WHEELERSBURG—Amanda Salmons knew that when she was chosen to represent her school as Miss Wheelersburg in the upcoming Miss River Days Pageant, she had some big shoes to fill.
“I felt truly honored. This has been such a dream of mine for as long as I can remember because my sister [Maggie Salmons] was Miss Wheelersburg back in 2016. Ever since she did River Days and from her experience throughout it, it inspired me to use my voice and promote the platform that I’ve always wanted to promote for as long as I could remember,” she said.
To this point, Salmons’ journey as Miss Wheelersburg has helped the teen deliver what she feels is a vital message to the siblings and loved ones of individuals with disabilities in the community. Inspired by her older brother Adam, Salmons is committed to teaching the community to “look for the ‘ability’ in ‘disability.’’
“I chose this platform for my older brother, who is 27 and who has autism. It’s really important to embrace the role of being an advocate—especially for a sibling with a disability. It’s not about an overwhelming amount of controlling them, and it’s nothing negative. It’s all positive, and the importance is always being there for your sibling no matter what: helping them develop learning abilities, helping them with stuff that they can’t do on their own,” Salmons said.
By learning from her older brother, Salmons hopes to show the community just how important it is to remain a tenacious advocate for a sibling or family member with disabilities and, in a community event earlier in the summer, that’s just what she set out to do.
Attendees of her event enjoyed free coffee at Adam’s Flying Pig Coffee House, cupcakes provided by Jojo’s Cupcakes, and brownies provided by Sew Sweet Bakes. They also enjoyed a painting project with materials donated by Pinspiration Workshop’s Kim Jameson.
Several speakers provided valuable information on sibling advocacy for the gathered crowd, with Salmons and sister, Maggie, even sharing their personal experiences. Advocates from STAR Workshop, as well as Adrienne Callihan, Attorney at Law, provided valuable information about guardianship and other services.
Dianna Temple of Ohio Special Initiatives by Brothers & Sisters (SIBS) was also in attendance to speak about the importance of sibling advocacy. At Ohio SIBS’ first fundraising gala two months later, Salmons was awarded the Sibling of the Year Award for her efforts to spread awareness about such advocacy—an award for which she thanked her brother, calling him “[her] hero.”
Following Salmons’ event, she was proud to present the District 11 Challenger Baseball League—a team for individuals facing physical or mental challenges—with a check for the $500 in donations received.
“This made their day, and it brought tears to me. Seeing how happy they were that I brought donations made me realize that I just made a change in life. That’s everything I ever wanted, especially with River Days and my platform. Because that is me really knowing that my voice is getting out there for those who don’t hear it,” Salmons said.
And Salmons knows that long after her Miss River Days journey comes to an end, her quest to promote sibling advocacy with continue.
“This means everything to me,” Salmons explained. “My number-one strive in life is to always have a voice because I was never a shy person, but I was also never the type of person who was very outgoing. Seeing how much I’ve grown throughout the River Days journey, especially with my platform, has made me more mature. I’ve realized that I’ve come such a long way.”
And while Salmons will be the sole member of her family competing onstage for the Miss River Days crown this year, her platform is one that they are all proud to carry together.
“I think this means the whole world to them. This is something that they’ve always wanted to see more people do often, which is to go out and speak on behalf of those with a disability. I feel that people with disabilities get judged very quickly. Just because they have a disability doesn’t mean that they aren’t able to do many incredible things in life. They are so capable of doing anything. They have hearts and souls, and I feel like a lot of people forget that, immediately putting a label on them. But to me, people with disabilities don’t have a label. And my family doesn’t think that either. We want to change the way people see others with disabilities,” she said.
Follow Miss Wheelersburg, Amanda Salmons, as well as the other Miss River Days candidates online at friendsofportsmouth.com/river-days-festival. The Portsmouth River Days Festival will take place from September 2nd through September 4th, 2022.
Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or by email at [email protected].
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