Vicki’s Tattoo and Perspective as she travels to the MIss Wheelchair America Event
Announcer: VR Workforce Studio. Inspiration, education and affirmation at work. Welcome to another episode as we open up the VR Workforce Studio to champion the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation from individuals with disabilities.
Speaker 2: Listen to our amazing stories. Dare to join and share in our inspiration.
Announcer: We’ll also meet the champions of business and industry.
Speaker 3: I can say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that some of our best employees have disabilities.
Announcer: And hear from the VR professionals who have dedicated their lives and careers to helping individuals with disabilities go to work. Now here’s the host to the VR Workforce studio, Rick Sizemore-
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Announcer: Along with the Executive Director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation, Anne Hudlow.
Speaker 5: Four, three, two, one!
Rick Sizemore: Welcome to this very special episode of the VR Workforce Studio as we talk with Vicki Varner.
Vicki Varner: You can make life crappy, or you can make life great, and I just choose to make life great.
Rick Sizemore: Well, Vicki Varner’s back with us, Vicki, a former college softball player injured in a car accident. Welcome to the podcast, Vicki.
Vicki Varner: How are you today, Rick?
Rick Sizemore: You have some exciting plans in the works. You’re on the way to Arkansas for the Miss Wheelchair America program.Tell us about that.
Vicki Varner: Well, I won my state competition back in January, and since then, I have been doing different engagements and events. I’m kind of in preparation, and also, towards my advocacy for Nationals. So, by July 1st, I have to have a memorized speech, and have everything set in stone by July 1st. Then I go down to Little Rock and compete for seven days, so I’m really looking forward to that.
Rick Sizemore: This is a week’s worth of competitions.
Vicki Varner: Yeah. Yeah, it’s going to… it’s a long week, but from everything I’ve heard, it’s supposed to be like, an event of a lifetime, like, something that I’ll never forget. So I’m really stoked and looking forward to it.
Rick Sizemore: Well, there’s a lot of people here pulling for you, and we’re very excited about that. For those of you who have not met Vicki, tell us your story.
Vicki Varner: I was in a car accident on December 24, 2015. Prior to my accident, I was a softball pitcher at college. I was home on Christmas break. My brother was driving a little too fast on some back roads that night, and we hit a tree going about 55 miles per hour.
Vicki Varner: During impact, the seat belt ripped through my stomach. I severed my spinal cord, broke my pelvis, minor brain injury, et cetera, et cetera. I was basically just the Humpty Dumpty of it all.
Vicki Varner: But since then, I have really gotten my life back together. I think my life is better now than it was before. I feel it has more meaning to it now, and I’ve went back to school, I’ve started working, and now I’m involved with the Miss Wheelchair America program.
Rick Sizemore: On, that’s so exciting, and you’re headed back to school this fall?
Vicki Varner: Yes. So I’ve been doing some online courses. I was having some issues with my health, but in the fall, I hope to transfer into a university again. So, to actually be back with my peers, and to be able to see everybody face to face will just be so much better than just doing it online.
Rick Sizemore: Yeah. Now, since the accident, you’ve been moving forward in your life. Could you tell us about some of the challenges, and how you’ve gotten through them?
Vicki Varner: It’s not always sunshine and rainbows in any person’s life, so that’s not excluding mine, either. When you first find out, after a traumatic accident, that you are about paralyzed from the waist down, and you lived a very active lifestyle before, it can be kind of crushing.
Vicki Varner: But you just kind of have to look at what you still have, and what you’re still going to do, and focus on that. But I also had some minor health setbacks as well. I immediately went back to college after my accident, like, just six months in. I was still really new to the whole disability world, and I treated my body like I did before the accident.
Vicki Varner: I got a pressure sore that led to me becoming septic, and a bone infection, and all of that stuff. Then I had to leave school, and then I went through two surgeries to try to fix it, and then I was on bed rest for about a year before the Miss Wheelchair Virginia competition.
