Saturday, March 23, 2013

Post Miss America highlights!

I feel so blessed to travel the state of Florida representing our amazing organization!  Here are a few highlights of my over 50 appearances over the last couple months!  Enjoy!

St. Petersburg MLK Day Parade

Bonnie's 100th Birthday Party!

Tall Ship Lynx Tour

Bailey came!

With my dear friend Piper at Miss Tempe Pageant

H.O.P.E Golf Tournament

Tampa Bay Senior Expo

Driving the Tall Ship Lynx at the VIP Reception

This boat was complicated....

Tampa Mayor's Food Truck Friday

Florida State Fair

Florida State Fair and Florida Agriculture Society Dinner
Miss UF

SHANDS Hospital

Riviera Health Resort St. Patrick's Day Party

Seaside Neighborhood School

Rent Gear Here Photoshoot

University Academy in Panama City, FL


University Academy

Miss Largo/St. Petersburg/Pinellas County

With Leah at Miss Placentia Pageant

Miss USF with my dear Rob

Grand Prix Parade

Teen Think Tank in Ocala

Miss UF 

Everglades Foundation ForEver Benefit

So many more exciting events are on the horizon!  Stay tuned to my Facebook, our Miss Florida Pageant Facebook page, My twitter (@LauraMcKeeman) and my Instagram (LauraMcKeeman) for all the latest updates on Miss Florida's many travels.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'm baaaaaaaaaccckkkk!!!

Wow, what an adventure.  I could have never imagined how much I would learn from an experience like Miss America.  I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to compete in such a legendary competition but I also feel so fortunate to be going back home where I can serve the state I love.  I came away from Vegas with a whole pile of new and amazing friends, a deep gratitude to all those who helped build me up and a greater understanding of myself and where I'm supposed to be.  Miss America is a life-changing, mind-boggling experience.  I was constantly struck with how unforgettable each moment was.  I am thrilled for the next Miss Florida as she too will go to Miss America and experience one of the best times of her life.  I can't wait to shower her with advice!

Here's a day by day recap of everything that happened at Miss America:

Day 1:  ARRIVAL:  I got to the Tampa airport for a very early flight and I was greeted by the wonderful Rob Loy (Miss Florida board member and friend).  I was all decked out in an outfit meant for much colder weather desperately trying not to sweat my spray tan off before I even got to Vegas.  Rob and I took a few last minute photos and I was off!  I ended up sitting by a very rambunctious baby on my way to Vegas and he decided I was his jungle gym for most of the 4 hour flight.  I figured it was great preparation to be Miss America...

When I landed in Las Vegas, I was greeted by Chris with Miss America security.  He quickly became one of my favorites thanks to his jovial sense of humor and love of sports.  We piled my two suitcases in the car (we shipped most of my wardrobe there) and headed to the Planet Hollywood hotel!  As soon as I got to the hotel, I started seeing the other contestants and after multiple embraces, I realized I was about to make some lifelong friends.  My roommate, Miss South Dakota is one of them.  I was instantly at ease thanks to her warmth and we had many good laughs throughout the week.  Calista, you are phenomenal!  

The rooms at the hotel were great because both girls get a hanging rack and an individual sink!  We set up some of our stuff and quickly had to change for the arrival ceremony.  I got to see all of the girls at the ceremony and the excitement in the air was palpable.  We all knew someone's life was changing forever in a matter of days and it was thrilling to contemplate.  We finished the arrival ceremony and went to a meeting with the MAO office where they served pizza and cake.  We all ate it, of course and were thrilled to have it!  I sat at a table with Miss Michigan and Miss Alabama and we all listened intently to their accents as they talked.  Miss Alaska told me she thought she was beginning to sound like Alabama accidentally.  At this point, we didn't all know each other's names well so we would often refer to each other as our states.  You would hear someone yell, "Puerto Rico" or "South Carolina" across the room.

After the meeting, we went to an interview session with the LiveWell Network.  By this time, us east coast girls were beginning to feel the repercussions of being awake since 4 AM and we were fading fast.  We finally went upstairs to bed and tried to get some shut-eye amidst all the excitement.

