ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Pinellas Park woman recently crowned "Ms. Wheelchair Florida" is using her platform to empower others facing physical challenges similar to her own, and to advocate for legislation change to help those individuals pursue their dreams.
- Christine Garner, 22, crowned Ms. Wheelchair Florida last March
- Garner working with local legislators to push legislation empowering wheelchair-bound individuals
- Learn more about Christine's mission on her Facebook page
- More Good News stories
Going to college is no easy feat for anyone, but Christine Garner has it especially hard.
“Just being able to get out my books and having to carry my backpack, just the functionality of it. Just being able to reach things or pick things up off the floor,” said Christine.
The 22 year-old has cerebral palsy — a muscle disorder that affects movement, muscle tone, and posture. The condition requires that she rely on a wheelchair to get around.
In high school, she had a state-funded aide to help her with those daily challenges. In college, however, that stopped.
“When you become an adult, you want to be independent," said Tricia Garner, Christine's mom. "So they need an aide, they need a companion, because you don’t want your mom to do that for you forever."
But as it stands, without her mom’s help, Christine wouldn’t be able to attend St. Petersburg College, where she is a biology major.
“She wants to become a pediatric surgeon. I know she’s going to be great with that,” said Tricia.
That’s not Christine's only dream, however.
In March, Christine was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2019.
“I cried a lot because everything that I had fought for, it all lead to this," Christine told us. "Because now people understand to an even deeper degree what my message is and what I’m trying to do."
Winning Ms. Wheelchair Florida was a victory, but it’s the platform this new title offers her that allows Christine to work towards her other dream.
“So many different individuals I’ve talked to that said, ‘Well I can’t do that because I don’t have a companion,’ And my biggest thing is, ‘Why? We need to fix it!’ And I want to be the front runner of that,” said Christine.
She’s working with several local legislators to make those changes here in Florida. Many are already looking at ways to make Christine’s dream a reality.
“It takes the team to build the champion, so it is my job, not only as a title holder, but as an adult with a disability, to build that team to make this dream come true,” said Christine.
Next month, Christine will head to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant, where she will continue to voice her dream.
She is fundraising for her trip — if you'd like to learn more or make a donation, visit https://www.gofundme.com/christinegarner.
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