Ellsworth resident named Ms. Wheelchair USA
Last weekend was an unusual one for Ellsworth resident Tasha Schuh.
One day she was hustling around preparing to compete in a nationwide competition, and the next she was cooped up in a car for 13 hours driving home from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Of course, the lengthy road trip was a little more exciting than most.
After all, Schuh left Ohio with something she didn't have when she arrived there -- the title of Ms. Wheelchair USA.
"No matter what the outcome was, I was going to be happy," Schuh said of the competition.
This year's event featured nine promising participants from various states. Schuh was present as Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin, a title she earned in September 2011. While she was thrilled to receive the national title Saturday night, Schuh said any of her opponents were equally as deserving.
"The contestants were just amazing. It was really cool to see other women that have accomplished so much while being in a wheelchair," she said.
That's exactly what Ms. Wheelchair USA is all about.
"It's about what you've achieved while being in a wheelchair, and your philosophies and attitudes about your disability," Schuh explained.
The organization promotes "glamour, self-confidence and community service," several things Schuh promotes quite well herself.
As an inspirational speaker, she devotes much of her time to visiting schools, churches, correctional facilities, hospitals and other locations where she can encourage and motivate others.
"My passion is speaking," Schuh said, adding that is what she's most looking forward to in her responsibilities as Ms. Wheelchair USA.
Before the organization thrusts her into her new role, however, Schuh has some time to sit back and appreciate the outpour of support she's getting from family members, friends and Ellsworth as a whole.
"Through Facebook and through emails and phone calls there has been just the most overwhelming love and support," she said. "This means so much to me. I just love this community that I live in."
It's a community that has been behind Schuh her entire life, especially following a fateful day in 1997. The title of Ms. Wheelchair USA is one she never expected to hold before a severe accident changed her life that year.
The then Ellsworth High School student took a single step during a scene change for a school musical and dropped through an open trap door, falling 16 feet onto cement below Red Wing's Sheldon Theatre stage.
That single step would be her last.
While she admits she was initially discouraged and angry because of the accident, Schuh quickly changed her attitude and now knows life as a quadriplegic is giving her new kinds of opportunities.
She said she's anxious to start speaking on behalf of Ms. Wheelchair USA, "so I can help others and inspire others and give them hope."
"That's exactly what everybody needs in this world -- hope to know that better days are ahead."