Vicki Varner: Again, going from a really active lifestyle, to just being completely down, that was mentally what was hardest for me, and getting through all of that.
Rick Sizemore: You’re doing a lot of things with fitness now.
Vicki Varner: Yes. Yes. Like I said, before the accident, I was a college softball pitcher, and that had been my life completely, for 18 years.
Vicki Varner: I wasn’t really ready to throw in the towel with the athletic lifestyle, so now, I still try to implement that in my day to day life as well.
Vicki Varner: I try to go to the gym as much as possible, and any competition I strive on, I love some good old-fashioned competition.
Rick Sizemore: Yeah.
Vicki Varner: I did a video with one of my friends, who’s a personal trainer specifically for people with disabilities. We kind of talked to them about how to work with people with disabilities, and how to have inclusive classes and equipment and all of that.
Rick Sizemore: We have to know about your tattoo.
Vicki Varner: Oh yeah. Yes. So I have a tattoo on my forearm, and it says, “Perspective on it, but it’s all in how you look on it, at it.” So the P is sideways, the R is upside down, the E is sideways. It really is all on how you look at it, so I apply that to my daily life, and I believe that perspective is a huge role in my optimistic lifestyle, and it’s all just on how you view things.
Rick Sizemore: What is your message to people with disabilities who are struggling?
Vicki Varner: My message would be that life isn’t over, as much as you feel that is against you right now. I know, in the disability community, when it rains, it pours, but just to try to remain calm, and to keep looking forward. Don’t look back at what’s happened with you.
Vicki Varner: Don’t necessarily even look at what’s happening to you right now, but just look at all the things that you’re going to do, and that you will do, and all the things you will accomplish, and that’s what’s going to keep you going, and keep pushing you.
Rick Sizemore: That is so awesome. Tell us about some of the expenses that you’re going to encounter, getting yourself down to Arkansas.
Vicki Varner: Yes, so, Nationals is about $2,000, it is $2,000, but that’s not including plane tickets, dress and all those expenses, so it’s a $1,000 application fee. Then it’s a $1,000 fee to be in the competition, so the $2,000 upfront, and then, as well as the plane tickets and my dress.
Rick Sizemore: So it all adds up. If you’d like to help Vicki, there’s a link on her Facebook page, and that’s Vicki with an I, V-I-C-K-I, Vicki Varner. You can search and find her easily on Facebook, so reach out, and every little bit helps, as we all stand behind you, Vicki, and wish you the best in this exciting competition.
Vicki Varner: Well, thank you. Everyone’s support seriously means the world to me.
Anne Hudlow: The WWRC Foundation is grateful for the continued assistance that we receive in support of the Center. Additionally, we extend our gratitude to our wonderful partners in podcasting, who made this episode possible: Aladdin Foods.
Rick Sizemore: Career Pathways For Individuals with Disabilities.
Anne Hudlow: Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge.
Rick Sizemore: The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Anne Hudlow: CVS Health, Dominion Energy.
Rick Sizemore: Certainly can’t forget our friends at The Global Impact Today Radio Network, with Deb Rue and her team.
Anne Hudlow: That’s right, and we have Hershey Chocolate Company, Jesse Ball duPont Fund, United Bank, Valley to Virginia Grant, Virginia Manufacturers Association.
Rick Sizemore: And we are always appreciative of our partners at the Virginia Voice, who broadcast these episodes.
Anne Hudlow: That’s right. And last not but not least, Wells Fargo.
Rick Sizemore: Well, it’s been another great show, Anne. Thanks for all that you and the Foundation are doing. The one thing I know you would like is that if our listeners would sign up for your newsletter.
Anne Hudlow: That’s right. We do have a newsletter. We’d love to have you all involved, so please join us by signing up at our website, www.rcf.org.
Rick Sizemore: Well, until next time, I’m Rick Sizemore.
Anne Hudlow: And I’m Anne Hudlow.
Rick Sizemore: With the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation.