Pageant title helps spread message about disabilities

Don Lugo High School graduate Kendra Schraml was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Washington on Jan. 22 in Seattle.

Former Chino resident Kendra Schraml sees no limits in her role as Ms. Wheelchair Washington.

“I believe that the only limitations we have are the ones we set upon ourselves,” said Mrs. Schraml, who is wheelchair-bound due to sacral agenesis, which means that parts of her spine are missing.

Mrs. Schraml, nee Sanders, grew up in Chino. She attended E.J. Marshall Elementary, and graduated from Don Lugo High School in 2001.

She spent parts of high school in her wheelchair, or in a motorized scooter, though she was able to walk with a pronounced gait as a child. In later years, her condition worsened, and due to accelerated aging and pain, she began to rely more on the chair.

“Using my wheelchair allows me so much more freedom, and I love it,” Mrs. Schraml said.

She met her husband, Karl Schraml, through on online dating service called and the two were married after a year-long courtship. Though she loved growing up in Chino, she said, she moved to Washington to be with her husband. She learned of the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant in 2009 and attended in 2010. This year, she entered and won. She was crowned Jan. 22 in Seattle.

To enter, Mrs. Schraml filled out a 20-page application and chose a platform, titling it with a phrase she coined, “e-mobility.” The phrase refers to opportunities that can be found online for people with disabilities.

“There are a lot of resources available to people with disabilities,” Mrs. Schraml said. “The department of rehabilitation helped with my education, and more and more companies are willing to work with people who have disabilities.”

Mrs. Schraml received her BA in business administration from Cal Poly Pomona in 2005 with a concentration in computer information systems. Attending college in a wheelchair was no obstacle, Mrs. Schraml said, but there were stumbling blocks along the way.

“I had a class on the second floor, and the elevator was often out of order, so I couldn’t always attend that class, and I voiced my concerns about that.”

Mrs. Schraml currently works as a project manager for SanMar Corp. in Issaquah, Wash.

Since winning the title, she has been able to make public appearances, one of which was at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“They help children with disabilities go to camp, and that was really rewarding to me. I went to Children’s Hospital of Orange County as a child, and they did a lot for me.”

Mrs. Schraml has also done guest spots on radio programs to build disability awareness.

“I want people to know that if you have a disability and it’s hard for you right now, pick yourself up and go on. Things happen for a reason.”

Mrs. Schraml lost her father, Chuck Sanders, to lung cancer when she was only 9 years old.

“I did go through a time in my life when I felt like my life wasn’t fair when I was in high school, but every girl goes through that during that time. I had a great mom and great friends and I learned that I can really do anything I want to do — I just may have to do it differently.”

Mrs. Schraml’s mother, Debbie Sanders, died in 2006. Both Mr. and Mrs. Sanders were employees of Chino Valley Medical Center.

“She was a huge role model to me, she always told me I was just the same as everyone else. That’s part of my platform now — teaching people how to interact with people with disabilities. I’d much rather have people ask questions than just to stare.”

Mrs. Schraml expressed gratitude that her parents did not place her in an assisted living facility following her birth, as they were advised to do.

“The doctor told my parents that I would be mentally challenged and be a burden to them,” Mrs. Schraml said. “Luckily, my parents thought the doctor was incorrect and never did that. They were always in my corner, helping me reach for the stars.”

Ms. Wheelchair America pageants are held in a handful of states, including California. As Washington’s representative, Mrs. Schraml will compete for the national title in August in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“In the meantime I’ll be…For MORE click HERE to login

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