GV student, Ms. Wheelchair MI, plans Roll-a-Thon event on campus to spread awareness about disabilities
Since the moment she was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Michigan, Grand Valley State University senior Stephanie Deible said she knew wanted to do an event at on the university’s campus.
“As soon as I got crowned, it immediately started popping up in my head ‘what can I do at Grand Valley?’” Deible said. “Just because I’m a student here and I wanted to involve the community and Grand Valley’s always been super supportive. “
So after the Ms. Wheelchair Michigan state coordinator suggested a Roll-A-Thon, Deible brought the idea back home to GVSU, who agreed to let her use the Kelly Family Sports Center, located on the Allendale Campus, to host the event. The Roll-A-Thon, open to those with disabilities and those without, will give participants the opportunity to use adaptive sports equipment like bicycles, hand-cycles, and specialized equipment for particular sports like rugby or tennis.
The Roll-A-Thon, which takes place July 21 from 3-9 p.m., is free and as easy as just showing up, Deible said.
“Come and roll as much as you want and hang out – we’ll have food there,” she said. “ So, hopefully it’ll be an event where people can come and enjoy and be active. “
Deible hopes to collectively roll about 100 miles at the Roll-A-Thon, which aims at giving a little bit of perspective on those who co-exist with disability every day.
“Because a lot of times, I think that people are intimidated by wheelchairs – they come up to me, and they see me or other people in wheelchairs, and they don’t necessarily know what to ask or if it’s okay to ask questions,” she said. “So, I just want to give people a chance to use the equipment and see that I’m just like anybody else; anybody else in a chair is just like you or just like other people who don’t use them – there’s really no difference. Just to see beyond the chair and get a chance to use it.”
Deible has been working with a number of organizations to spread the word and make her Roll-A-Thon a reality, including Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, and GVSU’s Disability Support Resources among a whole host of other local and university disability advocacy groups for not only advertising, but adaptive sports equipment, which will be provided for participants who don’t have their own.
There are no scholarships for these events, so all of the costs are up to Deible to find either through sponsorships, donations and sometimes out of her own pocket. But that hardly seems troubling to Deible, who has devoted most of her time, energy and love to her new title as Ms. Wheelchair Michigan – a role, she said, that has drastically changed her life since it began.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people,” she said, including Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder and the 2008 female winner from the reality TV show The Biggest Loser.
She’s now working toward the national title of Ms. Wheelchair USA, a competition that will take place Aug. 6-12 between 28 state titleholders, a week that Deible said she’s both nervous and excited for. But nerves don’t seem to hold much weight for Deible, who recently went on her first skydiving trip with her sister.
Though meeting with the governor, pulling off big events and jumping out of airplanes are an exciting and unique part of what Deible is doing, for her, the community outreach has become the highlight of being Ms. Wheelchair Michigan.
“Overall, I’m able to be out in the community spreading my platform and helping others turn their goal into a reality has been great,“ she said. “I’ve gone into schools and talked to kids about what it’s like to have a disability and what it’s like to be in a chair. It’s just been cool to open up people’s eyes and be able to let them know my life and other peoples’ lives aren’t defined by a wheelchair.”