SOOOO earlier this month at work, we were on air, LIVE, as a tornado dropped out of the sky and touched down near Nehawka, Nebraska.
Bill Randby has been a meteorologist at KETV for 24 years. I asked him after we ended our coverage.. he’s NEVER had that happen on live TV before. Pretty astounding, considering the sheer number of storms Bill, and all Nebraska meteorologists and journalists will inevitably cover over the course of our careers.
SUMMER 2004. HALLAM, NEBRASKA
Photo courtesy HarkPhoto.com
This photo is so powerful.. yet doesn’t even scratch the surface of the devastation an EF-4 tornado caused this community. KETV photojournalist Bob Gillum and I drove towards the town and all we saw was a line of piles.. piles of wood pieces where a row of houses stood just one day before. We drove as close to the town as first responders would allow, and someone had spray painted ‘Built Hallam Tough’ on a Ford truck, flipped onto its roof by the twister. In the nearby town of Clatonia, Nebraska, Bob and I came upon another pile.. someone’s home.. where a couple and their loved ones were going through the pieces to salvage what they could. When we asked them if we could talk to them on camera, they stood side by side, the husband draping his arm around his wife’s shoulders, to answer our questions. After a few moments, we heard a whimpering coming from their destroyed home.. and suddenly they both bolted.
Their dog was still alive, buried under the wreckage of the home. As the man frantically pulled back boards, his friends and loved ones ran over to help. Within moments, he scooped up a bloody and battered dog in his arms, and rushed him up a hill to someone’s car.
My guess is that Percy heard his owners’ voices, talking to us just a few feet away from where he had been buried. I found out later the dog died just days after. I still remember his name, and still see that row of piles in my mind when I think of Hallam, Nebraska.
The night the twister hit, Hallam native Stacy Pospisil was on stage at a dance recital. She and her family stayed in a hotel in Crete, unable to get to their home through the flooding that followed the storm.
“It was super scary because my Dad was going to go there that night to have dinner with friends, but ended up deciding to go to my recital instead!”
This was just one of several storms Stacy and her father have faced together, inspiring this young woman to pursue a goal many only dream of.
Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography
“The most important thing to me is the relationships I have with my family and friends and I truly do want to help people achieve their own personal goals,” said Stacy, crowned Miss Kearney 2016 last fall. “With [the Miss Nebraska Pageant], I have learned so much about myself through this journey already.”
When I contacted Stacy this Spring, she told me becoming Miss Nebraska was something she decided to pursue upon graduating from Doane College last May. Before she even became a local titleholder, she knew what her message would be.
“I am very passionate about my platform, ‘Kiss Cancer Goodbye with Education and Research Funding’, and it is very personal to me because I know how cancer can affect one person so greatly and the ripple effect it can have on the community,” said Stacy. “My own father had half of his kidney removed due to a cancer scare when I was 14. Ever since that major surgery, he hasn’t been the same.”
“I’ve seen how that surgery led to a long road of recovery that also resulted in additional health problems, endless medical bills, and without being able to work has put my family in a financial crisis,” said Stacy. “I have also seen his self esteem and emotional health also come to near depletion. This was so hard for me to see because my father has always been my number one fan and most positive and supportive person I [have] ever known.”
Photo courtesy Russtana Photography
Stacy has shared her campaign and message across social media, with her Doane family, and with her friends. She tells everyone who will listen about her dad and how badly she wants to kiss-off cancer for good.
“To think that his life might be cut short terrifies me, and that is why I want to spread awareness about how to eliminate cancer by donating to research centers and teach prevention tips to everyone I can in order to lead them to healthy and long lives,” said Stacy. “I know we can kiss cancer goodbye in every shade of lipstick!”
Sharing her platform, and doing research to make it stronger, has also helped Stacy prepare for her next challenge.. competing to become Miss Nebraska.
“Wearing a swimsuit (which, by the way, has terrified me for a very long time), has now become my favorite part of the competition,” said Stacy. “I have learend so much about how to take care of the body that was a gift from God in not only the way I stayed active but also how to give my body the right nutrients it needs with healthy and substantial, nutritious foods. I have always been passionate about staying active because I have grown up dancing, which is what my talent is, but I never truly understood how much staying active was a part of who I am.”
Stacy on Facebook: ‘California dreaming… if I ever go missing, follow the sound of the ocean and that’s where I will be dancing my life away…’
“There are so many ways to stay active and there are so many reasons emotionally, mentally and physically to why staying active can benefit everyone,” said Stacy. “I truly do think I can help people find ways to stay active, appreciate their bodies, and learn to love themselves. By doing this, it would lead to ways in which we can prevent cancer and I would absolutely love to help people feel more confident in this way.”
Stacy makes appearances every month as Miss Kearney, taking part in the Team Jack Foundation Gala to fight pediatric brain cancer, raising money for Special Olympics, and meeting her fellow titleholders to help the American Heart Association. Through these events and more, Stacy has confirmed she was destined to be a teacher, but perhaps not in the way this Early Childhood Education major thought.
“By doing research for my platform I discovered my passion for truly helping people with their health and fitness goals,” said Stacy. “I have recently started a new job this year at Physicians Weight Loss Center in Lincoln, a position where I can help my dad and also passionately help other people to achieve their goals in order to live their lives in a more happy and healthy way.”
That is the same success Stacy wants to inspire across the state, taking her message of wellness to as many people as possible as Miss Nebraska.
“I’m here to wake this country up to what is really important,” said Stacy. “I want to create a ripple effect of helping one another and the first step is to get everyone feeling less helpless in how they view themselves and to build confidence by leading a healthy life again.”
Hallam, Nebraska is back. Nine years later, homes and businesses have been rebuilt. They ARE ‘built Hallam tough’. The same holds true for Stacy and her dad. With his daughter’s guidance, he’s lost 30 pounds.. and counting.. taking back the health and happiness cancer tried to steal from him. His biggest cheerleader will take the Miss Nebraska stage in a few short weeks, hoping to help countless others weather their own storms, whatever they may be.
“People everywhere are looking for answers and something to believe in when diagnosed with major illnesses,” said Stacy. I want to bring them hope and light in the darknesses that they may be facing. This is what I know I was put in this world to do and it has already been stamped on my heart.”
Click each link to follow Miss Kearney 2016 Stacy Pospisil
For more information about the Miss Kearney/Miss Tri-Citites Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER. For information on becoming a contestant, contact Directors Megan Goeke or Jenna Lukasiewitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!