Love Where You Are

You may be whatever you resolve to be.
-Stonewall Jackson

This past week I had the honor of attending 3 completely different events in the Easley community.  On Monday, I sat next the Speaker of the House Jay Lucas at a Boy Scout dinner.  On Friday, I attended a local elementary school and showed the kids how beneficial an active lifestyle can be.  On Saturday, I judged the Mr. EHS pageant.  Three entirely different events, but each made me fall deeper in love with the community I have the pleasure of serving.

The Pickens County annual Boy Scout steak dinner ended up raising $28K.  This money will take care of pretty much everything the Boy Scouts need for the next year.  The most unique thing about this event was the number of gentlemen in the room who hold positions in the state office.  The majority of these men had personal stories about what being a Boy Scout had meant to them, and they each took time out of very busy schedules to support continuing that program for new generations.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jay Lucas, speaker of the House of Representatives in South Carolina.  It was remarkable how much time he took to speak to me and really get to know me.  We shared a love of VMI, since both of us have family members who attended, and when he quoted Stonewall Jackson in his speech, I knew we were kindred spirits.

At the elementary school, I got to interact with an entirely different crowd: children on a Friday, bursting with enthusiasm for the weekend.  We talked for a few minutes about the importance of eating well and staying active.  Then, we played several games to get everyone up and moving.  It was a great way to not only talk about A Perfect Fit but to really put it into action with an incredibly energetic crowd!

Now the Mr. EHS pageant was something entirely of its own.  I’m still not certain what basis we were judging anything on, but what an entertaining group of young men.  From modeling their mother’s prom dresses to performing some great song and dance numbers, I’ve never sat through a more amusing pageant.

It is such a blessing to serve as Miss Greater Easley 2015.  I truly can’t imagine a more incredible community to be a part of.  The more I get to work with everyone, the more I fall in love, and I just can’t wait to see what other adventures are waiting for me!

A Perfect Fit

If you can learn to love yourself and all the flaws, you can love other people so much better. And that makes you so happy.
Kristin Chenoweth

Picking a platform was incredibly difficult for me because I had so many passions to choose from.  For the years, I thought my platform (whenever I ever got around to doing a pageant) would be Autism Speaks.  I have a deep personal connection with Autism.  Autism inspired my career choice.  I have been touched and changed by autism, but something was always a little off.  As personal as knowing someone with Autism is, I ultimately felt like that was their story – not mine.

My next thought was Children’s Miracle Network.  I love CMN, and it’s a cause I spend a lot of time supporting.  I felt I had a more hands-on platform with CMN, but I also felt like I wouldn’t stand out.  Every Miss America contestant has to raise money for CMN, and every contestant knows at least a little about it.  Once again, this platform would never feel like it was mine.

In order for me to feel as though my platform truly belonged to me and was something I had a real say in, I decided to stray away from the organizations I loved being involved in.  I decided to create something that would truly be mine.  I put my values together to create a concept, and from that concept, A Perfect Fit was born.

A Perfect Fit embodies the concept that everyone’s body is just that – the perfect fit for them, but this doesn’t mean we should settle.  Instead, we should love and cherish our bodies by being active and eating well.  In other words, A Perfect Fit believes in creating a sustainable healthy lifestyle change.  It does not believe in the size on a dress tag but rather in putting good into our bodies so we can get good out.

The media has changed society’s concept of the “perfect” body with each decade.  With modern photoshop technology, this generation faces models that are airbrushed to be completely flawless.  They appear perfectly thin, faces inhumanly smooth, and never with a hair out of place.  The media portrays women in a way most bodies can’t achieve, which is why I believe every woman should embrace her body as perfect for her.  Every woman should take pride in her body by being physically active and eating well.

Having healthy lifestyles will affect women’s present and future.  Women will feel better physically, and they will have more confidence.  Instead of envying another woman for her body, women will able to appreciate and support each other’s efforts at health.  Every body is a beautiful gift from God that needs to be taken care of.  I want women to feel confident in all aspects of their lives, and it starts with feeling confident in yourself.

So the next time you hear a slogan that tells you to embrace your body as it is or one that tells you to change it, try to simply love it.  Love the skin you are in and your ability to keep it healthy.  Love being active, eating right, and feeling good.  Don’t get caught up in the trends and the fads.  Take your life into your own hands and make it better in a way that works for you!  I believe we can create a healthier nation one person at a time.

French Fries and Pizza

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.

When I told people I was going skiing for the first time, I heard a constant refrain of “French fries and pizza – that’s all you need to know!”  I’m not sure what mountain those people went skiing on, but there was definitely more to it than that.  Maybe it was just me, but stopping at the bottom of a mountain took a lot more than making a triangle.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I wasn’t the best at skiing.  For the first couple of hours, I probably made the most forward progress by rolling down the mountain, with my skis and poles left somewhere toward the top where the fall began.  It wasn’t graceful, but I learned some valuable lessons.

First, I learned I have some amazing friends.  As many times as I fell, there was never a moment when I was left to scramble around alone.  Even though he could have been gliding down black diamonds, Lawrence spent a good bit of his day picking up my skis, bringing them down, and helping me back up.  There were words of advice and encouragement, and by the end of the day, I was made better through my friends’ help.

