GREENWOOD, Mo. -- A metro woman won an exclusive honor and hopes to use the opportunity to show others that anything is possible. Hilary Muehlberger, 23, won the crown for Ms. Wheelchair America 2020, the first time a Missourian has won.
Muehlberger's path to her shining moment began when a car crash changed her life in 2015. It changed again when she began playing adaptive tennis a year-and-a-half after the crash. Four years after the life-altering crash, things have changed again.
"It's extremely humbling," Muehlberger told FOX4. "To be on the stage with those 22 other women and to hear their stories and what they've been through and what they're advocating for, things that they've done, for me to be chosen out of all 23 of us, like that is insanity."
Muehlberger said she didn't know what to expect going into the competition held in Little Rock, Arkansas, but it turned out to be an amazing experience.
She said it turned out better than she dreamed it would.
"As soon as they announced it, I almost tackled the girl in the chair next to me. I was like I need something to hold on to. I just sat there, and all the blood drained out of my face," she recalled.
Muehlberger doesn't shy away from the crash that changed her life. She went out drinking with friends and asked one of them to drive her home. That friend had also been drinking and ended up slamming the car into a house.
"It's easy to sit there and think this is it. This is the rest of my life. I felt that for a little while. It took me a good year-and-a-half before I started driving again," she described.
Then she started playing adaptive tennis and found a new passion. She also found her platform for the Ms. Wheelchair competition. Muehlberger hopes to use the title to promote the idea of achieving independence through adaptive sports.
"It battles anxiety, depression. It helps you stay physically fit, you are less likely for injury, just because there are a lot of health issues that come along with being in a chair or really having any disability, so you really have to take care of yourself," she explained.
She wants to help everyone live their best lives. Muehlberger is on Greenwood's parks and recreation board. With her help, the city is now in the process of building its first adaptive playground.