Women and girls with disabilities use pageant to prove they’re unstoppable

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Thirty women and girls with disabilities will hit the stage Saturday to show they’re unstoppable.

They will compete to become the next Miss Unstoppable. The pageant will be held at Northwest High School, Saturday, February 22 at 2 p.m.

The contestants are all ages. They spend a week rehearsing and completing various areas of competition, including interview, talent, runway, and evening gown.

They all have some kind of intellectual or developmental disability, but they are out to show the world they’re disability can’t stop them.

“I love it!” said Koren Shafer, who was crowned the very first Miss Unstoppable in 2014. She said all the girls are working to be the best they can be.

Shafer is now considered a Forever Miss Unstoppable, so she cannot win the title again. However, every young woman is welcome back to compete for other awards and grow in the process.

Erica Johnson won Miss Unstoppable in 2015. She’s competed for several years since then. She’s not nervous now, but she said she used to be.

“My confidence was up to here, and now it’s up to here,” Johnson laughed, holding her arms lower and then high above her head.

She said her confidence has grown through the program.

“That’s what we want this program to be all about is really giving them that confidence and showing them that they are unstoppable,” said Krystian Fish, director of Miss Unstoppable.

Fish said the program helps them feel confident making eye contact, talking about who they are, and disclosing their disability.

The new Miss Unstoppable will serve as a representative of The Arc of Sedgwick County for a year, attending parades and public events.

“We want her out in the public to show people that hey, these girls can be queens too,” said Fish.

As a former Miss Kansas, who competed at Miss America, Fish said she gained so much from competing in pageants. She said every girl deserves the opportunity to do the same.

This is a new experience for some of the contestants, including 8-year-old Ellie Walker.

Alison Walker said this is the perfect opportunity for her daughter, who is a girly girl and loves to sing. Walker hopes it’s a growing experience for Ellie, who has high functioning autism.

“Social interactions are really hard for her. She would rather just play by herself all the time. This will break her out of her shell and let her interact with other kiddos like her,” said Walker.

The contestants already completed the interview and talent portions of the competition, with a big talent show Wednesday night. They’ll finish up on Saturday and the new Miss Unstoppable will be crowned.

To get in to see the pageant, there is a suggested donation of $5 to support The Arc of Sedgwick County, an organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.