Woman takes aim at national pageant title

FOSTORIA – Jessica Kelbley of Fostoria, a junior attending Wright State University, was crowned the 2013 Ms. Wheelchair Ohio-America in April and now hopes to take the national title.

Kelbley, a 2010 graduate from Calvert Catholic School, is studying organizational leadership at Wright State and plans to be a special events coordinator. She was born with a condition called spinal muscular atrophy. In the past, she has focused on serving those affected by neuromuscular diseases.

Kelbley received her crown after participating in two individual judging sessions, as well as other activities.

“My role as Ms. Wheelchair of Ohio is to advocate and represent people with disabilities all over the state,” Kelbley said. “I will be competing in Texas July 15 for the title of Ms. Wheelchair America.”

Kelbley will have to go up against 30 other women from other states for the national title.

“It all started as a joke because my best friend signed me up even though I insisted on not doing it. Once he signed me up, I then got interested as time went on,” Kelbley said. “I was very excited to compete against two amazing candidates.”

“I’m so excited for this role.” she said. “I get to advocate for things that are affecting me personally, but I also get to help as many people as I can.”

Melissa Kelbley, Jessica’s sister said: “She will encourage others to reach their full potential by working to highlight the accomplishments of the disabled community, as well as encourage acceptance and equality throughout our state.”

Winning the national title would mean the world to Kelbley, she said.

“(It’s) not just winning, but just the simple fact that I would be able to advocate for people with disabilities on a national level. I would be able to make sure of the equality of people with disabilities because that is important to me,” she said.

The competition in Texas will be a week long and consist of five individual judging sessions, a speech and the actual pageant.

“The most significant thing I have learned about myself is that I can do anything no matter my disability,” Kelbley said. “That will never hold me back.”