Tag Archive | Kaelia Nelson

Contestant #16

‘Mental health is as important as physical health. Please reach out to someone if you need help. You are not alone and you are worth so much ❤’ 

Posted by Kaelia Nelson, August 17, 2017.

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Right now, 15 young women are taking part in rehearsals at North Platte High School, hoping to be crowned the next Miss Nebraska. An important piece is missing from the Class of 2018.

Kaelia

Her name: Kaelia Nelson, crowned Miss Chadron 2018 on September 9.

“Extremely excited for the year ahead as your Miss Chadron 2018,” she shared just days after she won the title. Just weeks later, Kaelia began classes at Peru State College and jumped right into her active scheduled as a collegiate cheerleader and local Miss Nebraska titleholder.

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“Last weekend I had the opportunity to perform a dance in honor of all the men and women who have risked their lives for us to live in this amazing country,” said Kaelia. “I feel absolutely honored to have been in the same room as so many of these wonderful and brave individuals. Thank you for your service. ❤️💙🇺🇸”

October 15, Kaelia got all dolled up for a photo shoot, courtesy of a new sponsor for the Miss Chadron program.

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“Thank you so much to the wonderful Heidi Barnes for donating a photo shoot for us title holders,” said Kaelia. “I can’t wait to see how they turned out!”

Two weeks after Kaelia posted this, she took her own life.

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In the days that immediately followed Kaelia’s death, I reached out to her mom to offer our condolences and any support the Miss Nebraska Organization could provide. Her mother said to me that day ‘we really thought that someday she was going to be Miss Nebraska.’

For good reason. Kaelia was 1st Runner Up to Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2012. She was named Nebraska’s Homecoming Queen, finishing 3rd in the country in 2015. She had a natural gift for dance and performance, a Gold Rush Dance Team member at Nebraska Wesleyan before transferring to Peru State, where she was a cheer squad flyer. She was a caring advocate for children, setting the 2017 Miss Nebraska record for fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and she planned to become a teacher. She was kind, charismatic, talented and driven.

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Behind the smile, the light that seemed to impact everyone she touched, Kaelia also battled darkness in the form of mental illness. Ironically, this was the very cause she so passionately spread awareness of as a Miss Nebraska titleholder: Stomping The Stigma.

“I live with anxiety, depression, bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” Kaelia told me last Spring. “People are afraid to step forward and admit to having a mental illness because society has made it such a taboo thing to the point where people are afraid to even talk about it.”

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Kaelia took her message everywhere: to elementary schools, across college campuses and organizations, and to local media. She opened herself up to connect with others, sharing personal details about her own battle and even revealing she had attempted to commit suicide in June 2016.

“I felt extremely alone and hopeless in the battle against my own illnesses,” Kaelia told me. “Individuals are scared of what people may think of them and therefore, do not seek treatment.  The consequences can be life threatening.  I never want anyone else to feel alone or ashamed like I did, especially not for something they cannot control.  This is why I have made it my mission to speak out and share my story in hopes that people will see and understand that it can happen to anyone and it definitely not something to be ashamed of.”

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YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Here is proof, through Kaelia herself.

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More than 107,000 people impacted in some way by news of Kaelia’s death. 435 people shared this, most using Kaelia’s message #StompingTheStigma. More than 1,100 people who GRIEVED, who are hurting, who suffered because of this loss.

YOU MATTER.

YOU ARE LOVED.

YOU MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR SOMEONE ELSE IN THIS WORLD.

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Girls with Kaelia

This week, the Miss Nebraska Organization will honor the life of Kaelia Nelson, and the impact she had on others through her powerful message of mental health awareness. All contestants are wearing #StompingTheStigma shirts during rehearsals and sharing across their social media. For the first time, we will present a Kaelia Nelson Memorial Spirit Award. News outlets across the state have shared her story to compel others to seek help for themselves or their loved ones. CLICK HERE to watch KETV’s special feature on Kaelia; CLICK HERE to read the special feature in the North Platte Telegraph.

Kaelia should be up on that stage rehearsing. She should be preparing to share her talent in front of a roaring crowd, ready to walk across the stage with her radiant smile, waving to her mom and family.

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To anyone reading this, remember Kaelia. Remember her message. Think of her family, her friends, and all who loved her – and then think of everyone who loves YOU. Help us keep #StompingTheStigma.

“I would absolutely love to win Miss Nebraska and get to represent this amazing state, but my main goal isn’t about the crown on my head,” Kaelia told me.  “Instead, it’s the message I have to share and the people I get to meet because of it. It’s what you set your mind and heart to that will count in the long run.”

