Monica Quimby spent five years overcoming odds most might consider too much.
Paralyzed five years ago during a Sunday River ski accident, the former Turner resident and Leavitt Area High School graduate started her long journey to recovery. Today, the 24-year-old returns home after representing Maine last week in the 2012 Ms. Wheelchair America contest in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Quimby placed fourth in the field of 26 contestants from around the country Saturday night. And while she didn’t return home with the top title, she returned home focused on a much larger prize.
“I might not have come home with a crown, but I’m coming home proud — definitely,” said the upbeat Quimby by phone as she and her fiance, Jared Adams, waited for their flight home Sunday night. “I’m still Ms. Wheelchair Maine, and I’m really excited to do more with it and plan more events at home.”
According to its website, Ms. Wheelchair America differs from traditional beauty pageants because it is not a contest to select the most attractive individual. Instead, the competition is based on advocacy, achievement, communication and presentation to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for persons with disabilities.
Quimby, an adjunct biology professor at Southern Maine Community College, presented a platform about goal-setting based on several key factors, including education, career, advocacy and independence. She looks forward to bringing those same messages back to Maine and raising awareness about disabilities through a variety of monthly events.
Organized in 1972, Ms. Wheelchair America recognizes the accomplishments of women who use wheelchairs for mobility. The nonprofit program is dedicated to increasing public awareness so all citizens will be afforded opportunities to lead productive and meaningful lives.
Quimby said one of the best parts about the weeklong event was connecting with other contestants both personally and in terms of their disabilities.
“The diversity within just the disabilities themselves,” Quimby said of what she took away from the pageant. “We all go through something. The connections I made with the other women were what really made it worth it.”