What a Pageant Can Do - Part Four

So, throughout this little story of mine, it's been about what the Miss Amazing Pageant can do for a young girl or woman - the confidence building, the opportunity to make your voice heard, and all the wonderful friends you make in an inclusive and supportive environment. But what I haven't mentioned yet, is what a pageant can do for a mom, especially a mom who wanted nothing to do with pageants. Remember the beginning of the story??

Since the first time my daughter wore her crown at the very first Colorado pageant, I made a friend. There was an immediate bond that I felt with this other mom. Her daughter had won in another age division and she came over to me afterward and offered to send me all the photos that she had taken, so I gave her my email and phone number. In a few weeks, she emailed me all the photos she took, along with some videos as well. What a blessing! Because the photographer that had volunteered to take photos at the event never followed through. Thank goodness for this new friend!!

 Photo courtesy of Brian Johnson Photography

Photo courtesy of Brian Johnson Photography

I could tell we were going to be friends. Then as time went on and we started fundraising to get to Chicago, I became friends with the other moms as well. We all had something in common. None of us had this experience before, and we all wanted to see our daughters have the chance to go to Chicago for the Nationals.

As we were fundraising and getting out there and speaking to people about what we were doing, I was meeting all kinds of new people and many like-minded people were crossing paths with ours. We were meeting people who truly cared about the 'other abilities' community. I made more friends!

As we got closer to the time to go to Chicago, I joined a Miss Amazing class of 2017 Facebook page and got to know more and more of the participants and parents through the page. We started posting and 'liking' each others' posts. I felt like I already knew some of them before we even got to Chicago.

Like I said before, when we got to Chicago and stood in line at registration, we all became family very quickly, taking group photos and exchanging information. As the days of the pageant went on, I just began 'connecting' with various moms and we are still friends to this day. I even miss them now that the pageant is long over and we are back home in Colorado. We stay in touch, continually supporting one another and each other's daughters in their accomplishments and day-to-day adventures. I've changed. Hopefully for the better. I have a different view of pageants. I have a different view of the world. I don't feel so alone in this journey with a developmentally disabled daughter. I have sisters. She has sisters. One big happy family.

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I highly recommend Miss Amazing and its programs. To see what a difference it has made in the participants' lives is just incredible.  To witness the confidence and self-esteem instilled in my daughter is truly remarkable. She has a bunch of new sisters. So do I.  To see what it has done for our life is priceless. 

What a Pageant Can Do - Part Three

As Phoebe and I were working hard to raise money to get her to the National Miss Amazing Pageant in Chicago in August, we were gaining exposure to a lot of different avenues in the disabilities arena. She was making new friends like never before!

She was invited to speak at the Action Club at the ARC and made some new friends there as well as other new places. She attended Tim Tebow's Night to Shine Prom for people with disabilities. This was her first ever prom. She met a lot of people there too and made some new friends that are very close and strong friends still today. 

I remember the day I sat on my hospital bed holding her, looking into those beautiful green eyes and thinking to myself, "She will probably never go to a prom." That was partially ignorance on my part and partially from what hospital staff had been saying -- not to have my expectations set too high. It's good thing I snapped out of that and realized I was honored to be chosen to be this special girl's mom and I was going to do all I could to be sure she had every opportunity to shine in whatever she could. Here she was, going to prom!

She continued fundraising and getting closer to her goal to make it to Chicago for the National Miss Amazing Pageant. We bought our airfare, a new gown for the pageant, and made our hotel reservations. Phoebe was practicing choreography for her talent portion, still giving speeches and making appearances up until it was time to go to Chicago. We continued to tell everyone through social media, phone calls, and emails, asking for donations to help us get there. 

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Finally, the day arrived to leave for Chicago. What a day it started out to be! We drove our 50 minute drive out to the airport and started to get out of the car, when I realized I forgot my I.D.!!! We had to go back and get it (we found out later there are ways to get around that!) and I won't tell you how many laws were broken to get home and back in time to be the last people boarding our plane. I was once again acquainted with humility, as I pride myself way too much regarding having all my ducks in a row and everything organized. I forgot my I.D!!!  After that, everything else went smoothly. 

When we arrived at the Grand Hyatt O'Hare, we went to our room, proceeded to decorate our hotel room door (thank goodness I found out BEFORE the trip about decorating your door being a pageant thing! How would I know??!) and ordered room service for dinner. It was nice just relaxing before all the other friends and family arrived the next day. 

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As soon as it was time to register in the morning, Phoebe began making new friends just standing in line. Girls and women were passing out their little photo post cards (another pageant thing I didn't know about) and introducing themselves and availing themselves for photo ops. They all started immediately bonding. I had never seen anything like this. There was no staring, whispering, or cattiness, like I had always imagined a pageant atmosphere to be. It was warm and friendly and the girls were all so diverse and beautiful. There was no lack of conversation. And soon I was finding myself talking to other parents as well and exchanging information. We all had something in common: our beautiful daughters in an inclusive, loving, accepting environment making friends with each other -- all ages, all sizes, all disabilities -- and ALL BEAUTIFUL! Some in wheelchairs, some non-verbal, some that you couldn't even tell they had a disability! It didn't matter. We were all family. 

 

What a Pageant Can Do - Part Two

So here we were - a queen and her mom - with no clue as to how to navigate these royal waters. But one thing I did know for certain - she had an opportunity before her to spread some good stuff out there with her new title.

The first thing I did was try to contact the state directors who put this thing on in the first place. Unfortunately, this was not working out well, as they were traveling all the time for work and difficult to reach.  I felt like there was something I should do, but I didn't know what. We needed to get the food that was collected at the pageant to a food bank and it had been two months without that being done.  I discussed it with my husband and he arranged for the four Colorado queens to deliver the canned food to Hope Ministries. He also suggested that she should get some exposure in the community by presenting what Miss Amazing is about to service groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.  My husband is an ambassador in the West Chamber of Commerce, so he spoke with some people and soon, he had people from various business groups and service groups inviting her to speak to them. The only problem now was how to get her up to speed in making a speech in the first place. Her speech was not her best talent at the time. 

