by Emma Smith
Marsha Schmid is no stranger to success. She had received several honors throughout high school and college, maintained a career as a diabetic case manager, and competed in multiple national fitness competitions.
In March 2011, life as Schmid knew it changed. She began to feel dizzy and have trouble with her vision, and had a seizure. After regaining consciousness at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, doctors told her she was completely paralyzed as a result of a brain stem stroke.
After weeks of intensive therapy, Schmid was able to regain speech and upper-body movement and began using a wheelchair. The process was not easy, but her stroke would not get in the way of her success.
On July 22, she competed in the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant, presented by the Dane Foundation. She won second runner-up and received the Dane Foundation Quality of Life Award.
“The pageant world boasts more than 4,600 opportunities for women to compete in pageantry, and there are only two for women with disabilities. Ms. Wheelchair USA is one of those two,” Schmid said.
Ms. Wheelchair USA is an independent organization that has been dedicated to making all women feel confident despite any disability for more than 20 years.
Schmid said the pageant has no age requirements, and as long as you have a documented disability you can compete. “If you can use your legs, you are not disqualified.”
The Dane Foundation is a 501 C3 tax deductible organization, and the Quality of Life Award “recognizes a contestant’s a contestant ‘s outstanding contributions to the quality of life of individuals with disabilities,” according to the foundation’s website.
By competing in the pageant, Schmid was able to make a statement based on her experience. Her platform, “This Stops Now,” brought attention to several venues’ lack of accessibility for people with disabilities.
“I saw my son play lacrosse once in a span of two years due to inaccessible sporting venues,” Schmid said. “They deny spectators with mobility issues the right to cheer on their player.”
Schmid wrote to Peachtree City’s recreational facilities department in May addressing the issue.
“Unfortunately, all fields and parks are not accessible, and it prevents the joy any mobility challenged spectator with can experience by watching their player play. Spectators with disabilities are also unable to yell that little bit of encouragement to his or her player that sometimes makes all the difference,” Schmid said. “Don’t you remember how it felt to hear or see your parent? Now, take that away. It isn’t fair to penalize a child with a parent, grandparent, sibling, or friend who has a disability. What message does that convey?”
She is still awaiting a response from the department.
Schmid won’t back down. The only outcome is success.