Monday, November 10, 2014

My Farewell

My motto has always been, “It’s not about the crown; it’s about what you do with it.” When I was crowned Miss Staten Island for the second time, I set high standards for myself and was determined to live up to them. 

This year, I took my platform, “Inspiring Action Against Pediatric Cancer,” to new heights, making over 125 appearances and raising over $20,000 for childhood cancer research. I visited both the Long Island and Manhattan Ronald McDonald Houses, worked closely with Staten Island University Hospital and its patients and advocated for our city to "Go Gold" for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Over the past three years my crown has helped me to donate $46,000 to charity.

In May, I was thrilled to place 2nd runner up at Miss New York. I definitely did not see that coming. I also received the CMN Miracle Maker Award and the Community Service Award. This past summer I represented New York at the National Sweetheart Pageant in Illinois where I placed 1st runner up amongst 43 unbelievably talented young women. It was truly a whirlwind year!

As I look back, I can confidently say that I’ve used my crown to make a difference and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve made countless friends, connected with hundreds of organizations and mastered the art of putting my crown on straight without a mirror. I couldn’t have done any of this without “my village.”

Mom, Dad, & AJ – I could never have been an effective titleholder without the support of a loving, dedicated, and extremely energetic family behind me. Thank you for being there through every step of my journey and for keeping me calm (well…sort of) when things got really crazy. 

Nick, The Homans and all my Friends and Family – Your never-ending love and support have inspired me to far surpass my goals. 

My perfect little sister Alexa….I will miss having you as my teen, but I know we will be friends for a lifetime. I love you! 

My beautiful Star Princess Natalie, who happens to be taller than me!I am so proud of the young woman you’re becoming and I know that Dominic would be, too. 

Thank you to The Miss America Organization for elevating and empowering youngwomen to be independent, strong, compassionate leaders. 

And finally, thank you to The S.I. Community for welcoming me back with open arms.This truly is a remarkable borough! 

Congratulations to the next Miss Staten Island. You have no idea what a wild ride you’re in for. I sure didn't. I look forward to what is to come, but in my heart I will forever be “Miss Staten Island.”

With love,
Jamie Lynn Macchia - Miss Staten Island 2014

Hear my farewell recording:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Final Stop: Junior Giving Circle

My final stop as Miss Staten Island was a return visit to the Junior Giving Circle at IS 75. The Junior Giving Circle is basically the junior high school version of the Staten Island Giving Circle. This group works hard on multiple philanthropic projects throughout the school year. I was happy to visit them for the second time this year to speak about our mutual love of volunteer work and my personal platform.
Though it was a quick visit (the group only meets for about an hour each week), it was definitely an enjoyable one. I learned so much about the students' work and what they are passionate about. These kids are our future leaders and are already incredible volunteers in our community. As always, it was also a pleasure for to be able to share my knowledge on my platform. I took the time to take individual pictures, just as last time, and made sure to get a group shot in, too!
Who knows - maybe we had a Miss Staten Island mixed into the bunch (Sorry, boys...)! Thank you, Samantha Cooper Pettinato, for having me back. Keep on leading this amazing team. I know they are going to follow your amazing example!

October Madness; Part 3

And wrapping up October...

CF Spooktacular

Last year I was fortunate enough to meet Lou Valentino and his wife Donna. Their daughter, Kaitlin, suffers from cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. I was asked to attend their CF Spookatcular for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as Miss Greater NY 2013, just 2 weeks before I was crowned Miss SI 2014. We became good friends and I was thrilled to be asked to attend their fundraiser this year as Miss Staten Island. The event fell on the night of my birthday and what better way to celebrate than with friends raising money for a great cause?
I decided to wear my New York taxi outfit that I wore for the National Sweetheart Pageant in August.  My mom went as a "Spelling Bee" and I have to say, we both looked pretty good! When we arrived at The Excelsior Grand, I was thrilled to see that this year there were a great deal more people in attendance. We said hello to Lou and Donna and caught up with other friends including Gerard, who (even though he didn't come dressed as Miss America as he promised) made a pretty amazing Ralph Kramden!
There were so many great baskets, so of course we had to buy our tickets. Lou made an inspirational opening speech about his daughter and all the other young people struggling with CF.  It gave me hope for a future without CF when he shared the progress in treatments achieved in just a few short years through research.
The food was delicious and we were happy to help out by selling 50/50 raffle tickets throughout the night.  We even got to choose the winners for best costume.  My choice for Best Male Costume just happened to be a guy dressed in a full Dorothy costume complete with sparkly red high top sneakers! We didn’t win any baskets but I had a great time celebrating my birthday and supporting Lou and Donna in their quest to stamp out Cystic Fibrosis once and for all.  Thank you Lou and Donna for having us and for being such incredible people!  I can’t wait for next year!