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Kaelia, we miss you, and we pray you have found peace.

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Click here to read more from Kaelia herself.

The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Always listening, never judging, confidential. Text CONNECT to 741741.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

 

 

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Scotts Bluff County Brianna Little

COMING SOON.. Miss Nebraska 2017 Allison Tietjen

Your Best Yes

Choose your best yes.

I was blessed this week to be part of a Gallup summit thanks to my great employer, Westside Community Schools. In this day long learning event, we discussed our own personal strengths, and how we can say yes to everything… but in doing that, there’s no way we can be GREAT at anything. Choose your best YES – what are the things you should say yes to, to bring out your best traits and therefore, have the best impact upon others and the world around us?

This is the year Kodi Baumann said her best yes was to work to become Miss Nebraska.

Kodi Baumann - Miss Alliance

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Kodi is 23, a Chadron, Nebraska native currently serving as Miss Alliance 2018. She started competing in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen program at just 13 years old, and has already competed twice at the Miss Nebraska Pageant. As Miss Chadron 2014, she thought she was done.

“That year, I experienced so much and made so many friends,” said Kodi. “Unfortunately, I realized that I was not at a place in my life that I could give attention to the title it deserved. Fast forward three years later and I know my heart and determination are in the right place to do the title of Miss Nebraska justice.”

 

 

Flashback to November 2017. I, along with many others, had been hoping to convince Kodi to once again, compete for a Miss Nebraska local title. Her voice is breathtaking, her smile is unforgettable, her spirit is infectious. Still, Kodi herself had her doubts, memories she now uses as fuel for her fire.

Kodi Rugby

“I have always struggled with body image, but this year, I am not looking at it as an obstacle,” said Kodi, pictured above after playing competitive rugby with her teammates. “I am taking this on as a challenge to better myself. I am not allowing the scale to define my success. I am focused on becoming stronger.”

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HELL YES, KODI, HELL YES.

Between November and February, Kodi lost an astonishing 25 pounds by taking part in boot camp classes. ‘Strong is the new skinny’, she posted. And PS – that mentality and drive will serve Kodi, and ALL of us, very well. She’s a recent Criminal Justice graduate at Chadron State College, planning on a career in law enforcement. AKA – all that muscle will come in VERY handy taking down bad guys.

Tell me again ‘what type’ of girls compete in pageants.

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“Service lines up with my interest in Law Enforcement,” said Kodi. “Just look at the side of any police car. Protect and Serve. I have always enjoyed giving of myself; it doesn’t matter if it is collecting warm winter clothing, supplies for Doves recipients, raising awareness of our servicemen and women, or sharing my passion for seatbelt use to keep my community safe.”

That final mission is Kodi’s platform of service as Miss Alliance, one that she’s advocated for for several years now, is ‘Fasten Your Seat Belt! Cross Your Heart, Not Your Fingers.’

Kodi platform

“I founded my platform nine years ago after my brother’s accident where he almost lost his life,” said Kodi. “I wanted to share the importance of buckling up and stress that your choice to wear a seatbelt not only affects you, but your loved ones. I wanted to make sure my platform was something I would continue to advocate for once I was done competing in pageants. By choosing a platform so closely related to law enforcement, I know I will continue to spread awareness throughout my lifetime.”

Kodi’s best yes was to amplify her message for an important cause. That yes also opened doors to connect with others, personally confronting one of the biggest issues Kodi feels is facing her generation and more; a lack of face to face interaction, networking and productive communication.

“I’m gaining confidence; I’ll walk into an interview with five judges and am gaining the qualities employers are looking for,” said Kodi. “Successful people are goal oriented. This organizations helps set goals and work to achieve them. I’m also a team player. The sisterhood that this organization creates can be so strong. Many of support one another at events, building our ability of networking and creating lifelong friendships.”

THAT is what ultimately convinced Kodi to say yes one more time: friendships, a very special one in particular.

Kodi & Kaelia

“I decided to compete because the Miss Alliance Pageant was being held in honor of my friend, Kaelia Shae Nelson, the reigning Miss Alliance 2017 and current Miss Chadron 2018,” said Kodi. “Kaelia was struggling with depression and took her own life. The loss of such a talented and passionate individual made me realize how fleeting life really is and I decided I would embrace her motto, Stomping the Stigma, and enter despite all my own internal battles with not being what society holds as pageant material. I wanted to honor our friendship and her memory.”

