Monday, March 31, 2014

Pancakes, Donations, and Miracles

The Miss America Organization's national platform is The Children’s Miracle Network (CMN). In addition to our own platform, every titleholder spends time supporting this worthy organization which raises funds for children's hospitals across the country, medical research and community awareness of children's health issues. In March, I was more than excited to visit the Staten Island IHOP for National Pancake Day to support CMN. Of course, the added bonus of free pancakes made it even better! To raise money for CMN, every diner gets a free short stack of pancakes and, in return, they will hopefully donate a few dollars to CMN.
When I arrived at IHOP the line was insane! There were so may people that my mom and I had a hard time even getting in the door. When we were finally inside we were greeted by Jessica, the manager, who asked me to make my way around the dining room with a basket of paper balloons to give to those people in exchange for a donation. I made my own donation and then started to collect.
As I walked from table to table I was quite proud that I was able to get a donation from even the hardest sell customers. After about an hour, I am proud to say, I collected over $100! The girl who gave me the hundredth dollar was so excited that she asked to pose for a picture!
I also met a group of students from Michigan who were in New York working with the Siller Foundation to rebuild homes that were damaged during Super-storm Sandy. One of the girls in the group told me that she had competed in a Miss Michigan local!
Unfortunately, I had to leave after an hour and a half to go to a meeting with The Kiwanis Club to ask for their support for my benefit, but I was happy that I got the chance to my part to help raise money for CMN. Thank you, Jessica, for having me and to IHOP for your support of The Children’s Miracle Network!

Monday, March 24, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Parade

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Forest Avenue is a long-standing Staten Island tradition and one that I always look forward to each year. That’s why on March 2nd, even though the weather was cold and foggy with the threat of snow in the air, I was excited to put on a bit-o-green and head out to the parade to meet up with my Princess Natalie and my sister queens Alexa, Miss Staten Island’s OT and Stephanie, Miss Richmond County.
My friend and driver Len Bosso was waiting for me with his new, very blue, Corvette. I love driving with Len because he makes it so much fun. Carmine DeBetta, a Miss Staten Island Board Member, and Jim Smith, Executive Director of the Miss Staten Island Organization, were also there to cheer us on. 
As we walked around meeting people, I was not surprised to see so many other familiar faces including Debi Rose, the Homan clan and even my high school Russian teacher, Mr. Callahan! I stopped by a few of the groups of servicemen to thank them for all that they do and chatted a while with some of the bagpipers. My favorite part was seeing ASPCA dogs up for adoption all dressed in St. Patrick’s Day hats and accessories. They were absolutely adorable!
We all got in our cars and waited to move into the line. The wind started picking up but mercifully, it hadn’t started to snow. I guess in the organized chaos, the parade director forgot about us because we wound up in a different section towards the end of the parade but no matter; we were soon on our way as my parents walked, or should I say “ran” the entire route taking pictures.

I love riding in this parade because all of the spectators are so welcoming. I saw quite a few people in the crowd who remembered me from appearances I had made at their schools which always makes me feel great! At the end of the route, we met up with my parents, my boyfriend and Natalie’s family and made the customary stop at Dunkin Donuts because, as you know, I most definitely run on Dunkin! The staff asked me to take a picture with them, which I happily did. Hey, Dunkin - I'm thinkin' commercial spot on the horizon!
As always, it was another awesome Staten Island parade experience. I feel so fortunate to have participated in so many of them! Thank you to the St. Patrick's Day Parade organizers for continuing to welcome our organization year after year. It means a lot to us!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Lights, Camera, Fashion!"

The St. George Theater is a Staten Island landmark and for the past 3 years it has been home to the Miss New York pageant. The theater has been undergoing costly renovations and "Lights, Camera, Fashion!" - a fashion show co-chaired by Dr. Gracelyn Santos and Lisa Bova-Hiat is an annual event which helps to keep those renovations funded.
Last month, I was thrilled to be in attendance at this fabulous event where girls ages 5 – 13 strutted down the runway in fabulous fashions from the Staten Island Mall and Country Mouse Boutique. The girls were simply adorable and many were quite eager to hear about how they could join the MAO Star Princess program, which I love to promote.
Music was provided by an old friend, Vinnie Medugno who was also the show’s emcee. Vinnie never ceases to amaze me with his ability to speak at the speed of light! Also on hand as volunteers were: my good friend and pageant sister Cassie Paradise, my hair sponsor Claudia Carucci of Zoe Salon (whose daughter was modeling) and Mr. Jim Smith, Executive Director of The Miss Staten Island Organization (whose great niece was also a model in the show). I even spotted the current Miss Richmond County's Outstanding Teen (Charista Mroczek) & Miss New York City's Outstanding Teen (Dominique Bianco) on the runway!
The most gratifying part of my job as a title holder is meeting people who are fighting for causes that they believe in. As we chatted at our table, I met Allison Bennett, whose niece is currently the youngest person to ever be diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at just 22 months old.  I will now be joining her team at the Great Strides Walk on Staten Island on June 8th.

