After being crowned Little Miss Wheelchair of New Jersey in 2019, J. Mason Tomlin Elementary School student Klara Pedersen gained a platform she used to teach people that she and others like her are the same as everyone else.
“She doesn’t like to be treated differently and she doesn’t like being stared at,” said her mom, Emily Pedersen.
Klara, who suffers from a muscle disorder, started a lemonade stand during the Wenonah town-wide garage sale. After raising over $500, she and her mom bought about 60 children’s books that will be donated to school libraries in Mantua and surrounding elementary schools. Books will also be donated to the public library in Mullica Hill.
“We just wanted to increase the representation of people in wheelchairs, while making it more mainstream and more normal, more acceptable,” Emily explained.
Ever since childhood, Klara Pedersen has loved to read.
“She gets really excited when she sees a character in a book that she can relate to,” Emily noted, something she said doesn’t happen often.
Klara, who suffers from RYR-1 related myopathy, filled out a personality form and was crowned Little Miss Wheelchair in November 2019 to represent both 2020 and 2021, the latter season added due to COVID.
The crowning took place at the Make A Wish Castle in Monroe Township. While she didn’t have to answer tough pageant questions like contestants at National Mrs. Wheelchair and Junior Mrs. Wheelchair, Klara is still proud of her achievement and those she represents,
“Even kids who don’t have wheelchairs get to see people like that in books,” Klara explained. “I think this will be a good opportunity for people to learn that we are just like them.”
The Pedersens made their first book donation on June 4 at Center City Elementary School in Mantua. In the next two weeks, other elementary schools in Wenonah, Woodbury Heights, and Pittman will receive their donations.