Day 2:  REHEARSAL:  For me, the second day at Miss America was mostly spent rehearsing for upcoming video shoots and for the preliminary nights.  Other girls were being pulled for interviews that we all did eventually but I stayed in rehearsal all day learning the swimsuit and evening gown walking patters as well as the opening number.  We had a great time getting to know each other better and I think I probably talked to about 38 girls just finding out more about them and enjoying their stories throughout the day.  We had about 15 minutes to change for our event that night so we all hustled to our rooms and everyone came out looking so beautiful.  I can't even tell y'all how pretty all of these girls are!  Pictures don't do them justice.  Our appearance was at the Terry Fator ventriloquist show and it was phenomenal.  We were all blown away at his talents and had a fun time going out on the stage and being introduced to the crowd.

Day 3: REHEARSAL AND MORE:  We continued to rehearse everything and began to lose all ability to know what day or time it was.  It was actually nice because we were not allowed to have our phones so we adjusted and enjoyed life without contact to regular society.  That night we had the Miss America Fashion Show at Las Vegas Fashion Show Mall.  It was incredible.  I could have never imagined myself walking in a fashion show like this and I'm sure I wasn't the coolest on the runway but it was an absolute blast.  I will never forget what it felt like to wave at the crowd from that runway.

After the fashion show, we went to Bucca Di Beppo for a delicious dinner.  It was hilarious seeing all these girls in crowns and sashes pigging out on bread and italian food but we were ready to eat!  Then, they brought out the biggest ice cream sundae I have ever seen and the whole thing got even funnier.  We all went nuts as we hadn't had ice cream in quite some time and everyone was laughing so hard.  Stomach aches quickly followed but it was all worth it.  I even got to stir a huge pot of marinara sauce with Miss California.  What a night!

DAY 4:  FILMING: It was an early morning filled with fruit snacks and peanut butter (thank goodness for the Miss America hostesses) as we hopped on the bus to film our introduction for the ABC broadcast.  My group filmed at the Boneyard in Vegas and we had so much fun.  It was such an interesting place-- a graveyard of sorts for old signs.  We returned to rehearsal and had an early night because my group started interviews the next morning.  We enjoyed getting sleep when we could and I spent time reading cards everyone had sent me.  The wonderful support is so enriching and I am honored to have so many people behind me.  

DAY 5:  INTERVIEW:  Today was the first day we got to rehearse in the Planet Hollywood theater and it was magical.  I never even spent time thinking about what it would feel like to be on the Miss America stage and there I was, standing on it.  We all started joking because as the day went on, people slept on the stage, sat down on the stage, and even slipped on the stage.  We all agreed that we would have never imagined sleeping on the Miss America stage.  It was all surreal and I loved just rehearsing walking patterns on the stage because it was so magnificent.  

Around noon I was dismissed from rehearsal to go prepare for my interview.  My incredibly talented makeup artist and great friend Hollie O'Brien met me to do my hair and makeup and she did an exceptional job (it takes a lot to make me look presentable and she got it done!).  I went upstairs to wait for my interview in my hotel room and did my final preparations.  One of the last things I did was watch Cullen Johnson (Miss Virginia) in her Miss America interview in 1995.  She was Heather Whitestone's first runner up and Mary showed me her interview a couple of months ago.  I absolutely loved it and felt she is a true representation of how to be yourself in any situation.

My interview was very difficult but I felt very prepared thanks to the Miss Florida board and all of the thoughtful mock interview judges I had over the past few months.  The Miss America judges asked me about everything from gun control to what I would discuss with President Obama if I could sit him down in the White House right now.  I am very critical of myself but I felt like I did the best I could with the questions I was given and felt a sense of relief when it was over. 
That night we got to eat a very satisfying dinner while watching the second half of the national championship game.  While enjoying piles of Dorito mac and cheese, we watched Alabama crush Notre Dame!