Red Carpet Dance Awards

Each year Staten Island honors local dance studio owners in a Red Carpet Awards Show while donating a portion of the proceeds to St. Jude. Produced by Joan Lamberti of Vizza V Productions, this event is a showcase of the talented young dancers of our borough. This year, I was excited to have been invited to be an award presenter. I was even more excited because I had bought a new gown to wear!

I arrived and quickly got dressed. I was ushered onto the red carpet where I was interviewed by Joan and photographed with a Howard Stern performance artist. I have to say, he looked just like the legendary shock jock! I was also thrilled to meet and take pictures with the infamous Abbey Lee Miller of Dance Moms. I spent some time taking pictures with the dancers, making some new friends and catching up with old ones. I was especially happy to spend some time with Gail Willadsen Criscione of Star Struck Dance Studio (an old friend and mentor) and Frankie Zulferino, who I worked with to tweak my Miss NY talent dance.
The show was amazing and I was happy to see so many of the schools who had participated in both my We Dance For Dreams and The HOPE Project benefit shows. Joe Causi did such a great job emceeing. He was seriously funny! I also loved seeing Frankie and the Star Struck dancers open the show. Once all of the dancers had performed, it was award time. I presented the awards to the directors of each school, including Miss Carol Gigante of Gigante Dance Center, where I have danced and taught for the past 11 years.
As always, the show was a great success. Thank you Joan for having me. I look forward to returning next year!

Light The Shore

Two years ago, on October 29, 2012, Staten Island was hit by the force of Superstorm Sandy. Through the efforts of grassroots organizations such as Yellow Boots, the Staten Island Long Term Recovery Organization (SI LTRO) and Guyon Rescue to name a few, we have come a long way in rebuilding our island. However, there are still families who remain homeless.
A few weeks ago, I ran into Alana Tornello, an old friend from high school, at the Alzheimer Foundation's High Tea. Alana is a coordinator at SI LTRO. She invited me to attend the "Light The Shore" remembrance ceremony to mark the two year anniversary of Sandy. I gladly accepted.
Though the night was cold and rainy, I was not going to let it stop me. My parents and I made our way to Midland Beach where we took our places amongst about 100 people, including quite a few Staten Island politicians, to honor those we lost and those who helped survivors to rebuild. I was happy to see some old friends including Farid Kader of Yellow Boots and Frank Siller of the Siller Foundation. As the ceremony began, I was incredibly inspired by those who spoke about their experiences and how far they have come since that horrible night two years ago. One woman lost not only her home but her husband and daughter, as well. Her words brought me to tears, but her courage and determination to overcome and rise out of her despair were truly uplifting.
After the ceremony, we walked up to the beach where we placed electric candles along the shore in remembrance. It was truly a night of community bonding and support. It's events like these that make me more proud than ever to be a Staten Islander. Thank you to everyone who came out in spite of the horrible weather and to Alana for allowing me to be a part of it.

October Madness; Part 2

Onward to part 2 of my insanely busy October!

