Former travel agent Mia Austin is one of 26 finalists in the running for the Merseyside Woman of the Year 2019.

Mia was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke in 2010 just before she was due to go on a fam trip to the US. She worked for the former The Co-operative Travel’s Heswall branch in Merseyside.

The 26 finalists are in the running to win one of 11 different award categories, while a public vote has been held to decide which one will win the overall prize of Merseyside Woman of the Year.

Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on June 28 at the Crowne Plaza in Liverpool. A judging panel has decided the winners of the individual categories, to be announced on the night. It has not been announced which of the finalists are in the running for which of the award categories.

The categories for 2019 are: Women’s Group, Young Apprentice, Arts & Media, Entrepreneur, Inspirational Woman, One to Watch, Social Impact, Woman of Courage, Business Leader, Woman Making a Difference and Community Change.

Mia, of Heswall, Wirral, was 21 when her life was turned upside down by a stroke, leaving her paralysed and unable to walk or talk and in need of round-the clock care.

Mia’s determination not to give up has seen her undertaking a range of charity work, such as delivering donations to the homeless, sleeping on the streets of Liverpool to raise money, and travelling to Africa to support communities, visit orphanages and schools.

She has also campaigned for airlines to allow wheelchair users to sit in their own chairs on board aircraft in a petition that has so far attracted more than 76,000 signatures. She is currently fundraising to go to the Calais refugee camps in July this year and to go to orphanages in the Gambia in November.

Travel industry charity Abta LifeLine has been involved in fundraising to buy a Mia a specially adapted car, with Travel Weekly managing director Stuart Parish undertaking the gruelling 20-mile Rat Race Man v Mountain challenge in 2015 to help Mia.

Jean Gadsby, of the Merseyside Women of the Year Awards, said: “We received a record number of entries this year, which made the voting process incredibly challenging for our judging panel.

“It was a humbling and extremely emotional experience that has culminated in this list of exceptional women, who are all making a real difference to the lives of people and communities in Merseyside and beyond.”

The coveted top prize will be presented by Michael W Halsall Solicitors, headline sponsor for the sixth consecutive year.

Category sponsors already confirmed for 2019 are: Leonard Curtis, Community Foundation for Merseyside, Courage & Sparkle Foundation, Knowsley Chamber of Commerce, Curtins, Alder Training, Everton FC, Financial Planning Corporation, NEO Community & ADDvanced Solutions.

The event will also be supported by Harvey Nichols, Electric Hair, The Dutch Flower Shop, Sisterhood Gin, Dollar Shake Boutique, Fazenda, Veuve Clicquot and Handelsbanken.