Nicole Kary is getting ready to start her senior year at Oakridge High School in Muskegon. The 17-year-old with the big smile loves learning, cheering on the University of Michigan, and spending time on Facebook.
"She attends regular classes which surprises a lot of people, she is on course to graduate next year and we've tried her whole life to give her as many normal experiences that she can handle," explains Rick Kary, Nicole's father.
Nicole was born with Cerebral Palsy and is mostly limited to a wheelchair, but that hasn't stopped her from accomplishing her dreams.
This last year, she added a new and somewhat glitzy hobby to the mix, one that is complete with crowns and trophies.
She's already competed in three pageants so far and was a runner-up in a state competition through the Miss American Coed Pageants held in Dearborn.
"We were apprehensive at first, not knowing how she would be treated, but so far the response has been beyond wonderful, it is a self-esteem booster," said Rick Kary.
"I like meeting the new girls," Nicole explains using a computer device attached to her wheelchair that reads her eye movements to allow her to communicate.
The Tobii system responds to her eye patterns and motions to execute commands that are repeated through a voice system.
She uses the technology when she's on stage and says the whole experience leaves her feeling pretty good inside.
"Like I'm normal and beautiful," she said.
Her parents were overwhelmed with the crowd's reaction to their daughter.
"When she got done with her introduction, just the roar and clapping of the crowd was amazing, I was just so touched that people responded to her," Rick Kary said.
"She's got a heck of smile and a great personality, but sometimes that gets lost in the disability."
Nicole has qualified to represent Michigan at Nationals where she will compete for the National Pageant Title of Miss American Teen in Orlando. The competition will be held during the week of Thanksgiving.
The Kary family is struggling to come up with $3,000 needed for the plane ticket and trip, so they started fundraising.
"We've been non-stop with it since April and it was off to a good start and then we just hit a snag," Rick Kary said.
A recent Facebook post by radio personality Andy O'Riley explained Nicole's situation and featured her picture, asking for support in her fundraising efforts. Instantly, people started donating.
"People have been commenting on Facebook that don't know us and have never met Nicole, but just through the pictures have helped broaden our fundraising,' said Kary.
So far, the donations, collected through a Pay Pal account, have brought in nearly $900.
"It's amazing how the community can come together," said Kary.
Nicole was all smiles when she found out about the support.
"Thank you so much for this opportunity," she said.
She's hoping to reach her goal this month. You can still help contributed by clicking here.