Breast Cancer Walk

October, as everyone knows, was Breast Cancer Awareness month and it was once again an honor for me to take part in the annual Staten Island Breast Cancer Walk. Veeerrrry early in the morning on October 19th, I made may way to Clove Lakes Park armed with my Dunkin’ coffee and wearing my pink scarf and gloves for support.
When I arrived I made my way through the thousands of people already assembled to find my teen, Alexa. As is always the case, I stopped to speak with many old friends. One thing I have learned being a titleholder is that the people who support causes on Staten Island are supporters for much more than one cause. I even made a new furry friend who I think was more interested in my scarf than anything else!
The day was beginning to warm up as the festivities officially begun. Dancers entertained and the always charismatic Alex Coladonato of E-Squared Productions emceed. I was inspired by the hundreds of breast cancer survivors who gave hope that in the future we will be able to eradicate this disease for good. One of the survivors spoke to the crowd and I was genuinely moved by her words of determination and encouragement.
As the walk began, I found our current Miss NY Executive Director Deb Cantoni, her daughter Kaitlyn, and my friend & current Miss NY Jillian Tapper in the crowd. We all spent some time greeting walkers and taking pictures.
Thank you to everyone who came out to help raise awareness. It is my hope that one day there will not be a need for walks such as these and I know that with more research that day will become a reality.

Late Night With Johnny P.

Last April, while taping the Al Lambert Show at CTV, I met the very charismatic and energetic Johnny Potenza (Johnny P.), who was a fellow guest. We chatted for a while and I learned that he also had a talk show. He invited me to be a guest on his show later in the year. On October 23rd, I journeyed back to CTV to film the Late Night With Johnny P. Christmas Show…yes…CHRISTMAS Show.
Gina Billera,  Johnny's producer and all around righthand person, greeted me. Gina happens to be hysterically funny and made me feel right at home. Of course, I was ecstatic when food was served…YUM! After we ate, I chatted with the other guests, Aldo Marachlian (comedian), Thomas G. Waites (actor), and Soave (freestyle artist), in the green room while my parents joined the audience.
When it was my turn to go on, we chatted about the Miss America Organization and my experiences as a titleholder. I was also asked some pretty random questions by Soave -- who acted as co-host --  like: "How do you 'marinate', or get ready for appearances?" I have to say, I had to call on all of my "onstage question skills" for that one! 
The night ended with a cake to celebrate Johnny's birthday and mine since it happened to be the very next day! Thanks so much, Johnny, for having me as your guest. I had a blast celebrating Christmas in October with you! Look for the show to air on CTV sometime in December.

SIUH: Princess Tea Party

Throughout my time as Miss Staten Island, I have worked closely with Staten Island University Hospital and its patients. Back in May, Child Life Specialist Vivian Alestra approached me with the concept of a "Princess Tea Party."I had visited the hospital many times, but the idea of having an intimate gathering of pediatric oncology/hematology patients and making them feel like beautiful princesses was extra-special. I was absolutely all in.

Vivian and I worked together (mainly through phone conversations and emails) to work out the little details of the event. When the time finally came for our tea party, though, I was blown away. The room was decorated like every little girl's dream. Crowns, castles, wands, and pink & purple colors were splashed all around the room. Vivian had even set up hair, makeup, and nail stations so that the girls could be pampered. It was beautiful.
One by one the children began to arrive and the expressions on their faces said it all. There were over 20 girls in attendance and, thanks to CITGO, we were able to present each girl with her own crown. They were so excited to "look like Miss Staten Island." Of course, I brought an extra crown and sash along, too, for them all to try on.
We enjoyed music, cupcakes, entertainment and tea. It was a royal party, for sure!
One the of most wonderful parts of the day was meeting Lilia Barabash. Vivian had told me so much about her and I was excited to finally meet her. Lilia created the organization "Mark's Angels" after her son passed away at age 3 from cancer. Now, she generously donates gifts to SIUH for every holiday - and Vivian tells me she has never missed a single one! Thank you for turning your heartache into something beautiful, Lilia. Your daughter, Maria, and your new little baby, Marta, are going to grow up to be such strong women because of your example.
Before we said our goodbyes I handed out gift bags I had made for each of our special guests. I even signed a few autographs! I left the hospital feeling inspired and proud to be promoting my platform, "Inspiring Action Against Pediatric Cancer." Thank you, Vivian, for your constant support and for allowing me to touch the lives of so many young patients.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

October Madness; Part 1

This past October turned out to be one of the busiest months I've ever had! In keeping with my goal to complete my blogs before we go!

