I have a confession to make. I am a pageant girl! While this may come as a shock to some of you (or most of you) it is the truth! It all started about 13 years ago when I entered my first local Miss America pageant. I was the awkward girl who walked without swinging my arms, had the little pills all over the bum of my swimsuit because I competed in the same suit that I wore to the community pool, and who didn’t know what medical arbitration was in my interview. I didn’t walk away with any awards, but I did walk away with more confidence and a determination to become my best self and make a difference in my community. In the years following that experience, I had the opportunity to hold two Miss America Local titles and compete at Miss Utah twice. I earned thousands of dollars in scholarship money, in addition to skills that have served me ever since. I learned how to interview like a pro, and because of my skills have been able to beat the stiff competition for a job on more than one occasion. I gained a greater understanding of the world around me and how it affects my rights and viewpoints. Most importantly, I gained a commitment to service.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This couldn’t be more true for me! I have been taught the value of service all my life, beginning with my incredible mom who used to have all of us take dinner to a widow who lived across the street every Sunday. As a ten year old girl, it definitely wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but once I went I loved the hours that I was able to sit and talk with her. There have been so many times like this throughout my life where I learned what service was all about. In those small moments I found that though my goal was to brighten someone else’s day, I often ended up gaining more from the experience than I gave.
After Jude was diagnosed in May, I really had a hard time recovering. My life seemed to be in a rut and it was really hard to be positive and see beyond our own circumstances. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I believe that the timing could not have been any more ideal (though it didn’t seem like it at the time).
I have been the director of my local Miss America Scholarship Pageant for the past 4 years, which is a volunteer position. As I stated before, it is a program that I gained so much from in those formative early adult years, and it has been such a pleasure giving back. I have had the opportunity to work with four amazing titleholders, and over 40 local young women throughout my time as a director. It has been such a joy to be a part of their journey and see the growth, personal development, and confidence that comes with participation this program. I’m not going to sugar coat it, being a director is hard work and a big responsibility! It can also be one of the most thankless jobs. Not only am I preparing for a huge community event, but it is not financially supported by our city. Because of this we have to coordinate and gain sponsors, in addition to preparing these amazing young women for the experience. I was knee deep in directorland during Jude’s testing process.
I have been a bit out of touch with the blog and social media because of this, but it is truly what I needed. I was able to put everything I had into this program and these incredible young ladies. I have been inspired and received more love and compassion than I felt that I gave at times. I often received the question, why? Why am I doing this when I already have a house full of small children and chaos? While I truly do believe that a mother’s job is the most important and fulfilling job on earth, I think that as mothers we also need something else. Something that gives us joy and gives us purpose beyond dirty diapers and peanut butter sandwiches. This is my thing.
My mom and I plan nearly every aspect of this event. We also have a group of fabulous women who help us execute it, many of which are former titleholders and moms. Our pageant was held last Saturday and we had 14 incredible girls participate. This year we were able to award over $23,000 in scholarship and tuition assistance. Our contestants each have their own community service platforms ranging from suicide prevention and awareness to literacy. They contributed hundreds of hours of community service and collectively raised over $2,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network. When the event is over, and the girls are crowned- my job is just beginning. I work one on one with my winners throughout the year in cultivating their talents and community service efforts. I help prepare them for their state competitions and they become a part of my life and my heart forever.
I have been absent from my blog, my social media, and many aspects of my life (thank you incredible husband for holding down the fort) for about two months, but the inspiration and perspective that I have gained is immeasurable. Each year that I am involved changes me, and in a lot of ways being the director this year changed my life. You can now expect me back here in full force, and thanks to these amazing girls- better than ever!