Sandy Spoonemore “defies gravity” as 2016’s Ms. Wheelchair Texas. The Ms. Wheelchair America pageant began in 1972 and now boasts participation in 30 states and the District of Columbia. The competition was founded by Dr. Philip K. Wood in Columbus, OH, to promote the achievements and needs of people with mobility impairments. It aims to increase awareness and help everyone make sure that all citizens, disabled or not, have the opportunity to lead productive and meaningful lives.
Ms. Spoonemore was born in Guam, and grew up all over the country, as her father served in the Navy, but she has called Plano home for the last 35 years. She was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative form of muscular dystrophy, at the age of 2. She says it is a disease that affects large muscle motion. “My father retired, and he was from Texas, so we came home,” she says. She lives here currently with her mother. Her brother lives nearby, so it is a frequent event to get together with him, his wife and their four children to enjoy the day.
Growing up a Navy kid “was interesting,” she says. “It was probably where I got my love for travelling. It was different back then because there was no Americans with Disabilities Act, so the world was a lot different for accessibility, getting into schools and being treated the same.” Her parents advocated for her from the beginning and always had a good spirit. They made things work and modified as needed. Ms. Spoonemore says it taught her a lot about persevering and not giving up on what you want to do despite a challenge.
Ms. Spoonemore is a proud Baylor Bear, and she graduated with a degree in computer information systems. “It was something I knew I could do and could not be stopped, as far as getting and keeping a job. My disability did not keep me from doing it.” She admitted it was not necessarily her favorite thing to study, but it was a good opportunity.
With her degree from Baylor University, she had a job before she graduated and worked at various places in corporate America for 13 years. She worked for companies like Texas Instruments, EDS and NationsBank. Today, Ms. Spoonemore is a sales director with Mary Kay and she has been building her business for 16 years.
The career change was one of pure motivation. Apart from worrying about job security from corporate mergers, Ms. Spoonemore says, “My disability has no boundaries with Mary Kay, so I chose them. I have loved every second of it. I have earned 10 cars, I became a sales director and I have a blast.” She says she was not drawn toward the sales piece, but she was drawn toward the idea of earning a car. “I desperately needed a new van. The van I had, my brother nicknamed ‘POC’ (piece of … ), and if you drove it faster than 50 mph, it would overheat. It had 165,000 miles on it. I needed a new van,” she adds jokingly.
Today, as Ms. Wheelchair Texas, Ms. Spoonemore is very busy. She looks for opportunities to serve. “My platform as Ms. Wheelchair Texas is that everyone has a value and a purpose.” She wants to encourage people to check things off their bucket list, just like the average American. She speaks with companies and other organizations to raise awareness, all the while still taking care of her Mary Kay business, including coaching her team.
Ms. Spoonemore got involved in the competition at the suggestion of a friend … or multiple suggestions. She kept saying “no,” that it was crazy. Finally, this year, every objection Ms. Spoonemore gave to her friend, her friend found a way to take down. Out of reasons not to participate in the pageant, she joined in. “Once I learned about the organization and I learned about the platform I would have to be able to serve people, I fell in love with the idea.” When she won, she could not believe it. Then, it was off to the national pageant on August 7-14.
Ms. Spoonemore calls the annual February state competition in Houston a fairy tale. “I have watched every Miss America and every Miss USA Competition since I was a little girl. Even though you never want to admit it, you wish you could do it. It was something I always wished I could do, but thought I never could.” The competition is very similar to the Miss America pageant. There are meetings with the judges and community days where you are volunteering and they are watching how you interact and might represent if you win. Then, there is the time on the stage – evening gowns, platform speeches, answering several questions in front of a large audience. And, finally, they announce a winner. “It shows that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to be advocates and communicate with people on their platforms.”
Being Ms. Wheelchair Texas certainly has its perks. Ms. Spoonemore has been able to travel on behalf of the organization and has met influential people and government leaders, including former Governor Rick Perry. “It has been a great, great time,” she adds.
When she is not working on her Mary Kay business or advocating for others through her Ms. Wheelchair Texas title, Ms. Spoonemore says she loves to go shopping. She enjoys spending time with her family and being active with her church. She also admits that her Mary Kay business is so much fun. She combines her love of people with her work and it works out well for her. And, if there is something to do with Christmas, she says “I am all over it. Christmas is my favorite time of the year.”
Ms. Spoonemore is an avid traveler. She went to Hawaii the year she got out of college and wants desperately to go back. She took her entire two weeks of vacation she finally earned in her first corporate job and enjoyed the black sand beaches. She stayed on Oahu, took a day trip to Maui, went on a helicopter ride and loved every minute. She also loves Disney. She has been to Walt Disney World five times and Disneyland twice. “It is my favorite place in the whole wide world,” she says. Other destinations include Sydney, Australia, and both Paris and Nice in France. She adds that she has not been to Italy or Greece … yet. If she wins the national crown, she says her reward to herself will be to go to the Kentucky Derby.
“I have had a fantastic life. I always did everything. If my parents went to the mountains, I went to the mountains. If we went to Washington D.C., I went to Washington D.C., so there just was not anything I did not do. Can I say there were times where I have been upset about something? Yes. But, I can honestly say that I have led a joy-filled life and I love it,” Ms. Spoonemore says.
When she is working with people and speaking on behalf of Ms. Wheelchair Texas, her main message is to not give up on your dreams. “Make sure you are realistically pursuing it. I do not think it will be realistic if I say I am going to be a bungee jumper, but if your dream is to travel, there is no reason why you cannot,” she adds. “You have to figure out what you need and not give up on the challenges.”
Ms. Spoonemore has big things coming up in her future and is an inspiration to everyone who longs to live out their dreams. It is a guarantee that many more successes await her!