Hoo-sier Queen? Miss Indiana…that’s who!

25 06 2011

One of my favorite times of the year…right up there with Christmas, Thanksgiving and Miss America week is Miss Indiana week!  I live for this organization and what it provides young women.  The Miss America Organization is truly the perfect example of how good girls finish first.  I see that every year when I attend the local, state and national competitions and meet the contestants.

Each June, we get the incredible opportunity to crown a new Miss Indiana that will go on to compete at the Miss America pageant the following January in Las Vegas.  I can remember the moment I was crowned Miss Indiana 2008 like it happened three days ago, not three years ago.  That moment will remain as a highlight of my life: When they called my name and I immediately fell to the floor, the only things keeping me from smacking into the stage were the hands of the two contestants standing right beside me.  My mouth hinged wide-open, every muscle protruded from my body, eyes closed tight and tears streamed down my cheeks.  Beyond amazing.







Today, we not only got to induct a new Miss Indiana into the sisterhood, but we got to honor those who have gone before and recognize some other truly remarkable individuals for their tremendous efforts.  As the night came to a close, the top ten finalists completed the phases of competition and it was time to start handing out some awards.  Jim Robbins and I took a moment to hand out the Joy of Life Award in honor of Jim’s wife, Joy who lost her life to breast cancer in January 2010.  (You can read about it more in some of my previous blogs)

The Outstanding Teen contestant had been awarded last night to Madison Seifert, Miss Northeast Outstanding Teen.  Her essay is below:

            “Five years ago, I encountered a remarkable person that would change my view of the world for the rest of my life.  I did not know it at the time, but that eight year old boy would teach me to measure people by the heart, and not the head.  His heart is his way of seeing in the world.  He does the same activities as everyone else, but Noah is blind.  When I spent time with him, I found myself doubting his abilities, but he proved me wrong every time.  I no longer recognized his visual acuity impairment, I saw him as a hyper, free-spirited soul who had an outstanding joy for life.  Noah did not care that I knew endless facts on visual impairment, Braille literacy, and mobility; he cared that I, the fully sighted person, knew how it felt to see the world with no luminescence.

            By becoming Noah’s friend, I have learned material things, such as reading Braille, but by genuinely caring for him, I have learned lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  I now know to look beneath the surface, and examine characteristics such as attitude, eagerness, and respect.

            My experiences with Noah fully describe the quote, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Noah’s story has inspired me to create a platform that focuses around blind people, Braille literacy, and mobility through Leader Dogs for the Blind.  I have a newfound passion for the cause, and I plan to stand beside it for the rest of my life. 

            The compassion for helping others is one of life’s greatest rewards.  This extraordinary kid let me shed light in his world of darkness.  By being his friend and helping him navigate the halls of James R. Watson Elementary, he has helped me navigate through life.”










 Tonight Jim and I handed out the Miss Award to Lauren Peterson, Miss Central Indiana.  Her essay is below:

            “The crowning moment: an accomplishment that many MAO scholars dream of achieving. It’s a magical instance filled with exuberance and grandeur. Yet, it’s a defining opportunity that empowers devotion to a year of service while creating a life of meaning. However, the altruist journey is by no means complete after the title is passed on.

            One of my most extraordinary moments while in the MAO was as I handed down my local title. During the program, I shared experiences from my platform, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and also invited a special guest, my Wish Kid, to the stage. As I crouched with the microphone in my hand and looked into her beaming eyes, five-year-old May exclaimed how excited she was to go to Disney World with her family to meet her favorite princesses. To conclude our joyous conversation, I asked May: “What’s been your favorite part of your wish experience?” She responded: “Meeting you!” As tears filled my eyes and I hugged her, I knew at that moment I had helped give meaning to May’s life. Later that evening, community members, relatives, and friends contacted me inquiring about how to become a Wish Granter.

             It was then I truly realized the impact of my advocacy, May’s story, and the importance behind the quote: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Not only does the wish granting process make a phenomenal difference in a life, its influence grows monumentally. A wish grows from the individual child to the child’s family to the wish granters to the community.

             At the end of the day and after passing down my title, I know I won’t need a crown or sash to continue to make a difference as I share the magic and power behind a life-affirming wish.”









As you can see from the entries, the judges fell in love with their hearts.  Their geniune compassion radiates from their sincere words.  The decision was unanimous for the judges.  What an amazing tribute to Joy to see her legacy continue and grow for years to come through incredible young women like Madison and Lauren.

The night concluded with the coronation of Jackie Jerlecki, Miss Duneland, now the new Miss Indiana 2011.  Every contestant did a spectacular job and I was so proud of each of them.










Thank you Lord for this organization, for the young women who compete in it, and for the opportunities you provide for us every day to share your love and compassion with others.




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