Kaelia crowned

Choose your best yes. Kodi said ‘yes’ in 2014, and will be the first to tell you it wasn’t her BEST yes. Now, her yes honors a friend. Her yes is highlighting, strengthening her talents and gifts.  Her yes brings her closer to achieving her goals in both her community and for her future career.

Kodi Baumann knows THIS is her best yes, and she’s ready to compete for  the title of Miss Nebraska.

Kodi Final

‘As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.’ Audrey Hepburn,” said Kodi. “My ultimate goal is to walk away with the title and serve my state for a year, sharing my platform and advocating for Children’s Miracle Network. I know that I am prepared to the best of my ability and will put my best foot forward. I feel blessed to represent the Panhandle of Nebraska, where I call home, and will do everything I can to make them proud.”

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To follow Miss Alliance Kodi Lee Baumann, click here

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KODI?

CLICK HERE * 2014* If Nebraska Had An Ocean

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest Makinzie Gregory

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County Brianna Little

Edge Of Glory

Every time I begin writing an article featuring a Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen titleholder, I scroll through our conversation and their photos. I look not only at their words and pictures, but their faces and body language within those images. Are they engaged? What did they say about their experiences? How often are they serving as their community’s local titleholder?

When it comes to Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, I simply don’t think WordPress has enough space online to share everything she’s doing.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

She is a patriot. She is a community servant. She is a natural performer. She is a proud Nebraskan. She is wise. SHE IS 13. 

When I was crowned Miss Douglas County in October of 2000, former Miss Omaha and Miss Nebraska Jodi Miller-Holen told me, “you do what you want with this title. You can do nothing, and we won’t be happy but that’s your choice, or you can do everything.”

Here’s what Phoenix told me after being crowned Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen: “Most teens are not interested in giving up their time and energy for a greater cause. I want to change that. We are the future of America. We will inherit the social issues affecting our parents now. I’m only 13 years old, a freshman in high school. I want to lead by example because if we can motivate teenagers now to be the change, just imagine the great things they will accomplish as civically engaged adults.”

Guys. When I was 13, I sat in my brother’s room for hours playing Nintendo and read Babysitter’s Club books walking home from school.

 

This young lady isn’t just talk, either. Phoenix Stanford is proving herself through action, a tireless civil servant advocating for Children’s Miracle Network, school safety and security, sexual assault awareness and women’s rights, world health causes, Autism awareness.. and for several years now, support for military families.

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“I have been a military brat my entire life and to me civilians don’t completely understand the sacrifices made by military families,” said Phoenix. “It’s not easy being a military child. Deployments and relocations not only affect their academic success, but their social and mental well-being are affected. These kids are at risk for depression and anxiety. I get involved with Offutt Air Force Base’s events that are designed to boost family morale. I help raise scholarship money for military dependents, I’ve testified for a military bill, I’ve collected food for veterans, visited sick veterans at the VA Hospital, talked to schools about the hardships of being a military child, collected books for a free, little library at base housing, helped with Gold Star family events, etc.”

 

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Many of Phoenix’s efforts coincide with the work of the current Miss Nebraska Allison Tietjen, who has spent her year of service advocating for our nation’s past and present military heroes. Much like Allie, Phoenix says she’s deeply impacted by the stories she hears from the very people she’s helping.

“Volunteer work is important to me,” said Phoenix. “While being a titleholder, not only have I found out so much about the world around me but I have found out so much about myself. My title has given me the opportunities to meet and connect with amazing people and hear their uplifting stories. Coming across these people has helped me expand my platform to places I didn’t know it would go. I have come across many different non-profit organizations that I didn’t even know existed. These organizations inspire me to do more.”

Being a titleholder has also provided Phoenix with a way to explore two of her passions: education and singing.

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“So far, I have won five scholarships as a local titleholder,” said Phoenix. “My career goal is to become a professional singer. I am working on getting to my dream college, Juilliard. I not only want to break into the music industry but I want to know exactly what I’m doing, and I want something to fall back on in case things don’t go as planned. Nebraska should care about the Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen Pageant because it helps shape the future leaders of America. Providing scholarships to well-rounded young women is worth investing in.”

“I have dreamed of performing the most amazing shows for the biggest audiences since I was a little girl,” said Phoenix. “All I have wanted to do is sing and perform my heart out and that is what I intend on doing. Performing gives me a sense of freedom and a power I look for in life. This program has been a blessing and a huge stepping stone for me.”

No surprise then that Phoenix’s female role model comes from the world of music: Lady Gaga.

