Friday, December 27, 2013

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright

       "No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another."
-Charles Dickens

       As the holiday season comes to a close, I thought I'd take the time to update everyone on my last few months!  I've been busy with classes at High Point University, as well as performing with the HPU Dance Team, giving tours as a University Ambassador, preparing for Alpha Gamma Delta recruitment, and as always, performing duties as Miss Seashore Line.
       After a relaxing Fall Break in Disney World, I got back to the grind right away!  For 2013 "Make A Difference Day," I gathered a few friends to do some good in our community.  We visited a local nursing home and volunteered as manicurists for the day!  It was such a fulfilling way to give back and really make a difference in the lives of residents at the High Point Place Senior Living Facility.  I can't wait to go back and visit my new friends!

Shout out to Gwen, owner of Deluxe Nails in Mullica Hill, for donating nail polish for my nursing home manicure trips in both New Jersey and North Carolina :)

       Being a part of the HPU Dance Team means performing at sporting events as well as taking part in community events around the High Point area.  The week prior to Halloween, HPU hosted local families for a safe trick-or-treat event at one of our Men's Soccer games.  My team and I danced at the game adorned in all types of costume accessories like cat ears, tutus, and more!  The Greek Community of High Point lined the track surrounding our soccer field and handed out candy to all of the adorable Power Rangers, Princesses, and pumpkins who came to do some trick-or-treating in a clean, safe environment.

       My sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, takes pride in our dedication to philanthropy.  For one of our Philanthropic events of the Fall semester, we held a Flag Football Tournament!  Groups from different organizations across campus signed up to face each other in a fun competition to benefit JDRF!  I had a blast supporting my sisters who played in the games, and was able to help set up the fields as well as clean up afterward.  I'm honored to announce that I have since been elected Philanthropy Coordinator of the 2014 Alpha Gamma Delta Executive Council!  I can't wait to help my sisters stay true to our motto, "Live With Purpose."
 We were somehow blessed with a warm day in October for our event!

 The Gam girls cheering on our participants!

My big, Katie, and I at Chapter elections :)

       It came to my attention that November 13th was "World Kindness Day."  Since my 20th birthday was November 15th, I decided to use the time between those special days to complete 20 Acts of Kindness!  I made a list of 20 acts I wanted to perform and frolicked around campus November 13th, 14th, and 15th (my birthday!) completing them.  I LOVED quietly watching people find some of the little notes and gifts I had left around campus.  I handed out lollipops to my classmates, treats to the trolley drivers and security guards, left smarties in the library, bought Starbucks for a few adults visiting campus without a student ID to pay, and so much more!  Here are a few snapshots of the experience...
 Jacey and I expressing what we're thankful for during HPU's "Gratitude Project."

 Leaving water bottles and protein bars with motivational messages on gym equipment!

 Leaving a package of popcorn with the message, "Have a poppin' day" 
in the movie section of the library :)

 Courtney, Lorena, and I visited Wishaven Animal Rehabilitation Center to donate some pet treats.  We met this little guy and heard his inspirational story.  Can't wait to visit again!!

 Returning carts left in the parking lot to their designated corral!

 Left balloons with compliments on random cars in the HPU parking lots!

 Hung "you are beautiful!" signs on mirrors all over campus!

Posing with my completed poster before my 20th Birthday dinner :)

       When I came home for a short Thanksgiving break, I was able to reunite with some of my favorite gals, my Miss New Jersey Little Stars, Brooke and Olivia!  We got together to make some adorable Thanksgiving crafts, then went for a visit at Manorcare to distribute our artwork.  The girls and I love seeing familiar faces at Manorcare and they were wonderful in knocking on the residents' room doors to spread a little cheer.  I become more and more proud of my Little Stars each time I see them.  They have become so confident in their visitation responsibilities.  Their passion, kindness, and comfortability in a sometimes uncomfortable environment is astounding.  Thanks Brooke and Liv for being such awesome Kindness Kids!!
 Our finished product!
They're the sweetest!!
Ready to share the love at Manor Care!

       After Thanksgiving, I traveled back to school to study, study, and do some more studying!  After finals came to a close, it was back to Jersey for some family time and, of course, volunteering!  Before I could do any of those enjoyable things, however, it was time for my dreaded wisdom tooth extraction.  Since I had four impacted teeth to be removed, I unwillingly set aside a week of my winter break for recovery.  Besides a reaction to the anesthesia, it went surprisingly well!  I was eating solid foods on day three and had virtually no pain.  Since I recovered so quickly, I got back in the game much sooner than expected!
       I reunited with Carol, my amazing director, to fill stockings for a Community Outreach group based in Camden.  I was also able to catch up with our beautiful Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen, Alyssa, and chat about life post-Outstanding Teen.  She's done such a fabulous job representing our state-I can't wait to see what is in store for her future!

