages, especially young people in our state.

To schedule an appearance or presentation by the new Ms. Wheelchair Kansas or Little Miss Wheelchair Kansas, contact Carrie Greenwood, State Coordinator, at 785-267-5982 or email [email protected]. More information can also be found at www.mswheelchairkansas.org.

Information thanks to Ms. Wheelchair Kansas.

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