A mother of two from central Iowa was crowned over the weekend as the state’s new chief advocate for Iowans with disabilities. Debi Scharf of Altoona was named Ms. Wheelchair Iowa for 2003. She’ll spend the next year promoting -not- the disabilities, but the -abilities- of people in wheelchairs. Scharf says “It was one of the most exciting events of my life. I just feel very empowered spiritually and motivated to bring awareness to this program. People with disabilities don’t just sit in their chairs. They’re out there changing the world every day.” The 42-year-old Scharf was in a motor vehicle accident nearly a decade ago that broke her back, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. The incident damaged her body but changed her attitude for the better and Scharf says it opened her eyes to try new things.Scharf says she has more abilities now than before the accident. “I’m very confident in my abilities. I press myself as much as I can. I ride jetskis and I do everything I thought I could never do before.” Scharf says her situation has given her a new outlook and she hopes to bring that enthusiasm to others across Iowa.Scharf was named the new Ms. Wheelchair Iowa at the weekend pageant in Iowa City. The national version of the pageant will be held in Iowa for the first time this year. That event is slated for July 22-26 in Des Moines. Scharf jokes she hopes she can use her home state advantage to win that crown too.
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