UNF student Sara Gaver was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2015 at an empowerment conference at the University of South Florida on March 21.
The competition, according to the press release, is based on advocacy, achievement, communication and presentation. The winner serves to educate and advocate for more than 54 million Americans living with disabilities.
Gaver was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a disorder that causes muscle weakness, joint contractures and fibrosis. She’s forced to use a wheelchair and requires 24-hour medical assistance.
“Honestly, being able to get up and help other people and see other people grow and what they get to achieve and what their dreams are is what keeps me going,” Gaver said.
Her disorder does not stop her from being involved on campus. She is an Honors student, a member of three honor societies, a sorority, the Rotaract Service club, and the vice president of Internal Programming for the Presidential Envoys Student Alumni Association and a community outreach assistant for the Disabilities Resource Center.
In her spare time, Gaver likes to paint, cook, bake and enjoys being outside.
“It is possible to live independently with the right support and the right resources,” Gaver said.
Gaver is a junior majoring in health administration. She participated in One Spark last year with Project Closer.
Project Closer is a way for more students with disabilities to have the ability to live on campus. These students would live alongside UNF nursing students who would help them with the basic necessities of everyday life. In return, nursing students would get clinical hours or internships.
“Right now I’m focused on Florida and traveling around to bring awareness not only to the organization, but of course to my platform and the disability community as a whole,” Gaver said. “Ms Wheelchair America entails more…I’ll be attending, hopefully, more pageants throughout the country and really bringing that awareness and showing who we are and that we’re no different and that we can be confident and go out and do anything that we want to do.”
In July, Gaver will travel to Des Moines, Iowa to participate in the weeklong Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. If crowned, her duties will reach far beyond the state of Florida, allowing her to make an impact nationwide.