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“We have one life, so live it regardless of what anyone else says. That is what Lady Gaga has taught me,” said Phoenix. “I also look up to her untouchable music career. She writes the majority of her own music and performs at high profile events. Even if you are not a Gaga fan, you will certainly be entertained by one of her cinematic shows. I praise her amazing work ethic; she is a rolling stone showing no sign of stopping any time soon. It is people like her I admire and dream of being.”

I would argue Lady Gaga has shifted her status from sensation to legacy by ensuring there is substance and meaning behind every song and every performance. Phoenix is already emulating that.. certainly thinking of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen crown she’ll compete for in 2 weeks, but also using her microphone to make sure people hear and understand things happening in our world. Proof… a message the Miss Nebraska Organization received from Phoenix on March 14, just a few short months after we lost a beloved member of our pageant family, Miss Chadron Kaelia Nelson.

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“Just wanted to let you know that Kaelia won’t be forgotten and people are still fighting for her even on this day,” wrote Phoenix. “Attended the Nebraska State Advocacy day held by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”

At just 13 years old, Phoenix is now also helping Stomp The Stigma against mental illness, the very personal cause that Kaelia fought so passionately for.

“The biggest issue my generation is facing is suicide,” said Phoenix. “It’s an epidemic that is sweeping the nation. More teens have been diagnosed with mental illness in this generation than ever before. We need to pass Nebraska’s LB998, a collaborative school behavioral and mental health program. We also need to eliminate the stigma of mental illness so teens can comfortably seek help and not feel ashamed of what they are going through.”

Lady Gaga once told a journalist she wrote ‘The Edge of Glory” in about 10 minutes, the same night her grandfather passed away. She told Lisa Capretto, “I started playing and I said to my dad, I said, ‘Don’t be sad. He’s on the edge of the most glorious moment in life, when you realize that you won. I said, ‘Look how much he won at life. He won at love with Grandma, and he’s on the edge of a glorious moment.’”

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Look at the women in these articles. Look at Phoenix Stanford. Look at how much they are winning at life. At 24, 17, even 13 years old, they are using every moment they are given, feeling the rush, and pushing themselves to the edge.

Who are you, and in this one, beautiful life you have.. where are you?

“I try to focus on performing at the best of my abilities,” said Phoenix. “If I know I did my best, then I will be content with whatever I leave with. That, to me, is still success.”

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To follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SHELBY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Just The Way You Are

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

PREVIOUS.. Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen Jadyn Wetherington

Thinking Out Loud

“Why does God make it cold?”

My boys and I have had a lot of talks about God lately. My eldest, Easton, started Religious Formation this fall, (formerly known as CCD for my 30-something Catholic friends..), and so God comes up a lot, either by me referencing Him or by them asking. We’ve discussed how God makes it rain to give the plants and animals a drink. The other night, Easton told his brother it was dark because God painted the sky black. When the temps dipped 40+ degrees in 4 days, it was only natural Evan would question why God would make it feel so chilly outside.

“So we appreciate when it’s beautiful outside,” I replied. “If it was nice and warm and sunny everyday, we would get used to it after awhile and it wouldn’t feel as nice.”

My husband and I had just had a similar conversation not a week beforehand.. spending a few days on the glorious beaches of Destin, Florida. Everyday, we saw the ‘chair protector’ move into position right in front of our condo. From 9-5, he sat in the sun and made sure people didn’t use the fancy chairs unless they paid to rent them. Brian commented, “after awhile, you wouldn’t even appreciate the beach. You’d be so used to it, just sitting there all day every day.”

But how could you not appreciate this?

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The constant, soothing roar of the waves coming in. The intoxicating aura of peace and happiness. Watching toddlers confusedly wobble on the sand, already trying to tackle walking without this new, strange squishiness under their toes. Seeing older couples, hand in hand, walking slowly past.. and wondering how many years they had been walking together just like that. No hurry. No to-do lists. Brian and I walked around in a daze for the weekend, grinning nonstop and almost drunk on life itself. Even Sunday night, when a thunderstorm blew through, it was beautiful and exciting. I was legitimately depressed when it was time to leave, almost tearful.

I knew why, too. Because all too easily, all too often, I let all of the other noise drown the good out. I am addicted to my phone. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising when my boys argue. I have probably 3 notepads with duplicating lists of things I need to do, would like to do, hope to do, should do. I think about bills, about projects, about people, about what people think.

Why.

