South Jeffco resident Kendara Peoples didn’t win the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant last month in Grand Rapids, Mich. — but she also didn’t walk away empty-handed.
Taking note of the 24-year-old’s resilient personality, the national competition’s judges invoked an honor sparingly given, the Spirit Award.
“They just decided they needed to do something, because of the way she carried herself, because of her perseverance,” said Ms. Wheelchair America executive director Shelly Loose, noting that the award is not necessarily given out every year.
In October 2008, Kendara, a former track star and Dakota Ridge High School graduate, was seriously injured in a car accident. She suffered a brain hemorrhage that wiped out her ability to walk and speak. She remained hospitalized in a drug-induced coma until January 2009.
Since then, she has maintained a rigorous physical-therapy regimen and has regained a significant amount of mobility and speech.
Kendara, who won the Ms. Wheelchair Colorado pageant earlier this year, also encourages others who have sustained severe injuries to stay physically fit, a characteristic that did not go unnoticed at the national competition.
“She was participating in all of the games, and she was rooting everybody on,” said Kendara’s mother, Baseemah. “She was like a cheerleader.”
Unlike traditional pageants, Ms. Wheelchair America emphasizes advocacy and achievement — not necessarily aesthetic beauty.
But as a proud mother, Baseemah said she thinks Kendara would have fared even better in the contest, if it were in fact based on looks.
“If it was a beauty contest, Kendara would’ve won it, hands down,” she said.