DAY 6:  TALENT:  When we arrived at the theater Tuesday morning, we all immediately ran to the stage to see how slippery it was.  Upon discovering that it was very slick, I started praying.  Rehearsal was alright but I felt like I was dancing on ice.  Thank goodness for Shea Sullivan’s encouragement.  I felt like a crazy person shaking my tambourine all over that stage but she made me feel like I was doing Florida proud!  I promised myself I would give it my all that night because it might be the last time I ever danced ballet on the Miss America stage.  Sure enough, it was and I had the time of my life out there.  I’m so thankful I got the chance to dance on that stage and I was so glad my family was there to see it!  Thank you to Shea Sullivan for the awesome choreography and thank you to Mary Angles for the incredible costume.  I am so honored I had the chance to wear it on a beautiful stage.

DAY 7:  ON STAGE QUESTION:  Wednesday was a nice break in the middle of the week with just on stage question to focus on.  I loved the opportunity to talk about my platform The Miracle League a little bit more.  All the on stage questions on preliminary nights at Miss America are platform based so every girl gets a chance to promote her platform no matter what.  I was able to tell the audience about how to raise funds for The Miracle League and talk about my friend Matt Walker who first told me about this organization when he invited me to his baseball game and I learned about how they build baseball fields for children with disabilities. 

Also, I cannot thank Regalia Magnificent Apparel and Juan Carlos Pinera enough for my on stage question dress.  I loved wearing it and I felt it was the epitome of class. 

DAY 8:  SWIMSUIT AND EVENING GOWN:  I could not have been more excited to wear my evening gown.  I am so grateful for the generosity of Carry and David at Regalia.  They gave me a gown that made me feel amazing and for the first time ever, I felt like I actually looked like I belonged in a pageant (haha!).  It was sooo cold running from the dressing room tent to the stage in a swimsuit.  I definitely should have brought a robe…

Thursday night was very emotional for all of the contestants because we realized we had finished competing and there was nothing more we could do.  It was then in the hands of the judges to decide who would make the top 15 and ultimately who would become Miss America.  There was a weight on our shoulders that many of us couldn’t describe.  The more I think about it, I think it was that we all knew someone’s life would change forever and that Miss America 2013 was among us.  In that moment, everything we all did seemed to carry more importance.

DAY 9:  What a day!  This one started really early for me…3:30 AM in fact.  I was selected with Miss California to do the Satellite Media Tour for Artistry and Amway.  Basically, we reported to the camera set at 4:15 AM and did interviews for TV stations around the country (about 35) about Amway’s scholarship money, Artistry and Miss America.  It was an incredible opportunity and I am so glad I got the experience of speaking with so many different media outlets in a day.  It was exhausting as I only got an hour and 45 minutes of sleep but so worth it and great preparation for my job as Miss Florida!  I went straight to rehearsal after doing the 4 hour media tour, then to a Sketchers commercial shoot with Brooke Burke and then to a dinner at Burgr in Planet Hollywood (yum).  I am thankful MAO gave me the chance to do so many media appearances while in Vegas.  Promoting the Miss Florida organization was very important to me and I feel I was able to get our name out there a great deal.

Day 10:  FINALS:  Some girls say they woke up on Saturday morning with a sense of calm.  I don’t think I necessarily had a sense of calm but I did have a strong sense that the “right” thing was going to happen.  I felt the entire situation was in God’s hands and there was nothing any of us could do to change the situation.  I enjoyed the final day with all the new friends I had made and tried to milk all the moments for all they were worth.  I fully prepared myself to make the top 15 and also to not make the top 15.  I ate a bagel and a lot of mini Snickers bars and got ready to watch someone’s life be changed.  I will never forget standing backstage with Miss Colorado, Miss Hawaii, Miss Illinois, Miss Puerto Rico, Miss Delaware and Miss Arkansas right before we were about to go out on the Miss America stage one last time.  We all cried a little bit when the show started and we realized we were actually about to compete in Miss America on live television.  It is a surreal moment and I understand I’m in a small group of women who ever get to experience it. 