Before the afternoon was over, raffle basket winners were called and I won a prize from Max's Es-ca. I just love basket raffles!
Congratulations to the show's organizers for hosting a fabulous event. I’m looking forward to once again performing on stage at the St. George Theater as I compete for the state crown on May 24th. Look for Miss New York ticket details soon!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Senior Senior Prom

When the word "prom" is mentioned, most people would expect high school seniors in June. But, on February 15, I had the honor of being a special guest at the "Senior Senior Prom" sponsored by Beacon of Hope (led by Deidre and Scott McGrath) and Where To Turn (headed by Dennis McKeon).
Many of the prom attendees were members of the New Dorp Beach Friendship Club. This club, located in the basement of Our Lady of Lourdes R.C. Church, was destroyed during Sandy. This was the "social hub of the senior community" and more than 150 seniors attended each day. Unfortunately, repairs are still not completed due to funding disputes, which is why this event was put together for our seniors.
This one-of-a-kind event took place in the New Dorp High School cafeteria. Despite the snowy weather, over 100 people made their way out to celebrate. The women looked stunning in their gowns, many of which came from a prom dress distribution by the event organizers. The gentlemen were equally dapper in everything from suits to full tuxedos. The festive decor of the room made the prom complete. 
As I walked from table to table, introducing myself and mingling with the guests, I was honored to be amongst such an amazing group of people. Many of the men told me that they could not attend their own proms because they went to war in their senior years. It made me realize even more how much I owe to those who sacrificed so much for me to live freely. I noticed that the women were having a great time looking at each other’s dresses and commenting on each other’s hairstyles. A few of them even had some tips for me! 
To make the night even better, Alexa, my teen was able to join me before her basketball game. Throughout the event there was dancing, eating (my favorite) and raffles. There was one guest whose original 1956 prom gown was on display with her prom picture. So cool!
The King and Queen were crowned by Mrs DeAngelis, the Principal of New Dorp High School, who graciously donated the space and recruited many of her students as volunteers. The royal couple had their coronation dance and posed for pictures. They were absolutely adorable.
As the evening wound down, Congressman Michael Grimm made an appearance to meet and greet the seniors. The women were pretty happy to see him! Before I left, I was introduced to Deidre and Scott McGrath from Beacon of Hope and I am excited to say that I made a few plans to work with them and their organization in the future.
I am so happy to have made it through the snow to attend this event. What Where To Turn and Beacon Of Hope did for the seniors in our community is incredible. It is so important to remember to give back to our seniors. They are the reason we are here. Thank you, Dennis, for having me and Alexa. We had a great time!

Friday, March 7, 2014

St. John Villa Academy: Fashion Show

Throughout my life, I have had the privilege of meeting so many amazing people who have helped me in more ways than I can begin to name. A few years ago, I met Lauren Lam and her mom Kelly. My sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII), adopted Lauren through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation - a non profit organization committed to improving the quality of life of children battling pediatric brain tumors. She became an honorary sister. Lauren, Kelly and their family have been some of my biggest supporters and that’s why I felt privileged to attend St. John Villa's Fashion Show on February 12th, which raised funds for "Unique: The Rare Chromosome Disorder Support Group," and to support Lauren who was one of the coordinators for this event.
If you've ever tried to park around Villa, you know that it is not easy. Now combine that with snow mounds and icy sidewalks and make that once difficult task almost impossible. Thanks to Kelly, though, who ran outside with no coat to help us out, the parking mission was accomplished.

After changing from boots to heels, I was ready to go. Once inside, I was greeted by Kelly’s daughters, Shannon and Katie, who were eager to introduce me to all of their friends. Of course, I had to stop by the raffle table and buy a few tickets! I later won 2 baskets -- happy girl!
The fashion show began. The girls looked great in their fashions from the Staten Island Mall and Ultimate Fashions. I fell in love with quite a few gowns. I think I have a dress problem! After the show I found Lauren, ate (of course), and took some pictures with the girls.
It was a great night and I was happy to support a girl who has become part of my family. Thank you to St. John Villa Academy for having me and Kelly & Lauren for inviting me. I'll be there for you anytime my little AOII!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Groundhog Day

The morning of February 2nd - Groundhog Day - was gray and cold as I bundled up in the very early morning hours and made my way to The Staten Island Zoo. I am so ready for spring to get here and I was very interested to see what our groundhog, Staten Island Chuck, would predict.
At the zoo, I made my way behind the stage where Alexa (my little sister queen) and Stephanie (Miss Richmond County) joined me. After a little while, we made our way onto the stage and prepared for the ceremony. We listened as several zoo officials and our very tall Mayor Bill DeBlasio addressed the crowd. There were so any people there, which was something I hadn’t expected. I guess I wasn’t alone in wanting winter to become a distant memory! After several opening speakers, including the Deputy Borough President (who is a pretty funny guy), it was time to see what Chuck would predict. 
My sister queens and I didn’t have a clear view from where we were standing but we heard a gasp as the mayor picked Chuck up. Apparently, Chuck isn’t a fan of being held and he jumped from the Mayor DeBlasio's hands! He quickly recovered only to run into his burrow and - you guessed it - predict that there would be 6 more weeks of winter! I guess my boots and gloves will be around for a while longer... 
Before we left we had the chance to meet the mayor and speak with him about our titles and plans. We went inside to breakfast where we mingled with our fellow Staten Islanders as the P.S. 29 chorus entertained us. All in all, the experience made waking up before the sun worth it!
Thank you to The Staten Island Zoo for hosting this time-honored Staten Island tradition and for inviting us to be a part of it!