ALL SMILES Taryn Balwinski of Dayton was named Jr. Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2007 at the recent competition in Smyrna. Taryn was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two. She is now an active senior at Rhea County High School. (Photo submitted)
Taryn Balwinski is a busy girl.
She is in her senior year at Rhea County High School, and she is planning on attending Chattanooga State in the fall, and hopes to obtain a business degree. She hopes to one day be a special events coordinator, or maybe even a wedding planner. In addition, she teaches religious education classes on Wednesday and Sunday at her church. She volunteers for a concert booking company called Monkey Business, and she has a part-time job at Goodwill. Despite all this, Taryn still manages to find the time to hang out with her friends and family.
It does not sound like Taryn has anything holding her back. Taryn was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 2-years-old, and even this has not stopped her. In fact, it has given her more opportunities to be involved in her community.
On Oct. 7, Taryn was named Junior Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2007 at the competition in Smyrna, Tenn. In order to be eligible, the applicant must use a wheelchair as their primary source of mobility. According to the organization, the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee program is "charged with a continuing effort to educate the public regarding the dignity, productiveness and basic values of people with disabilities." And that is what Taryn hopes to do.
Taryn said she decided to enter the program because of what it stands for.
"It is based on accomplishment," said Taryn. "It shows that women in wheelchairs can accomplish something with their lives."
Taryn has not let her disability hold her back either. She wanders the halls of the high school on her own, and receives no additional assistance at work.
The Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee program involved a day of workshops on such topics as adaptive driving, adaptive sports, and public speaking. In addition, there was a 15 minute interview with the three judges. Contestants were judged according to their accomplishments since the onset of their disability, their communication skills, self-perception/projection, and their ability to obtain financial sponsors. Taryn said she is thankful that her church, St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Dayton, was able to donate as much as they did.
That night, the contestants participated in the on-stage portion of the competition. Taryn had her mother Roxanne Richey, sister Haley Fechter, and grandmother Rose Switter there to cheer her on.
During this portion of the competition, the contestants had to introduce themselves and await a question to answer. They were not given this question in advance. Taryn felt that she got the hardest question.
"I had to tell who with disabilities I look up to. There are so many!"
Taryn said she admires Christopher Reeves.
"He didn't just sit around," she said. "Anybody that stands up and doesn't let things happen but makes things happen is an encouragement to me."
Taryn is planning events to raise awareness and help educate people about disabilities like cerebral palsy. She is planning on being in two Christmas parades and hopes to get in contact with the March of Dimes to arrange some speaking engagements.
But this honor has not changed her outlook on life. She still works her part-time job and plays big sister to her younger siblings Hayley Fechter and Cody Oman. She is still a high school senior from Dayton, who enjoys talking and hanging out with her friends.
For more information, visit the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee program website at ww.mswheelchairtennessee.org
Tiffany Soyster can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org