I was incredibly honored to be called as a part of the top 15.  While I was cut shortly after being called and only did swimsuit, I was so thankful to even be a part of it all.  I cannot say enough about how impressive each and every one of these women are.  The caliber of their character, class and compassion is astounding and I am so excited to see what each one does to change the world.  Our future is in great hands.  I am so happy for Miss America 2013, Mallory Hagan.  She is so passionate about this organization and she is a savvy business woman.  She will further MAO and her progress will be admired by all as she touches many lives this year. 

I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to compete in Miss America and represent the state of Florida on a national level.  I was constantly struck with how lucky I am to have all the sponsors we have here.  I cannot thank all of you enough.  Ann Marie Griffin: you have given me more than I could ever name.  Thank you for all the beautiful clothes and thank you for your constant support and kind words.  I received so many compliments on my wardrobe throughout my week at Miss America and it got to the point where people would ask, “Is that from Ann Marie too?”  I had so many girls say they wished they had an “Ann Marie” too!  I could not be happier with all the beautiful clothes and it gives me great encouragement to keep hitting the gym so I can still fit in them!

Speaking of the gym, special thanks to Matt and Hollie O’Brien.  Matt: you gave me the confidence to strut my stuff in swimsuit and feel healthy and strong throughout a tough week.  I stayed healthy and energized the whole time despite a severe lack of sleep and I firmly believe it’s thanks to all the intense training that Matt put me through before I left.  I also feel stronger dancing than I ever have and it’s all because of my work in the TrYumph gym!  Hollie:  thank you for making me look glamorous at Miss America with your amazing makeup and hair skills!  It was so nice to not have to fool with my hair and makeup and know that it would be taken care of by an absolute pro.  You made me look like me with a little extra glam and I loved every minute in the hair and makeup room with you!

I don’t even know where to start with my thank yous to the Miss Florida board.  Mary: you prepared me better than I ever thought I could be prepared for Miss America.  You have taught me so much and given me a confidence I never thought I would have.  I am so excited to hit the ground running with you in Florida!  Rob, Keith, Kitty, Dana, Kim and Ray: many thanks for all of your support at Miss America and from a distance.  Your encouragement during Miss America kept me going at times when I was worried I wasn’t doing enough to make Florida proud.  What you all do for young women is truly remarkable. 

Thank you to my amazing parents who took a week out of their lives to come and support me.  As much as I don’t like seeing my face on a large sign, I appreciate the signs and the love more than you will ever know.  I know it’s been a long 3 years in the pageant world but 10 pageants later, I am stronger, more confident and ready to take on anything that comes my way.  Thank you mom, dad, Dave and Alex for helping me in so many ways.  Thank you to my incredibly supportive and patient boyfriend Josh for sponsoring and reassuring me throughout this process.  You and your amazing parents have offered wisdom and humor in moments that could have been frustrating.

The thank yous continue….Thank you to my amazing friends in Largo, Florida.  The Miss Largo board of directors came along to support me in Vegas and it was so wonderful to have them there for this journey.  Thank you to my best friend Olivia and her beautiful mom and sister for coming to cheer me on and for all the fun over the years.  Thank you to Kelly for the constant, incomparable humor.  I don’t know what I would have done without you!  Thank you to the Lupo family for coming to join us and so many thanks to my gorgeous princess Leah Roddenberry and her mom for being there as well.  I’m sure I’m leaving someone out but I could not be more appreciative of all the wonderful cheerleaders I had in Vegas.  It was so humbling.

I am so excited to get back to work in Florida.  I am working now to schedule an array of appearances and I am looking forward to promoting the Everglades Foundation as well as my platform the Miracle League.  This is a year and an opportunity I will never take for granted and I am eager to serve my state to the best of my ability.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I think reflection is so important.  You can't truly appreciate where you are if you don't spend time thinking about how you got there.  I'm currently drowning in sparkles trying to pack for Miss America and I can't help but laugh when I think about my life three years ago.  If you had asked me to pick a contest I would eventually be in between Miss America and American Idol, I would have picked American Idol...and I can't sing for beans.  The twists and turns a life can take are truly astounding.  