Teri Donoho

Last month, Westside Community Schools lost a teacher who devoted herself to education and to the teenagers she worked with. Teri Donoho’s husband, Jay, told me about how hard the love of his life fought to beat cancer.. and they thought she had. The night before she was supposed to leave the hospital, Jay went home for the evening to take care of their dogs. She called him to say good night, I love you.. and she died a few hours later.

Kaelia, Kamie Stephen

Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

Over the weekend, we got news that one of the young women who competed for Miss Nebraska last year, Kaelia Nelson, died. I remember thinking two things when I met Kaelia: “dang! She’s TINY!” (Kaelia, a stunning woman, was MAYBE 5 feet tall), then later ‘wow.. this girl is the real deal.’ Poised, so striking, an amazing dancer, and CONFIDENT. Kaelia had several tattoos, and proudly showed them during Miss Nebraska week.. they were a part of her, and not something to hide. We need MORE strong, vibrant, positive leaders in our world today.. and losing ONE is a terrible tragedy. My heart is broken, especially when I think of Kaelia’s parents. They have been in my prayers for days.

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This weekend, we should be celebrating Cody’s birthday. We always did – his birthday and my husband Brian’s were within a few days of each other. A big party at Jack’s, a dinner with friends at Kobe, and moments we’ll never forget at the bar later on. One year, another wife and I were badmouthing one of the guys’ girlfriends. Cody, after a few moments of listening, looked at us and said ‘ya’ll are being bitches.’ …. Yup, he was right. I don’t know anything about that couple or their relationship.. I was being a bitch. And what I love about that memory is that it was classic Cody. He was CODY ‘WARDO’ WARDEN’.. and didn’t give a damn if you liked him or not. He was a big, loud, hugging, teddy bear of a man.. and if you were his friend, you never had to question if you had someone on your side.. because he was TRUE, honest and real. Cody beat all the odds, defeating brain cancer when first diagnosed several years ago. Exactly one year ago this month, the tumors came back. We celebrated Cody’s birthday at Jack’s again, knowing he had a tough road ahead. We lost him this summer.

Why? Why does this happen? What is the meaning of all of this? Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why.

Because if we lived everyday at the ocean, we would take it for granted. Because God makes it cold, so the sun and warmth feel even better on those perfect days. That’s the easy answer.. easy for all of us feeling grief and sadness indirectly. But for Jay Donoho, for Shardel Nelson, for Darbi Warden… it’s not enough. It doesn’t explain WHY them. Why did Teri and Cody get cancer – twice? Why won’t Kaelia be here to get married and have babies, to live a long, happy life? I don’t have the reasons. I don’t have any poetic, rationalizing theory WHY. For Jay, for Shardel, for Darbi… I am so, so sorry. I literally cannot imagine being in your place because it emotionally breaks me down to even think about it. I don’t know how I would continue through each day, each SECOND, if I lost my family. I pray that peace and strength surround you and help you every second of this terrible journey. Your loved ones MATTERED, they HAD PURPOSE. They were so very loved, and they each made this world a better place. Teri, Kaelia, Cody… their legacies will continue through their time here, and through their loved ones still here.

I tell myself that I will go home, and hug my amazing husband a few seconds longer. I will say a prayer of thanks I have a loyal, selfless, devoted partner in my life, a guy who still dips me back to kiss me on the beach, 12 years after our first date.

I tell myself I will watch my boys.. REALLY watch them and try to lock every moment into my memory, instead of looking at my phone. Their smiles. Their laughs. The things Evan says, and how they still want to snuggle and play. When they fight, I will close my eyes and thank God I have healthy, happy, smart boys who can talk, move, think for themselves, and yes, even argue with each other like brothers.

Still, I forget… I listen to all of the noise, I focus on the crap that’s not important, I let the less than perfect overshadow all of the good. How do I not appreciate what I have EVERY, SINGLE DAY??? How do I forget that my ocean IS my home.. and the second I walk into that door, nothing else should matter??? Please, God, let me remember this EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. that I have here.

Today, it’s dark and gloomy outside. It’s so very cold. The ocean seems far away right now. But I know I will see it again soon. I pray everyone else does, too.

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For Teri Donoho

Please consider a donation to Crossroads Clinic or to the American Cancer Society

For Kaelia Nelson

Please consider a donation to a mental health awareness organization, to the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program in Kaelia’s memory, or to the Peru State Dance team, of which she was a proud member.

For our dear friend, Cody Warden

Please consider a donation to Leap-For-A-Cure, the local organization fighting every day to help defeat brain cancer, of which Cody and Darbi were proud advocates.