Second, I learned just because something doesn’t come naturally doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.  I’m competitive by nature, so being bad at something tends to really frustrate me.  Skiing taught me a lot about myself.  I realized I could enjoy any activity just by putting forth my best effort and improving.  I loved every minute of being on that mountain, even the ones spent cartwheeling through snow and ice.  I loved learning something new and working at staying upright.  I’ll definitely be going back, and with a little bit of time, I might get pretty good.

Stepping out of my comfort zone made me realize I can do whatever I set my mind to.  I discovered that being bad at something is its own reward; it gives you something to improve on.  Although I’m black and blue today, yesterday was one of the best memories I’ve made with some of the best friends I could have.  I can’t wait to embrace more challenges as I face the new situations that Miss Greater Easley is bringing my way!

Birthday Princess!

“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present – and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” Audrey Hepburn

The moment I woke up yeserday morning, I felt so incredibly loved. It’s such a blessing to have had 21 years on this earth, and it’s incredible to see how many people took the time to think of me. I can only hope God blesses me with another year to try to have a positive impact on those I meet. I thank everyone who thought of me yesterday, who reached out with a text or call or facebook post. I thank the friends who kept me company and made me feel like a princess. I don’t know what today will bring, let alone this next year, but I can’t wait to watch God’s plans unfold. Cheers to 21 and the adventures it brings!

FTK Always, All Ways

“Even miracles take a little time.”
The Fairy Godmother

I believe in making commitments to things I feel passionately about.  That way, losing sleep and pouring out energy is worth it.  When I attended my first dance marathon my freshmen year (2013) I walked away knowing that Children’s Miracle Network was a cause I wanted to take a stand for.  I applied and was accepted to a position on Clemson Miracle’s executive board, and since then, I’ve given countless hours to the kids at Greenville Children’s Hospital.

On March 7, 2015, we raised a little over $42,000 for CMN.  After the incredible amount of time and commitment put forth by our executive board, it was overwhelming for us to see such huge success.  This was the most Clemson University has ever raised for CMN, and of that money, over $10,000 was raised during the event itself through in house fundraising activities.

I love everything about Clemson Miracle, but one of the best things is the people on the executive board.  Each of us is passionate about the children we work to help, and each of us is willing to push for what we believe in.  The committed people I’ve worked with over the past year to organize this event have never tired, refusing to give up on the kids at Greenville Children’s Hospital.  This executive board not only continues to inspire me, but we have inspired so many others.  We’ve lit a fire in the hearts of Clemson students for the kids, and we will fan those flames until it consumes the entire Clemson community.  I know for a fact that the executive board of Clemson Miracle will never settle, we will always push for more, and I thank everyone I’ve worked with over the past year.

So why do we do it?  Where does the passion come from?  We each have our own personal reasons, but I think this cause is universal.  Every child who is admitted into a Children’s Miracle Network hospital has the innocence of youth.  They should be worried about being found in hide-and-seek, not worried about the next needle or procedure.  Every child deserves a childhood, and growing up in a hospital is not the life any parents wants for their kid.  Life doesn’t work like that, though.  Life isn’t fair.  Kids will spend hours on end undergoing treatment, and the outcome isn’t always what we think it should be.  I believe God has a plan and a reason for everything, even if we don’t always understand, but I also believe we should do everything we can to make the lives of those children as innocent, happy, and fun as possible.

Although there were many emotional moments for me during the 10 hours dance marathon, one of the most upsetting occurred toward the beginning.  Every participant is given a hospital bracelet with a miracle child’s name on it to wear during the course of the day.  At the end of the day, there is a circle of hope ceremony in which all the dancers stand in a circle, while a miracle child walks around and cuts off each bracelet.  It shows support of the kids, but it is also a prayer that every child will one day get to remove their bracelet.  Mia, one of our miracle children, was checking in.  She reached for a bracelet, and I asked her if she needed help putting it on (many of the college kids had; the snap can be confusing).  She looked up at me, smiled, and said “No offense, but I’m probably better at this than you are.”  She proceeded to snap on the bracelet with her name, cut the annoying tail off, and leave the table, and for the first of 50 times that day I was reminded of why I gave up my Saturday and plenty of other hours throughout the year for CMN.

Mia also insisted on taking a selfie.)

I just want to say thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who put their money where the miracles are and gave to Clemson Miracle.  Your generosity to this incredible cause means the world to me and to these children.  Thank you to the best executive board around.  Each of you inspires me daily, and it was our passion that made this event a success.  Thank you to the miracle families who gave up a Saturday to share their stories.  I cannot think of anything more moving than hearing what you have been through and am so glad that your strong, brave kids are giving their time to help other hospitalized children.  I am blessed by the opportunity to serve this organization, and I promise that I will never settle.  Next year, Clemson Miracle will continue to grow, and we will astonish even ourselves with what we can do.  Through love, nothing is impossible.

For The Kids
Always, All Ways

James Mason

PS. My fundraising for CMN has not ended.  If you are willing and able, please consider making a donation to help me on my journey to Miss South Carolina this summer!  As always, it’s FTK!