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Tinley Park to host Ms. Wheelchair Illinois contest Saturday

Wendy Settles, the 2011 Ms. Wheelchair Illinois winner, will crown the 2012 champion Saturday in Tinley Park. (Photo submitted)

Wendy Settles, the 2011 Ms. Wheelchair Illinois winner, will crown the 2012 champion Saturday in Tinley Park. (Photo submitted)

For those unfamiliar with the Ms. Wheelchair Illinois/Ms. Wheelchair America competitions, this is not a traditional beauty contest.

The Ms. Illinois finals takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Tinley Park and the winner will compete in the national competition Aug. 6-12 in Providence, R.I.

Ms. Illinois Executive Director Pam LaPorte said this contest is based on accomplishments rather than physical beauty.

“It’s definitely, absolutely not a beauty contest,” she said. “People always ask me if there is a swimsuit competition. I’m like, ‘Really? No!’ The criteria is based on personal accomplishment and personal achievments and what they’ve done academically since the onset of their disability and how they have adjusted to their disability.”

Penny Johnson of Aurora, Cami Smith of Naperville, Jill Wesselhoff of Island Lake and Kimberly Brown of Oak Lawn are the four vying for the Ms. Illinois honor.

Bethalto’s Wendy Settles, who won the honor in 2011, will be on hand to make a speech and crown the new winner.

LaPorte said that while the number of contestants sounds small — “four or five is about average’’ for these events — the enthusiasm will make up for the lack of numbers.

“These girls are so excited because it’s something they never through they would participate in,” LaPorte said. “I had one girl tell me this was probably going to be the biggest day of her life. That’s so nice to hear.”

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