I remember watching Miss America for the first time in 2010.  I was vacationing in Canada with my family and we all gathered around to see who would win.  This was the first time any of us had ever really watched it and I was completely in awe of the young women competing for the coveted title.  At that point I was still trying to win my first local title in Florida.  We all agreed that I would never make it to Miss America but we were truly impressed by the caliber of the women in the pageant.  

Fast forward to July of 2010 and my first time at Miss Florida.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect and I was entirely overwhelmed by almost everything that happened there.  Still, I loved every second of it.  I was disappointed when I didn't get called for the top ten but I knew I would have another chance to make the cut and I tried to soak up the whole experience like a very absorbent sponge.  I will never forget my interview that year.  Mignon Merchant Ball (a former Miss Oklahoma) was one of the judges and she challenged me in the interview asking if I really felt anyone in the sports journalism world would take me seriously if I were to win Miss Florida.  It made me think and it gave me a fiery passion to prove to the world why the Miss America Organization is relevant in every aspect of society.  I never thought I would actually win Miss Florida, however.  My goal was to talk to anyone and everyone I encountered in my sports TV and media life about Miss America.  I was determined to dispel the stereotypes I knew existed in their minds.

In January 2011, I found out FOX Sports was hiring me to do the Tampa Bay Rays baseball broadcast as a reporter for the RaysLive Pre and Post game shows.  It was a dream come true, especially since I was in my final semester at UF at the time and wanting to solidify a job when I left Gainesville in May.  I found an apartment to move to in St. Petersburg and I began to study anything and everything I could find about American League baseball.  I won Miss St. Petersburg 2011 and went to meet with the Executive Producer of FOX Sports Florida shortly after.  He told me they had taken a big chance hiring me because I was only 22 and he said he hoped I would rise to the occasion and make him proud.  He finished the meeting by telling me FOX was in full support of me competing in Miss Florida that summer and he understood that I would have to immediately quit my job if I won.  He said he noticed a different poise about women who compete in the Miss America system.  To this day, I credit MAO as the main reason why I got a job with a national network at such a young age and for this reason, I will forever give back to the organization.

Miss Florida 2011 was so much fun.  I wore my mom's favorite color pink in evening gown, I danced to my favorite ballet variation the Dying Swan and I got to spend a week with my best friend Olivia.  During the questions for the top five, I was asked how I felt and I said something along the lines of "flabbergasted."  That was the best word to describe my complete surprise at being in the top five and after placing as 2nd-runner-up I figured my pageant days were done.  I was positive I couldn't place any higher than that and I went back to the baseball field and my career 3 days later.

Fast forward to February 2012 (I promise I have a point here) and I was ready to give up my title as Miss St. Petersburg.  I considered competing for a local title again briefly but everyone discouraged me saying, "why would you want to do that when you already have a great career that's taking off?"  I figured they were right and I told myself to give up the dream of Miss Florida and move on. But, I still had one more year to compete.  I knew I only had one more chance to be Miss Florida and I thought why not just try again?  I promised myself I would only compete in one local pageant and if I didn't win a title there, I wasn't meant to go to Miss Florida again.  I threw together a crazy lyrical dance (I hadn't put on my ballet shoes since the previous summer), dreaded putting on a swimsuit (I had eaten my fair share of hamburgers and cookies) and tried to do my best (whatever that was).  I won Miss Pinellas County 2012 much to my surprise and realized that I actually had one more chance to win Miss Florida if it was meant to be.

Shortly after winning Miss Pinellas County, I was hired to be FOX Sports' first ever social media reporter and I worked in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks doing the Pac 12 basketball tournament.  FOX told me they had big plans for my future with them and let me know that baseball, basketball, football and really anything else would be possible for me very soon.  Still, something didn't feel right.  I felt like I wasn't doing anything to make the kind of difference I wanted to make.  How was I helping anyone by just talking about sports on TV all the time?  Yes, I loved what I did but I felt I needed to do something more, something different.  I knew my chances of winning Miss Florida would be slim but I was certain I wanted to find a way to make community service and service to my state paramount in my life.  

