MEDINA — Dianne DePasquale-Hagerty, chief financial officer of Medina Creative Housing, appealed to Ms. Wheelchair USA winner Dani Rice.

"I want to encourage you to advocate for people with disabilities," she told the newly crowned Rice.

Rice, of Asotin, Washington, was installed Saturday at the virtual Ms. Wheelchair USA program. She made her first appearance wearing her crown in Medina on Monday, hosted by Medina Sunrise Rotary and Breakfast Kiwanis, Medina Creative Housing & the Public Officials of Medina and Medina County.

Rice, 32, who suffered a spinal cord injury two years ago that put her in a wheelchair, said winning the pageant Saturday was "incredible."

"It was indescribably amazing. Words can't describe it. A national opportunity doesn't come around like this very often."

She is married to husband Sam, and has a 4-year-old son, August.

Lowery Lockard, executive producer and founder of Ms. Wheelchair USA, said Rice will soon exhibit her collection of photographs of people with disabilities, and items sold will benefit The Dane Foundation. The mission of The Dane Foundation is to address the unique needs of individuals with developmental and physical disabilities.

Other Ms. Wheelchair USA contestants on hand were Ms. Wheelchair Northern USA Joci Scott, of Bath Township, Ms. Wheelchair Ohio USA Alexandra Martinez, of Cleveland, and Dianna Warren, Ms. Wheelchair USA Ambassador, of Canton.

"You don't know how thrilling this is (meeting you)," DePasquale-Hagerty said of the Medina Creative Housing residents. "You are role models for those with disabilities. Today is a celebration of what you've accomplished."

Creative Housing was started 28 years ago by some parents who wanted their children with disabilities taken care of once they passed away. Today, it serves almost 800 people in its vast network, many of which was visited Monday. Both the Medina Breakfast Kiwanis and Medina Sunrise Rotary were on hand for the tour.

After a reception on the square, which included several elected officials, the tour visited the 100-acre Medina Creative Housing's Therapy Ranch, 5200 Lake Road, where the Ms. Wheelchair USA contestants rode in carts pulled by horses. They also mingled with goats and donkeys.

"We have a world-class equestrian program," DePasquale-Hagerty said. "We make dreams come true."

They posed for pictures in the handicapped-accessible treehouse, which is used as a learning lab. From there, they visited the Grand Cafe & Roastery, 4080 Creative Living Way, for a farm-to-meal lunch, then the contestants attended a meet-and-greet with residents and their families at Medina Creative Living, 4100 Creative Living Way.

"We were able to showcase our mission," DePasquale-Hagerty said. "We are able to bring awareness and power people with disabilities."

She said Ms. Wheelchair USA and Medina Creative Housing have similar missions.

"We're about empowering individuals with disabilities," DePasquale-Hagerty said. "We're about abilities and not disabilities."

The Ms. Wheelchair USA program promotes glamour, self-confidence and community service, and celebrates the achievements of women with disabilities.

"I want to set an example across the entire nation," Rice said.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or