I've home schooled Phoebe all her life, aside from a short period of time (two years) that she went to an enrichment program for home schoolers up until they said they couldn't do much for her, as they were not equipped to handle someone with 'special needs.' I had not spent a lot of time teaching her speech and she hadn't been working with a speech therapist for about 7 years. I had stopped that therapy when it didn't seem it was helping her much. I could understand her, after all. I really wasn't doing her any favors. I see that now. 

So we started writing a speech together, using larger and more difficult words than she is used to. We took each of those words and dissected them into syllables and worked on  enunciating each one until they were perfect. Then we put the word back together and said the whole thing.  And we practiced and practiced and practiced.  Then we looked the word up in the dictionary to be sure she understood what she was saying in the first place, so she could really take ownership of her speech. Her very fist speech was for a group of businesswomen. It was good. But as she started doing more each week (some weeks, 3 speeches a week!), she got better and better and she began putting a lot more emotion into them. She was always applauded and almost every time, she was given a donation to help her get to the National Miss Amazing Pageant in Chicago in the coming summer.

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She started getting invited more and more to speak at various meetings and make appearances at various events. She was even asked to be a celebrity judge at the Taste of the West, a large food and beverage vendor event. She was invited to grand openings and ribbon-cutting events. She met the governor, various mayors and politicians, actors and actresses, models, musicians and artists. She was grabbing a little bit of local 'fame.'

But the real excitement I was experiencing was seeing her grow in such a short time into a confident young woman who could work a room of 1,000 or more people with not a bit of awkwardness or fear. I saw her speech improve by leaps and bounds and people actually wanted to listen to her! I saw her morph into the woman I wish I was!!!! Talk about amazing....

What a Pageant Can Do - Part One

When I first heard about the Miss Amazing pageant, I wanted nothing to do with it. A pageant???? PAA-LEASE!!!!!! In my mind a pageant was the last thing I wanted my daughter to be involved in. After all, she was already in 9 dance classes and had been a cheerleader. Wasn't that bad enough??! I was a mother of four boys before my daughter came into my life by way of surprise. I was nearly 41 when she popped into my baseball, soccer, hockey, kung-fu, sword fighting, knife throwing boy-world. I had already established my 'identity' as a mom of men, teaching them all by the age of 3 how to belch and spit properly (if that can be proper). There was no pink in my house. None. 

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And then....BAM!!! Here she was in August of 1999, ready to rock my world, turn it upside down and bring the color pink with her! I knew little about raising a child with Down syndrome and even less about raising a girl. Even back in the late 80's when I had a home day care, I always had boys. I didn't make that happen. It just did. So I thought I would be the worst mom for a girl. But she trained me. I think she still is at age 18. I find myself 'bending' more easily than I used to. Could it just be my age? Am I just tired and worn out from my boys? Maybe. Nevertheless, she came to change me I believe.

So, earlier this year I get an email from a friend telling me about the Miss Amazing pageant. Right away, I said 'no' to the idea, as we probably had a dance competition to go to that weekend anyway. It was only 10 days until the pageant. We had nothing for her to wear, etc. That friend continued to encourage me to enter her last minute. When I found out that we did not have a competition that weekend, I relented and registered her. I thought, "After all, she'll have fun." So, she worked on choreographing a dance and walking across the stage (she had done some modeling previously). I used a dress that I was saving for a prom she was going to attend in a couple of months. It wasn't a long gown, but it would do. I was just letting her do this to have some fun. I told a few family members, her dance teacher and my good friend about it - last minute of course - and only my friend was able to attend and watch. 

What we experienced was life-changing that day. I watched girls and women with all kinds of disabilities shine like stars. There was a talent portion to the pageant first, which wasn't judged, but probably the most fun of the entire day! Girls were singing and dancing and even playing the kazoo. Women were reciting poetry and signing to "America The Beautiful." I couldn't stop crying. Phoebe tore up the dance floor with her routine as my friend, husband, son, and I cheered her on. Later, the introductions and evening gown portion showcased all the beauties. It truly was 'amazing.' Each participant was crowned and given a trophy. You could tell it was the best day ever for every single one of them. Then, the moment arrived to announce who the lucky one was in each age division to be chosen as the representative for Colorado, to go on to the National Miss Amazing Pageant. 

You guessed it by now, or already knew before you began reading this: she won the title of "Colorado Miss Amazing" in the teen category. She was thrilled, to say the least. I was happy for her. But now what??

Well, the next morning when she woke up a little late from all the celebrating the night before, in her pink camouflage jammies - I stuck her crown back on her head and said, "Okay, Miss Amazing. You have work to do. Being a queen is not just crowns, sashes and photo ops. You will be serving your community." I don't even know where this came from. I didn't have the slightest idea what pageant queens do. But I guess innately I knew that this 'window' of opportunity was a year long and we had to navigate it to help the most people and give her a voice as well. This was it. A title to open doors to who knows what? But I knew she was going to stir things up, rock the world just a bit more, and hopefully make a difference in her community. Here was her chance.

Welcome to Colorado Miss Amazing!

We are so glad to get this blog started, because this is another great place for everyone to see not only what is going on here at Colorado Miss Amazing, but for people to read stories about how so many lives have been touched by Miss Amazing!  We will be sharing stories from our own Miss Amazing queens, princesses, and their families. We invite you to share with us your own stories as well. Click on the 'Contact' button in the navigation bar and tell us about yourself!  We want to know YOUR story!!

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