Woman looks to make pageant history, motivated by near death experience

By JOHN LE
CNN image

**Embargo: Greenville-Spartanburg, SC-Asheville, NC** Madeline Delp trains at Specialized Physical Therapy in South Asheville. Delp hopes to make history by becoming the first wheelchair contestant to compete in the Miss USA competition.

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    ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) -- An Asheville woman hopes to break new ground at the Miss North Carolina USA pageant in Chapel Hill later this week. If Madeline Delp wins, she'll become the first wheelchair contestant to compete in the Miss USA competition.

Delp has learned to find beauty in her sometimes painful journey, refusing to let a potentially defining moment keep her from dreaming big.

"I had to find a way," she explained.

We never know where the road may take us, and we certainly have no idea when life as we know it might change forever.

"They didn't think that I was alive," she says, recalling a terrible car accident when she was 10 years old. "My mom and I were hit by a truck on Airport Road."

The seatbelt crushed part of her spine and caused paralysis. She was unable to walk, yet somehow Delp took that moment and ran with it.

"I felt for so long that it was the worst thing to ever happen to me," she said. "But now, I'm like it is the best thing because it changed my perspective. It changed the way that I tackled my life."

At 24 years old, Delp has a message of strength. News 13 caught up with her while she was training for the pageant at Specialized Physical Therapy in South Asheville.

She pushes herself both mentally and physically.

"I'm not afraid to crawl to get where I want to go!" she said during the workout.

"No matter what differences I pose to the world, no matter how much I stand out, I am going to portray it with joy and confidence," she said, preparing herself mentally. "And not let that get in my mind at all because that's what we each have to do every day. "

Last year, Delp won the title of Ms. Wheelchair USA. Her inspiring platform has opened eyes around the country.

"I was like, I'm going to live boundless," she decided long ago. "I'm not going to let those things control me. So, it's very much a mental strength that I've had to learn how to foster."

She trains with Clinic Director Sean Simonds, and is motivated by a prominently displayed pink tutu.

"You said if I made it Miss NC USA that you would wear the tutu for me," Delp said to Simonds with a giggle.

"You're making stuff up now," Simonds laughed.

Delp has come a long way since that life-changing accident 14 years ago, far enough removed to see near-tragedy in a different light.

"Every time I drive by, it sounds crazy, but I do my happy dance. Like I get excited because this is the moment that changed my life in such an enormous way," she now says, with a powerful sense of perspective.

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