 

Homegrown

When I competed for Miss Nebraska my first time, I remember making the long trek to North Platte and thinking ‘why North Platte? Why isn’t this pageant thing just in Omaha?’  I got my answer during those first trips west for Orientation and state competition in 2001.

This town LOVES Miss Nebraska and treats every, single titleholder like a queen.  North Platte has hosted the annual Miss Nebraska pageant for 33 years.  Local families ‘adopt’ titleholders during the week of state competition.  Businesses offer cash donations for scholarships and services for the winners.  The Little Sisters program, partnering little girls with the young women they idolize, has a waiting list every year.  And for many of those girls growing up in North Platte, the Miss Nebraska Pageant is an annual can’t-miss event.

One of those ‘little girls’ is now a teenager and competing on her own.

Miss Twin Rivers Outstanding Teen 2017 Katy Greene

“I want to be the same role model for kids that I looked up to when I was little,” Katy told me recently.  “Those big girls meant everything to me and I always knew I wanted to be just like them!”

In February, Katy earned that chance.

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She was crowned Miss Twin Rivers Outstanding Teen in her hometown of North Platte.

“Any opportunity I receive I take it and give it my all!” said Katy.  “I always want to put my best into everything that I do.”

One glance at her social media, and it’s clear this teenager does exactly that.

She’s already busy, an Academic letter winner and cheerleader at North Platte High School.  But Katy immediately committed to her community, knowing the extra significance of being a titleholder in Miss Nebraska’s home base.  She’s taken part in charity events, visited schools, and helped with fundraisers to help people and families throughout the area.

“I absolutely love being out in the community and spending time with others,” said Katy.  “The kids in particular are my favorite! They always have adorable things to say and nothing is better than seeing the joy on their faces, as well as the impact that a strong role model has on them.  I always take the time to talk to each child, adult or anyone else who I meet at appearances.  I feel that personally talking to people is what creates such good relationships.”

Katy also uses those moments to spread the word about her personal platform: ‘Unplug and Enjoy the Arts’.

“This generation of children spend a lot of time on technology and I feel that too much of this is going to, over time, take away from both their creative thinking and social skills,” said Katy.  “By minimizing their time on technology and substituting it for other activities, such as the arts, we can find that happy medium between the two.”

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“There isn’t a day that I don’t have some kind of activity,” said Katy.  “The pageant word is full of amazing opportunities and experiences.  It allows young women to become involved in their communities, build strong relationships with their sister queens, and to show others how young people CAN make a lasting impact.”

Katy with girls

Next weekend, Katy will be taking the same trip I did.. in reverse.  With the people of North Platte behind her, she’ll head east to Omaha to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Directors Heather Edwards and Kali Tripp have done a FANTASTIC job drumming up the same support from the community, businesses and little girls in our neck of the woods.. all to cheer on this new generation of young women. Katy Greene is ready and willing to be the girl that ties it all together.

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“During the state pageant I hope to make a lot of new friends,” said Katy.  “I want to go into my interview and out onto that stage and perform as best as I can and just show everyone what I have to offer.  Also, I really want to get my platform out there and share my ideas with others!  Beyond, I wish to be the role model that young children look up to and always give them the opportunity to see that dreams do come true!”

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Click here to follow Miss Twin Rivers Outstanding Teen 2017 Katy Greene on Facebook!

For more information about the Miss Twin Hills/Miss Sand Hills Outstanding Teen Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook!

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook. For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Alliance 2017 Kaelia Nelson

NEXT.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Sheridan Blanco

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

From The Heart & Mind

I have a book called ‘What’s In a Name?’  I picked it up at the Afternoon about 10 years ago, and literally got chills as I read my description.. ‘creativity’, ‘future in speaking or singing in front of people’, ‘like to feel appreciated.’  Yeah, I bought that book.

How much of who we become is based on our decisions and the influence around us, and how much is driven by the first gift our parents’ gave us.. our names?

Madonna once said: “I sometimes think I was born to live up to my name. How could I be anything else but what I am having been named Madonna? I would either have ended up a nun or this.”

Kaelia Nelson was born with a mother and grandmother deeply invested in the Miss Nebraska Organization, so it seems fate that 20 years later, the girl with the name that means fortune, health and spirituality will compete for that title.

Miss Alliance 2017 Kaelia Nelson

“I have attended every Miss Nebraska Pageant since I was born,” Kaelia told me recently.  “My mom was the director of the Miss Alliance Pageant for many years and would have the state titleholder come to our town and speak at schools.  I was lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time with them.”

