A rural Fairland woman drove away from a Miami car dealership Monday with a $27,000 crossover utility vehicle, her prize as the top Oklahoman in an essay contest sponsored jointly by Ford and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

“I feel wonderful and I've been blessed by the Lord,” Rhonda Akers said as she stood next to her shiny black 2007 Ford Edge SEL. “I'm a Ford person and this is just great.”

The Edge SEL seats four, is powered by a 265-horsepower V-6, and gets 25 miles per gallon, said Greg Hearn, a Dallas-based Ford marketing analyst who was in Miami for the giveaway.

“This is our newest crossover vehicle,” Hearn said. “It's a sports utility body on an automobile chassis.”

Akers was one of 115,000 entrants in an online essay contest and one of 50 recipients of an Edge. One winner was picked from each state after submitting an essay. Winners also received a $10,000 check from Ford.

The essay contest mirrored ABC's popular Sunday night television series “Extreme Makeover” and was designed to reward individuals and families who told inspirational stories.

“What we were looking for were the best short essays about overcoming adversity and hardship from people who would not let life get them down,” Hearn said.

Akers, 51, was seriously injured in 1979 when as an Army first lieutenant she was struck head-on while driving to Ft. Carson Army Base near Colorado Springs, Colo. Akers commanded an ambulance platoon at the base.

“She wasn't supposed to live, and then when she lived, they told her she'd never walk again,” said Valerie Epperson, Akers' sister, who along with mother Virginia Hare, accompanied Akers to Vance Ford Lincoln Mercury in Miami to pick up the new vehicle. “She is an inspiration to all of us.”

After recovering, Akers moved to a farm near Fairland where she lives with her husband Fred. Akers describes herself as a “professional volunteer” and is active in missionary work and as a Girl Scout leader. She has recently returned from a National Theater for the Handicapped workshop in Maine.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she said. “After the car accident, every day is a blessing. And I hope everyone can see that