Out Of The Darkness Walk

On October 5th, I attended the Out of The Darkness Walk to support suicide prevention. I had attended this walk for the past 2 years and I was honored to be asked to attend once again as a guest speaker. I was thrilled to be joined by my friends (and Miss SI 2015 Contestants) Amanda Rae Davis and Allison DeLuca. We were also joined by Dominique Bianco, Miss NYC’s Outstanding Teen.
The day was an exceptionally cold one but that didn’t stop anyone from coming out. I was touched by the outpouring of support. The speakers all shared their personal stories of loved ones who had died by suicide and told of how they had turned their grief into hope by speaking out to raise awareness. When it was my turn, I spoke about support and education so that those who feel they have no one to turn to can get help before it’s too late. Most importantly, I urged everyone to take the day to celebrate the lives of their loved ones rather than mourn their loss.
Right before we walked, everyone in the crowd was called upon to place a colored butterfly on a bare tree to signify who they were supporting. It was a beautiful sight to see the tree covered in color. It made me feel great to know that we were all there with a common goal to shed light on this taboo subject. This year's walk helped raise $40,000 of their $47,000. Want to donate to the cause? Click here. Thank you Susan Holden for having me! It was an honor.

Walk Like MADD

In my already jam-packed October, the 11th turned out to be not only one of the busiest days in my reign, but also one of the rainiest! Early in the morning my Mom and I braved the elements to join Tara Spohrer of MADD at Clove Lakes Park. It was time for the very first "Walk Like MADD," Mothers Against Drunk Driving Walk on Staten Island.
This organization is one that my parents have supported for many years so I was exceptionally honored to be asked to be a guest speaker. Even though it was rainy (actually, it was pouring) and cold, there was a large crowd gathered. One thing that made quite an impact on me were the 358 pairs of shoes that lined the path to represent the people killed in drunk driving crashes in 2012 alone. It was a very powerful statement.
Drunk driving is something that is completely correctable and raising awareness along with education is the way to keep it from happening. After I spoke, I had to leave quickly to make it to my next event of the day. Thank you, Tara, for having me. I look forward to working with you in the future.

The Bravest BBQ

After a quick change and some hot coffee to warm up, I was off to my second event, the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation's Bravest BBQ. This annual event is an all day barbecue and benefits "Building for America's Bravest" program, which builds specially adapted "smart homes" for our injured service members.
The Siller Foundation was established "to honor the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller who laid down his life to save others on September 11, 2001." This year's barbecue was even more special to me as my boyfriend, Nick, recently joined the FDNY at Tower Ladder 77 in Stapleton. He was manning the grill when we arrived and I stopped by to say, "Hello."
I spent some time speaking to people in the community, buying raffle basket tickets and, of course, eating! I even ran into a few old friends, including Terry Tarangelo, and met Brian 'Q' Quinn from  Impractical Jokers for the second time. I was thrilled to see that the rain started to let up and more people were coming in to support this great event. Before I knew it, it was time to leave and make my way to stop #3 for the day! Keep up the great work that you do, Siller Foundation. I know that I will be working with you all again!

Rome Around Richmond Town

My last stop of the day was the first ever Rome Around Richmond Town event to celebrate the Italian heritage in honor of Columbus Day. Being full-blooded Italian, I was proud to be able to attend and "get back to my roots." Add that to the fact that the rain had stopped and I was raring to go!
As my parents and I "romed" around, we ran into countless friends; most notably Linda Carbo, an MAO pageant legend, good friend, and all around funny lady! I also got to pose with our Borough President, a group of Italian police officers and NYC Governor candidate Rob Astorino. As we made our way through the stands, the smells from the countless food vendors was more than I could bear! As any Italian knows, it's all about the food. So, in the spirit of my heritage, I just had to sample it all…yum!
Staten Island is such a unique borough and events like this prove that. My very long, but very productive, day ended with some comedy from headliner Joe Piscopo. I had such an awesome time at Richmond Town. Ciao!