A Tama County woman will represent Iowa in this week’s 32nd annual Ms. Wheelchair America event in Richmond, Virginia. 32-year-old Ami Dark of Toledo was hit with a staph infection a decade ago that cost her the use of her legs. She went on to get an education degree at UNI, became a substitute teacher, adopted two children and works from home as a job developer for people with disabilities. Named this spring as Ms. Wheelchair Iowa, Dark says it’s not a beauty pageant. “It’s really a pageant that emphasizes the importance of self-improvement, education,” she says, “It deals more with the personality of a woman rather than the outside beauty. It’s more of the inside beauty that counts.” Dark is among competitors from 27 states. They’ll be judged on public speaking, personal interviews and on-stage interviews. She says her goal is to represent herself and others who have disabilities with dignity. Dark says people who become disabled are often hit with depression early on — and she was like the others. She says finding a passion you love to do and continuing your life, help to build your selfworth back up.Dark says “I’ve gotten past that. I’ve learned that life can go on. I’m very fortunate. I’m able to use my arms, able to use my hands, my head still works and I’m very grateful that I’ve got the abilities I’ve got. I’ve continued to work and…have gotten back out in the community and tried to improve myself and that has really worked.” If she is crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2005 on Saturday, she will travel the country as a spokesperson for the more than 50-million Americans with disabilities. For more information, surf to “www.mswheelchairamerica.org”.