Kaelia admired each young woman through the years, in particular, Miss Nebraska 2001 Tina Foehlinger.

“I connected with her,” said Kaelia.  “I looked up to her so much and realized I wanted to have the opportunity to have that impact on young girls and be a positive role model in their lives.”

So Kaelia set out to follow the same path; she served as  Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2012, and represented Nebraska at the America’s Homecoming Queen competition in 2015.  Just as Tina traveled the state with a message, Kaelia also used her titles to make a difference about a topic that is extremely personal.

Kaelia shirts

“‘Stomping the Stigma: Creating Conversations about Mental Illness.’  I live with anxiety, depression, bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” said Kaelia.  “People are afraid to step forward and admit to having a mental illness because society has made it such a taboo thing to the point where people are afraid to even talk about it.”

Kaelia has produced and distributed shirts, she’s spoken to classrooms all over her area about mental illness, and she’s caught the attention of local news agencies who have helped her spread her message.

Click here to read the Alliance Times-Herald’s story on Kaelia!

With each visit, there are smiles and laughs, but there is also a serious story.

“On June 5, 2016, I tried to take my own life,” said Kaelia.  “I felt extremely alone and hopeless in the battle against my own illnesses.  Individuals are scared of what people may think of them and therefore, do not seek treatment.  The consequences can be life threatening.  I never want anyone else to feel alone or ashamed like I did, especially not for something they cannot control.  This is why I have made it my mission to speak out and share my story in hopes that people will see and understand that it can happen to anyone and it definitely not something to be ashamed of.”

Kaelia shares the stats: that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with 90% of individuals facing mental illness.  She shares what works: treatment, medication, and focusing on passions.  For Kaelia, that’s dance.

“I have been dancing since I was three years old,” said Kaelia.  “The feeling I get when I’m on stage dancing and hear the crowd cheering is something so amazing and thrilling for me.”

Kaelia dances at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where she’s a member of Delta Zeta- Beta Tau.  She also works at CEDARS in Lincoln, a facility dedicated to helping children in crisis.  She’s surrounded herself by support, and reciprocates by offering that same guidance and compassion whether she’s volunteering as Miss Alliance, or working and studying as simply, Kaelia.

“I used to be very shy and absolutely hated talking in front of people,” said Kaelia.  “Due to bullying I faced throughout growing up I was very self-conscious and thought that I wasn’t as good as others because of things that made me ‘different’, but thanks to be involved in pageants I became very confident in myself and what I am capable of.  I know exactly who I am and that my differences, along with everyone’s differences, are what truly make us all unique and special in our own ways.  In fact, the world would be quite boring if we were all the same.”

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So who is Kaelia?  A self-motivated dynamo packed into a 5-foot frame.  A determined student and volunteer from Hemingford, Nebraska inspired by the same young women she’ll be competing against in just a few short months at Miss Nebraska.  A smart, confident woman admired by the same little girls she was once like not so long ago.

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Back to Madonna.  She’s now in her fourth decade as one of music’s biggest stars.  She’s sold millions of records and performed around the world.  She once said, “I have the same goal I’ve had ever since I was a girl. I want to rule the world.”

Each of us given a name.  Perhaps we take from those book definitions the things we see within ourselves, or want to see.  Another meaning behind the name Kaelia: victory.  THIS Kaelia’s definition of that word comes from what she sees in every person she meets along life’s journey.

Kaelia Nebraska

“I would absolutely love to win Miss Nebraska and get to represent this amazing state, but my main goal isn’t about the crown on my head,” said Kaelia.  “Instead, the message I have to share and the people I get to meet because of it.  It’s what you set your mind and heart to that will count in the long run.”

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Click here to follow Miss Alliance 2017 Kaelia Nelson on Facebook.

For more information about the Miss Alliance Pageant/Miss Harvest Moon Festival Pageant or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook. You can also email Director Riki Cornish Hunter at riki.hunter@farmcoop.com or miss.alliance.pageant@gmail.com or call 308-430-4355.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more detailsHERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Makenzie Davies

NEXT.. Miss Twin Rivers Outstanding Teen 2017 Katy Greene

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Asking Questions, Saving Lives

Miss America 2009 Katie Stam once said, “I wish I could add a fifth point to the Miss America crown.  There’s scholarship, style, service, and success.. I wish I could add substance.”

YASSSS.

As I’ve noted countless times, these young women are about so much more than makeup, hairspray and heels.  They want to make a difference.  They want to make people smile.  They want to improve lives.

