Tuesday, March 18, 2014

[440] Disabled MTSU graduate-to-be needs your help to keep moving forward

MURFREESBORO — Jennifer Austin’s persistence has helped her through tough times. Now she’s asking for your support.

The MTSU graduate student is a contestant in the 2014 “Hometown Heroes” contest sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.

Austin entered the contest last year in hopes of winning a customized wheelchair-accessible van. She reached the semifinals, but she did not win.

The 27-year-old Cowan, Tenn., native was injured Sept. 15, 2006, while driving home to Cowan on Interstate 24. An SUV swerved into her car and propelled it into the median, flipping the vehicle several times.

Police told her they believe she would not have survived if she hadn’t been ejected through the windshield.

Austin was flown to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, where her spleen and part of her left lung were removed. She now has minimal use of her arms and hands, but she is paralyzed from the mid-chest down.

The perpetrators of the hit-and-run accident remain at large, but Austin said she has moved on.

Now on the verge of graduating this May with a master’s degree in health, Austin is seeking online votes to help her win the specially equipped van so she can have reliable transportation.

“I am asking for my family, friends, mentors and members of the community to take a minute each day from now until May 9 to visit the link and vote for me,” Austin said.

In observance of National Mobility Awareness Month this May, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association will award at least three special vans with ramps, lifts and hand controls to the winners. Austin was nominated by her sister, Ashlee.

In her nomination story, Ashlee Austin wrote about her sister, “Her positive attitude and genuine gratitude for life is practically contagious! She is a reminder to all of us that life is precious and regardless of the struggles we may face, God placed us on this earth for a purpose; and Jennifer’s purpose is far greater than she ever imagined.”

Only the nominees in the top 10 percent of vote-getters will move on to the second phase of the competition. Voters can cast only one ballot each day per email address. However, answering the bonus question on the web page will give the nominee two votes instead of one.

Answers to the daily bonus questions can be found on Austin’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.austin.923.

The winners will be notified May 30 and they will be announced in June.

“It’s important that we support and encourage one another, and this contest is all about bringing awareness to disability-related issues such as mobility and empowering those facing these obstacles,” Jennifer Austin said.

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