I'm not real big on watching my Miss Florida crowning moment because I look pretty ridiculous but I will say this: anytime I see any footage from Miss Florida 2012, I can tell I'm truly happy and I'm having so much fun.  I couldn't even comprehend that I would have the chance to help the people I wanted to help and travel the state spreading the word about what our organization is.  It still boggles my mind that 'little ole me' was given that honor.  I haven't taken a single day for granted.  Miss Florida will always be my favorite job. 

The day after I won Miss Florida, I met with the Miss Florida board and my parents.  I signed that I was contract-free and I was ready to put my career on hold.  I knew it would be tough financially but I felt something would work out so I could get the necessary sponsorships to pay for my apartment and other expenses.  I asked the Miss Florida board if there was any way to keep a part time role with FOX just to alleviate some of the living expenses and they said they didn't think it was possible but they would ask about it.  The next day (Monday), I spoke with FOX Sports and told them I would not be able to continue working there because of my Miss Florida duties.  They wished me the best of luck and I started unpacking my suitcases from Miss FL week.  I was excited to start planning my appearances and hit the road as soon as possible to execute my plan in Florida.

It wasn't long before Mary Sullivan called me and simply asked if I had already quit my job.  I said yes and asked her why and she responded with a little chuckle, "can you get it back?"

As it turned out, The Miss America Organization and the Miss Florida board agreed that I could continue to work as a broadcaster in a part-time, freelance capacity without a contract and under an agreement that would allow me to walk away at any time.  FOX was fully on board with promoting what we do.  I was relieved I would be able to pay for my apartment but I knew I would have a little bit of a juggling act to deal with.  Miss Florida was and is my priority but I still had to be knowledgable and informed on national television.  Sleep took a backseat and I got to work.  Many times during the fall, I would do appearances in the morning, workout or rehearse my talent in the middle of the day, do a baseball broadcast at night and then research for football after that while planning appearances and wardrobe for the coming days.  I loved every minute of the craziness, however and I feel so blessed to have these rewarding experiences.  When football season started, I did appearances and Miss America prep during the week and then flew to my football game on the weekend.  There were some hilarious moments where I would be doing a football coaches conference call while shoe shopping in NYC and trying to pay attention.  I think Mary Sullivan probably learned more about football than she ever wanted to know but she stuck by my side through it all and has been an incredible source of encouragement, strength and humor.  

I finished my last weekend of games on FOX with three back to back in three different states right after Thanksgiving.  I flew to Colorado on Thanksgiving day for Colorado vs Utah on FX.  The next night I flew to El Paso, TX for UTEP vs Rice and then the next day I headed to Los Angeles for USC vs San Diego State basketball.  The entire month of December has been solely devoted to Miss America prep and I have had such a wonderful time getting ready with the Miss Florida board.  

I am determined to breathe in every last detail of the Miss America experience and embrace it as a definite highlight early in my life.  It is an experience I never thought I'd have and I want to enjoy every part of it.  I can't wait to tell my children and my grandchildren about it.  I can't wait to laugh and cry when I reflect on it...and boy will I reflect on it.  Thanks to the incredible support I have in Florida, I feel fully prepared to be Miss America.  Who knows if that's in the cards for me but if it is, I am ready.  I could not have been ready, however, if it weren't for all the amazing people who have given their time and their resources.  I am thankful for this opportunity but even more thankful for the relationships I will treasure forever.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chris Martin at Copperhead Salon is a genius!  We are so lucky to have Chris as an amazing sponsor for Miss Florida's hair.  He is the best in the business and he makes me feel like I can conquer anything that comes my way because, well, at least my hair looks good!  It was great seeing him today and once again, I'm so thankful for all he gives us.

Picking my Miss America Placement...