In some cases, they want to save lives.

Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Makenzie Davies

“After hearing so many stories of teen suicide and just suicide in general, I felt like I needed to make a change,” Makenzie told me recently.  “Lifeguards are certified in CPR and lifesaving techniques.  Young parents look for daycare providers who are trained to care for their children in the case of an emergency.  Schools and local businesses often require their staff to be certified in CPR for the added safety of their students or customers.  There is now another program readily available and would allow people to be trained to help someone in the case of mental or emotional crises that could lead to the person choosing suicide as their solution.”

A powerful message shared by a passionate, young advocate.  Makenzie is a student at St. Patrick’s High School in North Platte, describing herself as hard-working and dedicated.

“Being dedicated to something means you are devoted to a purpose or task, having loyalty or integrity towards that purpose,” said Makenzie.”  “Hard-work is taking it a step further by working with energy and commitment, being diligent towards the purpose or task.”

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That mentality helped Makenzie win the title of Miss Northwests’s Outstanding Teen last fall, something she had hoped for for several years.

“As a Little Sister Alumni, I have had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer and be involved in this organization every year,” said Makenzie.  “I actually volunteered last year backstage for the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant and I had so much fun.  That day, I told my mom this is what I want to do.”

And Makenzie embraces ALL aspects of the organization, not just what she saw that night on stage.

In addition to her high school studies and activities, Makenzie has embraced her role as a community leader and public servant.  She has visited classrooms to read, emceed charity events like the Bowl-A-Thon for Junior Achievement of Lincoln, and visited with the little girls who look up to her just as she did not so long ago.

Makenzie has also used her title to spread awareness about that cause she’s so passionate about: suicide prevention.  She calls her personal platform ‘Ask a Question. Save a Life.’

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst teens today,” said Makenzie.  “Teens attempting suicide have a very hard time talking to someone about their problems.  Teens feeling suicidal often feel hopeless, isolated and powerless to change the situation they are in.  This is why the QPR program (Question, Persuade, Refer) is so important to me.”

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Makenzie ordered and distributed awareness bracelets at school assemblies.  Her school rallied behind her efforts, gathering all students for a presentation by Makenzie on suicide awareness. (An event covered by KNOP – click here to watch their story!)  She’s also visited state senators in Lincoln to advocate for suicide awareness legislation.

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“My plan is to motivate people in local communities to recognize the need for certifications in QPR,” said Makenzie.  “The QPR program has been implemented in may communities as a required certification for teachers, police officers, hospital support staff and local community members.  The 90-minute training helps to remove the stigma of fear and train people to effectively speak to those that may be in crisis.”

Makenzie hopes to broaden her message even more, by becoming Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen later this month.

“I would really like to continue working with Region 2 Health and Human Services to build awareness of the QPR Program and stop teen suicide,” said Makenzie.  “[This organization] has taught me how to go after what I believe in, which is stopping teen suicide and building the awareness of the growing epidemic.  It has also helped me in so many ways on a personal level.”

Makenzie notes improved communication skills, friendships, and the chance to share one of her other passions: dance.

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“My favorite part of the competition is definitely the talent portion,” said Makenzie.  “I have been dancing since I was 4 years old so being able to learn a new dance and show the judges and audience my passion and love for it really makes me excited to perform.  To perform by myself on stage dancing and really show the fun that I am having is really exhilarating.”

Makenzie used one more word to describe herself: kind.  And perhaps, that’s where this young woman’s story about pageants, performance and passion comes full circle.

“I try to live by what my parents have always told me,” said Makenzie.  “That is, ‘you never know what is going on in another person’s life so always choose to be kind.”

“To be kind to all, to like many and love a few, to be needed and wanted by those we love, is certainly the nearest we can come to happiness.” – Mary Stuart

I’d argue this is the biggest point we can all take away from this young woman and outstanding teens like her.  What kind of difference can you make in the world today by simply asking questions, caring, and being kind?  Makenzie Davies wants to find out.

“I put my heart into the things I choose to do,” said Makenzie.  “I feel that if you are doing something you like and work hard, you will get the most out of life.”

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Click here to follow Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Makenzie Davies on Facebook!

For more information about the Miss Chadron/Miss Northwest/Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen Program or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook.  You can also email Director Amanda Vogel by emailing maoteenchadron@gmail.com or calling 308-665-5595.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook. For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Hope McCoy

NEXT.. Miss Alliance 2017 Kaelia Nelson

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!