       I was able to really swing into the Christmas spirit when I went to watch Tricia Sloan Dance Center's beautiful version of The Nutcracker.  While I so miss performing in the ballet, it was lovely to catch up with old friends, my Little Stars, and even spend some time with pageant sisters!  Kathryn Nicolle and Lindsey Petrosh, former NJOTs AND former Miss New Jerseys hosted "Clara's Tea" alongside our current Miss New Jersey, Cara!  On top of seeing those lovely ladies and seeing an awesome production, I got to see our official Miss New Jersey photographer, Richard Krauss!  He was photographing the show and it was perfect timing for me to pick up my holiday photo cards.  The previous week I had the pleasure of meeting with Richard and his wife, Fran, for my annual headshot photo shoot--I was able to sneak in a few holiday shots as well. :)
 Never a dull moment when it comes to Photoshoots with Richard :)
Love feeling like a celebrity when Miss Fran does my make-up!!

 Miss Tricia is just stunning! 
 The MAO girls at Clara's Tea Party!
My little stars rocked! So proud of their abilities and their amazing charisma :)

       Keeping in the holiday spirit, I was able to participate in numerous Christmas service opportunities!  I visited Clearview High School and made napkin rings with the Journalism class.  I then donated the cute napkin rings to the Gloucester County "Serv-A-Tray" program, which delivers meals to county residents who are disabled, homebound, or recuperating.  I'm sure the festive crafts made a nice addition to their holiday trays. :)

       I was also able to participate in the Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce's "Breakfast with Santa" event.  The breakfast provides holiday cheer for eligible families in our county.  I had the entertaining job of handing gifts to Santa which he then distributed to the children who visited him!  It was so rewarding to volunteer at such an amazing event, I hope to make it part of my own seasonal traditions!
 My duties also included jingling bells for the photographer in order to catch those precious moments with the adorable (and often screaming) kiddies :)
Concetta and I were Santa's helpers...guess I'll need to invest in an elf costume for next year!!

       Later that same day I took part in another holiday event with the Angels of God Clothing Closet organization.  Angels of God set up an awesome party at the Deptford Skating and Fun Center for eligible families.  The kids in attendance also had the chance to collect a few holiday goodies and visit with Santa!  I took on the job of entertaining the kids while they waited in line to see Santa...a job that is more difficult than it sounds ;)  I had an awesome time.  There is nothing better than seeing a child's face light up--especially when you were able to be a small reason for their happiness!!
 Such a fun event!
I got to know all of the kids while they waited in line for Santa and wrote their names on goody bags!

       I was elated to join some of my favorite people at a Shore Family Holiday party!  Catching up with my pageant sisters and directors was much needed.  Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Nicolle for hosting us crazy pageant people ;)
We even got a visit from Santa!

Apparently this is how Michael envisions my hair for evening gown at Miss NJ this year...I guess you'll have to wait until June to see if I took his advice, or if they allow him to walk on stage with me while holding my hair ;)

       On Christmas Eve Eve, I joined my director, Carol, and some of my Tiny, Pre-Teen, and Teen Shore Sisters to sing at Deptford Almonesson Church's Live Nativity!  We braved the winds and rain to add some Christmas carols to their beautiful holiday tradition.  Afterward I was on a mock judging panel for the Teens to prepare for Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen which is quickly approaching!  They are such impressive young ladies--I can't wait to find out who will be our next NJOT!!

 Sweet little Ayla :)

 The Seashore Line girls!

Though it's difficult to make out, we sang between Jesus' Birthday cake and the manger :)
The crowd of singers grew as the night went on--we were a 
choir of 6 angels by the end of the Nativity :)

       I hope everyone had a joyous holiday!  This time of year is the perfect reminder of how much there is to be thankful for, and how much we are able to give back to others.  I, myself, am thankful to have spent time both serving my community and relaxing with my family.
 My wonderful family on Christmas Eve :)

The Weick cousins with our beautiful Mom-mom :)

       Next up on my agenda before returning to HPU for the Spring Semester?  I'm super excited to be launching a new program promoting service and kindness with some amazing students.  You'll be able to join us in our New Year's Resolution and share the journey of "scattering kindness" thru many social media outlets. Check out my platform Twitter and Instagram accounts, @KCandVO and 'keepcalmandvolunteeron,' respectively.  Until next year ;) May your days be merry and bright!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Fall, Y'all!

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves."
-William Shakespeare

           Hello, friends!  Long time, no talk.  After wrapping up midterms week, I’m excited to get you all up to date.  At the conclusion of my summer, it was time to head back to school at High Point University!  If you know me, you know that packing up my closet is a daunting task…especially keeping in mind the size of dorm closets ;)  Not long after I was settled in my apartment and had completed a week of classes, I found myself on a plane headed home-sweet-home.  It just so happened that our lovely Miss New Jersey’s send-off celebration was the day before I was scheduled to depart for the National Sweetheart pageant.  I made the trip back to New Jersey in time to emcee one of our Shore family Outstanding Teen pageants, and attend Cara’s send-off!  It was so comforting and reassuring to be surrounded by my pageant family before I left for Sweetheart. 
            I arrived in New Jersey bright and early (with latte in hand), and headed straight to Cape May Courthouse for the Miss Seashore Line, Coastal Shores, and Cape Shores Outstanding Teen pageant.  Carol, my AMAZING director, welcomed me with a hug, a kiss, and a mock interview.  In true Carol form, she took the latte out of my hands and led me to the interview room.  I wouldn’t have it any other way :) I had a blast catching up with my sister queens, Olivia and Cierra, and crowned my new little sister, Miss Seashore Line’s Outstanding Teen, Gabrielle Ammirato! 
 The Seashore Line family, finally complete! Nia is my Little Princess, Emily is my Pre-Teen Princess, and of course, Gabrielle is my Outstanding Teen!  Love these cuties :)
Miss Seashore Line's Outstanding teen, Gabrielle!!
 Nia and I like taking silly pictures...:)
My sister queens! Cierra is Miss Coastal Shores and Olivia is Miss Cape Shores :)

            To our Miss New Jersey, Cara- I could not be more proud to call you a friend!  You represented our great state so well and did an awesome job of welcoming the Miss America pageant back to Atlantic City.  I’m sure you showed everyone what a true Jersey girl is made of.  I can’t wait to give you a congratulations hug when I see you next. :)
 I am so blessed to have such incredible sisters :)
Re-enacting our final two moment!  We have such a beautiful Miss New Jersey :)

            The morning after Cara’s send-off, I was off to Hoopeston, Illinois, for the National Sweetheart pageant!  For anyone who may be unaware, the National Sweetheart pageant is a competition in which 1st runners-up from every MAO state pageant are invited to compete in a national pageant.  I attended the Sweetheart pageant back in the day when I was Miss New Jersey’s Outstanding Teen.  My local “big sister,” Katie Hope was representing New Jersey.  Never in a million years did I think I might someday be in her shoes.  I had always looked up to the “Miss” contestants and it still baffles me that I have the honor to compete with some of those girls who were my role models. 
            The National Sweetheart pageant was one of my most amazing pageant experiences to this day.  I met inspirational and extraordinary contestants, as well as generous and energetic volunteers.  I cannot thank the people of the Hoopeston community enough for their selflessness.  Many welcomed us into their homes, chauffeured us to our appearances, fed us, and most importantly, shared their time.  I heard the most amazing stories, and met some truly exceptional people.  The Sweetheart pageant is a learning experience, not only to prepare for competition, but a way for the contestants to learn more about different regions of our country, and each other.  The women I met in Hoopeston represent so many different versions of a “pageant girl.”  I am honored to have shared the stage with my sweetheart sisters, and look forward to supporting them all in their future endeavors (pageantry or not!). 
Prepare for picture overload...
 My Mom and I (mostly my mom:), made this costume!  We had so much fun brain-storming ways to represent New Jersey, and even more fun finding a way to make our own roulette wheel!  This one's for you, Jersey :)

 Yes, those are hard hats.  We got to tour a bean factory!
 The beautiful Miss Alabama Sweetheart, Hayley!  A sweetheart sister and a sorority sister!
 As photographer Joe Whiteko would say, "FRIENDS FOREVER!"
 This is Sharon, the best chaperone a girl could ask for.  Miss you, Shar-bear!
 Larry, a Miss New Jersey judge, came all the way from Hawaii to watch the sweetheart pageant.  You may better know him as the judge who won the pineapple cutting contest on the Miss NJ stage... Sorry Larry, you'll never live that one down ;)
 These three young ladies came all the way out to illinois to support me!!  Thank you Sam, Gabrielle, and Samantha for cheering me on :)
Anna, Hal, and Kaitlin are some of my favorite role models...Anna and Kaitlin for their poise and passion, Hal for his fabulous taste in fashion ;)
 Mary, Miss Missouri Sweetheart and I braved the cornfields for a photo-op...I loved Mary when I watched her take the 1st runner-up title on the Miss Missouri webcast.  She's the sweetest :)
 My name was called first into the top fifteen.  You could say I was a little excited :) 
 Carol-I know you hate having your picture taken...but you've got to admit, this one's a keeper :)
 The Sheppards welcomed me into their home and pampered me, along with my three roommates, all week!  I could never thank them enough for their impact on my Sweetheart experience!!
My fan club at the parade! Aren't they a good-looking bunch? ;)
Here is the fan club again after the final night of competition (Aunt Chell, my Mom, Mrs. Ammirato, Gabrielle, Samantha, Carol, Sam, Jason, Mrs. Dowling, Hal, Kaitlin, and Anna)!  These people mean the world to me.  Thank you, thank you thank you-from the bottom of my heart.
My awesome cousin, Jason, comes to support me in all of my performances!  He and Aunt Chell are some of my biggest fans and I couldn't be more grateful for them :)
 My bunk-mate and BFF, Megan.  It took a while getting used to not having her there for our pre-bedtime talks.  I was SO lucky to have Miss Congeniality as my roommate.  Miss you, Meggie!
The best roommates I could imagine having, post-pageant.  I stayed with Morgan, South Dakota's Sweetheart, Alix, Delaware's Sweetheart, and Megan, Nebraska's Sweetheart.  I chose a picture to hide all of the tears that were flowing at this point ;)
Okay, I couldn't resist.  Here are their beautiful faces, tears and all.

            I am proud to say I made the top ten at the National Sweetheart pageant, as well as won the interview award for my group!  It was such an honor to be named the recipient of the first ever Ronnie Reed Community Service Award.  The award is named after a man who was very special to the Hoopeston community and was always at the pageant to lend a hand.  Hearing our hostesses and directors speak of Ronnie was so extremely humbling.  I will continue to promote my platform in a way that would make Ronnie and my friends in Hoopeston proud.  I feel more motivated than ever to use what I learned at the Sweetheart pageant to prepare for Miss New Jersey 2014!  
         …Until then, I’ll be busy at school.  With classes, sorority events, and my job as a University Ambassador, I was plenty busy last semester.  This year, I am still an active member of Alpha Gamma Delta, I can officially give tours as a University Ambassador, and I’ve earned a few more responsibilities!  I’m honored to have made the 2013-2014 HPU Dance Team.  The team dances at sporting events, and takes part in community events!  I’ve already participated in a United Way food drive with the team and introduced the girls to my annual “Dye Your Hair to Show You Care” event.  After practice, my teammates and I dyed a lock of hair pink to raise Breast Cancer Awareness and donated to The Dancers Care Foundation.  (THANK YOU to my wonderful mother and Aunt “Chell” for driving all the way down to North Carolina to help!!  I love seeing them so much, and the event would not have been possible without the hard work and energy from them.  Love you gals :)  We will also be selling handmade hairbands to raise funds!  I’ve always had a fun time with this particular service opportunity, and it was awesome to introduce it to a new group of friends!  The dance team also joined together to run in a 5K presented by my sorority!  We ran to raise money for a man who beat cancer and needs help with his hefty medical bills.  The “Fight for TOMorrow” was a blast and a huge success!
 Here is the team sporting our neon for the "Fight for TOMorrow" 5K!
United Way collected a ton of food for their annual food drive!
Just a handful of the girls who dyed their hair to show they care!
 Just a couple snapshots of my the Alpha Gamma Delta "Roseball" Fall formal :)  Where would I be without Christopher and Katie?

            In addition to making the dance team, I’ve been invited to join the National Society of Leadership and Success, also known as Sigma Alpha Pi.  This semester I’ll be busy taking leadership courses and meeting with a Success Networking Team before my induction in April!
            I’m elated to share that after plenty of research and talking with my professors and advisors, I’ve made the decision to change my major from Strategic Communication to Psychology.  I cannot wait to continue with my education and make a difference in the lives of others!! 
            With all of these changes and additions to my busy, jam-packed, never-a-dull-moment, amazing life, I will keep you updated as often as possible!  Until my next blog, please feel free to follow my Keep Calm and Volunteer On twitter, @KCandVO.  My countdown to Miss New Jersey has already begun, and I am already SO excited for another week of fun in June.  With 18 girls crowned already, it’s already starting to feel real!  (Congratulations to all of our beautiful titleholders I didn’t have the pleasure of watching in their local pageants!!)  There are Only 237 Days until the final night of competition—are you ready?!