The title of this blog entry is so hard to wrap my mind around.  I know I probably sound like a broken record but this is a dream I never felt would become my reality.  I always imagined I would watch other accomplished, powerful young women compete in Miss America and it truly amazes me that I too will have this opportunity.  When I found out about the Miss America placement lottery system, I thought, "well, I don't really have a preference for where I go because I'm just glad to be there."  Mary told me there have been Miss Floridas called last in the lottery so I was prepared for the comedy that would ensue if I was called last.  Instead, I got called relatively early in the selection process and was able to pick a spot I'm very happy with.  For those attending Miss America, I will be in the Alpha group number 14.  This means I do talent on the first night of competition, on stage question the second night and evening gown and swimsuit the third.  Even more exciting, I'm in the Alpha group with my two good friends Miss Colorado and Miss Arizona!  I am really looking forward to a wonderful week in January with women I know will be great lifelong friends.

Speaking of lifelong friends, Ann Marie Griffin is an amazing woman I'm so honored to call my friend. I admire everything she does so much and once again, she impressed me so much with her generosity.  Ann Marie stopped by Mary's house after the  lottery selection with a wonderful gift just because.  I am so incredibly lucky to be surrounded with incredible people who give their time selflessly.

Then, to top it all off, Ann Marie let me come shop in her store and gave me a number of beautiful pieces that I cannot wait to wear to appearances and to Miss America.  Her store has so much selection and she is an angel to the Miss Florida Organization.  I can never properly thank Ann Marie for all her kindness but I will certainly try and I highly recommend everyone visiting her store to see some of the new clothes she just got in!  Thank you so much, Ann!

I knew I was fortunate to have Mary Sullivan's guidance when I was first learning about all I would do as Miss Florida but it becomes more and more apparent each day that her constant devotion to this organization is unparalleled.  When we were picking my spot for Miss America, she sat there with me diligently until my name was called and then stayed at the computer with me until everything was finalized.  I couldn't help but think about all the other girls picking their spots alone and I am so thankful that I am never alone in anything I do for Miss Florida because I always have Mary's wisdom and reassurance to lean on.  I was able to spend some time at Mary's house again over the past week and I can already tell I'll miss being with her so much after this year is over.  I am determined to soak everything she teaches me up like a sponge and enjoy all 365 days of this whirlwind year.  Thank you, Mary for EVERYTHING you do.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fun times in the gym with my personal trainer Matt O'Brien.  He makes it entertaining and interesting while working me really hard!  I'm so lucky to have his help!  Check out this video:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A New Partnership!

I am excited to announce that my platform as Miss Florida will be The Miracle League!

This is an organization I've worked with a great deal for the last two years during my time as a broadcaster for Tampa Bay Rays baseball.  The Miracle League in St. Petersburg is one of their partners and I got involved through MLB.

So, what is The Miracle League?

It's an incredible organization that gives people with disabilities an opportunity to play baseball and feel a sense of normalcy in their lives.  Miracle League fields are made out of a rubberized surface that is compatible with mobility equipment of all kinds.  Children and adults alike can hit a baseball and make their way around the bases alone or with the help of a buddy.  Buddies are parents, volunteers, children and anyone who wants to help.  The buddies are often referred to as "angels in the outfield."

Currently, there are about 250 Miracle Leagues around the country but I want to help make more.  I don't think any person with disabilities should be deprived of the opportunity to play a game so many love.  Also, it's not just about the game of baseball.  This game is the foundation the organization is built on but the main focus is promoting a sense of normalcy for these children and adults and allowing them to interact with others who do not have disabilities.  Baseball provides a common ground that creates a beautiful bond and bridges generation gaps easily.

The Miracle League headquarters are in Conyers, Georgia so my trip to Atlanta had an exciting purpose.  I was able to officially partner with The Miracle League and meet with the Executive Director, Diane Alford and the Program Director Stephanie Davis.  I learned so much from them about what they do on a daily basis to reach out to people with disabilities and how I can help.  I am ready to devote as much time as possible to promoting their cause this year and all my years after as I strongly believe in what they're doing.

Here's the website for more information: