As part of National Mobility Awareness Month in May, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) held a “Local Heroes” contest to honor individuals who are making a difference and helping others in their communities. The four winners—each of whom will receive a wheelchair-accessible vehicle—were recently announced on National TV.

The winners for 2015, according to a news release from NMEDA, are: Collene Van Noord, Cynthia Noonan, Kym Daniels (caregiver to her daughter, Kaitlyn), and Jessica Runnels.

Per the release, 914 Local Hero online entries were received that received a total of 1.3 million votes. The entries were then whittled down to those that received the top 10% of the votes. From these, an independent selection panel of industry experts reviewed their stories to select the four Local Heroes.

The release and the NMEDA’s “Local Heroes” website highlight each winner’s stories:

Van Noord, who became paralyzed as the result of an automobile accident, writes and manages a blog dedicated to educating others on spinal cord injury and inspiring those who are also facing mobility challenges. Her blog currently has 1,300 followers.

Kaitlyn Daniels, 10 years old, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of 9 months. The cancer grew into her spine, and the surgery to remove it made her unable to walk. In 2013, she started Kidz That Kare, a program in her community that provides local families with clothes, toiletries, toys, and groceries.

Noonan became a C5 quadriplegic as a result of a rare autoimmune disease called Transverse Myelitis. Prior to the disease’s onset, she worked for the ALS Association. She currently is a board member of the Bay Area Outreach and Recreational Program, which helps provide sports, recreational, and outdoor activities to people of all ages with all types of physical disabilities.

Runnels experienced a cervical spinal cord injury, leaving her paralyzed, as the result of a car accident. She established the East Bay Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury Support group for survivors, family members, caregivers, and friends. She also mentors high school girls and is very involved with her church.

Dave Hubbard, NMEDA CEO, says in the release that the Local Heroes Contest is a rewarding part of what NMEDA does.

“Each year the awareness for mobility challenges and solutions continues to grow, and we thank our members, contest sponsors, and the hundreds of communities and thousands of individuals who rallied this year to make this special once again,” he shares in the release.

“I also want to personally thank the millions who took the time to read and learn about all of the Local Heroes in our contest and then cast their votes,” he continues.

[Source(s): National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, PR Newswire]