DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - A young lady from Denham Springs had her heart set on a national title and returned home with four awards.
Brooke Settoon, Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana, is beaming with happiness. The crown she proudly wears is just a symbol of her long list of amazing accomplishments. At 8 months old, Brooke was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. She is extremely limited physically. She only has use of one hand, and types with one finger. A communication device helps her share her thoughts.
In February, the 22-year-old creative writing senior at Southeastern Louisiana jumped at the chance to become Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana. She recalls the moment she found out she had earned the title. She says it was through an email she received while in biology class.
"I was overjoyed. I could not stop smiling. My professor was probably thinking 'She is way too excited about learning about macromolecules'."
Her mother Katie Normand is a former fitness competitor. She suddenly found the roles were about to be reversed. She is now cheering and watching her daughter take the stage.
"I was so excited for her yet so nervous because I know how stressful it can be to put yourself out there and step out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to be judged," said Katie.
Pageants take a lot of hard work and preparation, but Katie says Brooke was determined.
"The blood, sweat, and tears that goes into it ahead of time. It's the planning and the writing she had to do, and the exhibits. The list went on and on," said Katie.
Brooke and contestants from across the country received a warm welcome when they arrive in Stow, Ohio to compete for the Ms. Wheelchair USA title. They visited the NFL Hall of Fame and were able to throw out the first pitch at a professional softball game. After a week in the city, it was show time. Katie's words of advice to her daughter were to simply enjoy it.
"The minute she got around the other competitors I watched her do that, and then I also watched her do that on stage, which was a beautiful thing."
Brooke shined before judges and her peers. She placed fourth runner up for the national title and stole the show with the people's choice award, the mayor's spirit award, and was named Ms. Congeniality.
"It feels incredible," Brooke exclaimed. "I'm proud of my success and feel very blessed with my experience in life so far. I owe a lot of that to my parents, family, and community who supported me along the way."
"I'm just so proud of where she is and who she is as a young lady and what an inspiration she is to everybody she comes into contact with," said Brooke.
Perhaps it is the strength, courage, and determination behind her beautiful smile.
Brooke has also launched a webpage to inspire other girls with disabilities. Click here for her website.