AMHERST – Although she has cerebral palsy, Alyssa MacLeod has hit the ground running.
Shriners Canada named the 23-year-old Cape Breton resident Miss Canada International a little over a week ago, and now she’s touring Canada to inspire youth and people with disabilities.
“My platform as Miss Canada International is to personally vouch that people with disabilities can accomplish their goals,” said MacLeod during her stop in Amherst on Sunday. “Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you have to be restricted in your goals and you can attain whatever goal you set out to accomplish.”
MacLeod’s life is a testament to her positive outlook.
Diagnosed with a mild form of cerebral palsy when she was six months old, she was referred to the Shriners Hospital at the age of two.
“I was a patient for 20 years, and I graduated from the hospital in 2012,” said MacLeod.
Cerebral palsy has a negative effect on her balance.
“I have to be careful with walking,” she said. “I’m easily knocked over. If somebody bumps me and I don’t expect it I can be caught off guard.”
MacLeod graduated two weeks ago from Cape Breton University with a bachelor of science in biology, and a bachelor of arts in French.
“I would like to complete a masters degree and then go to medical school,” she said.
MacLeod previously held the title of Miss Nova Scotia, and is the first woman from Cape Breton to be named to the Miss Canada title. Her year-long reign as will take her to communities across Canada.
“We started in Sydney and we’ve gone to Pictou, Truro and P.E.I., and then we’re going to Halifax tonight and we’re going to Montreal tomorrow and then we’re coming back to be with the Shriners in Miramichi and Fredericton,” she said.
Several Amherst dignitaries came out to meet MacLeod on Sunday, including mayor Robert Small.
He says MacLeod is very community minded.
“The Shriners supported her throughout her youth and made a difference in her life, and now she wants to give back,” said Small.
He is proud of the fact she made Amherst part of her tour, and says she is a great ambassador for the Shriners.
“To have cerebral palsy and to accomplish what she has accomplished is phenomenal,” said Small. “She’s an inspiration to everybody, and we’re really honored to have her here at the beginning of her tour.”