July 2023 in Review

“July has been another busy month for me, but I have enjoyed it.

I had the pleasure of being a part of my local Fourth of July Parade. It was a very hot day, but the parade was still fun. I knew that parade attendees would not be able to easily see me in my accessible van, so I just strolled the parade in my power wheelchair. It was fun to see people smile when they read my sash and realized that I am a state titleholder. One little girl in particular got very excited and kept saying, “The queen of wheels is coming.” Her excitement was so cute. I am glad that I was able to be in the parade and bring about more awareness to Ms. Wheelchair Ohio.

I went to the Kettering Recreation Complex a couple of days after the parade to meet with a group of other advocates and allies who are part of a local chapter of Optimist International. We played Bingo, got to know one another, and discussed service projects we will be completing in the future, such as making cards for residents of nursing homes. I understand the value of community service and really look forward to being a part of the group. Everyone was super excited for Ms. Wheelchair Ohio to join, which made me feel wonderful.

The next day, I traveled to Akron, Ohio, to speak at Jett Foundation’s Camp Promise. Camp Promise is a camp for kids, teens, and adults with neuromuscular disorders. I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful camp, socializing, and, of course, speaking about inclusive literature and all of the awesome experiences that I have had as a title holder. Campers especially liked hearing about my recent hiking experience with Luke5Adventures. My favorite part of speaking at Camp Promise was having the opportunity to see and spend time with 2023 Ms. Wheelchair Ohio Ambassador, Kelly Berger, in person again.

Another meeting of the Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee occurred a few days later. We discussed how to best continue advocating for the funding needed to address the home health crisis since the state budget did not turn out the way disability advocates hoped. I am glad and relieved to know that, like me, other advocates are not deterred and will continue to advocate and fight for much-needed home health care funding.

I went to a virtual meeting of the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council Youth Leadership Forum Committee. We discussed the youth leadership forums that take place each Summer throughout the state of Ohio. We shared ideas about how to make the youth leadership forums an even better experience for the youth who participate. It does my heart good knowing that so many people care about future leaders.

Murdock and I attended a meeting of the Canine Companions Cin-Day Chapter at Owen’s Place Park in Beavercreek, Ohio. Owen’s Place is an awesome, accessible, inclusive playground. I would have loved it as a kid. I am so glad that children today have the opportunity to experience and enjoy it. The only downside is that all of the different surfaces at the park made it difficult for me to keep my beautiful crown on my head!

At the meeting, other chapter members and I walked service dog puppies around the park and reviewed commands. Murdock was by far the oldest dog there, but he is a puppy at heart and really seemed to enjoy being around other dogs.

I will admit that going to the meeting made both Murdock and I a little sad because it was hard not to think about his brother and my former service dog, Schein, while we were there around other dogs. People keep asking me if I am going to get another service dog. I know that people have the best of intentions when making the inquiry, but I wish they would stop asking. When people lose a human family member, others do not ask them if they are going to get another. Losing an animal family member is no different. Schein did not die but he did have to leave our family for reasons we could not control. We put his interests ahead of our own because we love him. Our family needs time to grieve the fact that he is no longer a part of our daily lives. I may or may not get another service dog in the future. Regardless, Schein will never be replaced in our hearts. He will forever be a part of our family.

As those of you who read my June blog will remember, I auditioned for TEDXDAYTON with the hope of earning a TEDXTalk about the potential cultural impact of princesses with disabilities and why Disney should create for its universe. Unfortunately, I received word earlier this month that the TEDXDAYTON event that I had hoped to be a part of was canceled due to the need of the organization to refocus and engage in strategic planning. I was very disappointed by the news, but I am not giving up. I have been researching other TEDX chapters in hopes of still being able to give a TED Talk at some point during my reign. I will add an update on this to my next blog.

I am honored to have been a keynote speaker at the Disability Pride Rally held by the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities at Cooper Park. I honestly did not know how it was going to go because I was running on a mere 1.5 hours of sleep due to PCA coverage issues the night before. I am nervous to disclose this publicly but am so that people will realize that the home care crisis is serious and needs to be addressed. We must continue to fight for home health funding. Nothing will change unless we demand change. We must make our voices heard. Remember, nothing about us without us!

I am happy and relieved to report that I remembered my speech and delivered it well despite the lack of sleep. I also enjoyed hearing the thoughts of the other speakers on Disability Pride. I hope to get to help plan and participate in next year’s rally as well.

Those of you who have read previous blogs will also remember that I am currently working on a fourth book, a children’s book about a unicorn in a wheelchair. I have written the story and am currently working with an illustrator who is a Ukrainian refugee to make sure the book comes together and is the best version of my story that it can be. I am adoring the illustrations so far and cannot wait to share the story with the public. I will share more details as the story continues to come together.

I have also been very busy preparing for nationals. I was so relieved to finish the 17-page Google form application by the deadline of July 1st. Now, I am busy working on a trifold board required for the competition, memorizing my revamped speech, and fundraising to help cover the cost of the competition. Throughout the month of July, I promoted a Dine to Donate fundraiser that took place at Chipotle on August 1st. Fortunately, it went very well. Right now, I am a bit overwhelmed in the thick of preparation, but I am actually very excited for nationals. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I have participated in and hosted some Zoom calls with the other women who will be competing. I suggested that everyone wear their crown during our July 7th Zoom call. Each state crown is unique, so it was fun to see the differences. All the women competing seem very nice, and I am excited to meet them in person. I will share more details about nationals, which takes place August 28th through September 3rd, in future blogs, but if you want details and/or to see pictures in the meantime, follow me on Facebook at Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2023 or on Instagram at MWOH2023_allisonboot.”