Let's continue on from where I left off in my previous post and wrap up the month of April!
I am not one to typically agree to run a 5k race. However, when I was asked to run in "Matt's Race," honoring FDNY Lt. Gordon "Matt" Ambelas, I knew it was something I wanted to do. So, bright and early on a beautiful Sunday morning, I made my way to Clove Lakes. Since I have never considered myself a runner (in fact, I avoid it at all costs), my goal was never to finish with the best time, but to simply complete the race. I am proud to say that with a little encouragement from my FDNY boyfriend, I made it across the finish line!
This girl ran her first 5k (and didn't come in last)!
New Dorp Restaurant Crawl
After a morning run, we made our way to the 1st Annual New Dorp Lane Restaurant Crawl! For just $10, we were able to sample various cuisines from multiple restaurants and even found a few new places to visit again in the future. Thank you to The New Dorp Merchants Group, Councilman Steven Matteo, and The Richmond County Savings Foundation for putting this event together. It was a big hit and I'm hoping there will be another in the future!
Childhood Cancer PSA
April 22nd was an usually cold day, but that didn't stop me from spending the night in Times Square working with TheTruth365. We filmed reactions to a Childhood Cancer Public Service Announcement (PSA) featuring Kylie Myers, who we lost only two months ago. The video carries an extremely powerful message and we had some strong reactions from viewers. I cannot wait until May 4th, when TheTruth365 will release the completed PSA. Check out the video shown in Times Square: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyh_XqooTwc
"What's Happening With Kids On The Island?"
"What Happening With Kids On The Island?" is a local program on CTV. I was contacted by Helene Bucchieri, whom I had met several times before, and was asked to serve as the interviewer for the upcoming episode. Though I have to admit I was a bit nervous, I agreed.
First, I interviewed Leia Schwartz, the 10-year-old author of Dyslexic Renegade. She was diagnosed with dyslexia and took it as an opportunity to educate and empower her peers. What a strange feeling being on the other side of the questions, but it was definitely loads of fun! I had initially been under the impression that this was my only job, but Helene was so happy with my "performance" that she asked me to interview one more young lady! Just goes to show you, you' have to always be ready to go with flow. Thank you for trusting me with your show, Helene. I loved my first hosting experience and look forward to doing more work with you in the future.
NYC Chili Cookoff
I am most definitely a "foodie," so what is a better fit for me than judging a cookoff? I had previously served as a special guest judge for the NYC Chili Cookoff in 2014 and was asked to return this year as Miss Greater New York. I guess I did an okay job last year, huh?
The NYC Chili Cookoff is sanctioned by the International Chili Society, so this competition is no joke. Judges must sit through a pre-cookoff orientation (complete with a reading of the rules) and must take their jobs very seriously. After all, the cooks are counting on us! I judged both the salsa and red chili competitions, took a stroll through Historic Richmond Town with my family, ate delicious food and met two Jets coaches (Ron Heller & Marcel Shipp). All in all, it was a pretty wonderful day!
Give Hope Walk
To round out a fantastic month, I was finally able to attend the Give Hope Walk to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. April 26th was a beautiful day and the scenery was perfect for a morning stroll (If you've never been to Riverside Park, you must go!). I was invited to cut the starting ribbon alongside Dana Wershaw, a pediatric cancer survivor. It was an amazing honor for me, especially since I have been able to donate over $15,000 to this organization in the past year. Their gratitude was simply overwhelming.
I spent the day speaking with pediatric cancer families, gathering ideas for upcoming projects, and enjoying the gorgeous spring weather (finally). I even had the chance to chat with Lee Goldberg, the meteorologist for ABC7 and an avid supporter of PCF. The entire event reaffirmed my passion for my platform and inspired me to develop new initiatives. Our children are worth #MoreThan4. It's time the government took notice.
Now, it's time to say "Hello" to May...and to some new projects and fundraisers! It's going to be a busy month because I will be finalizing my preparations for Miss New York, as well, but I'm looking forward to it all. Let the fun begin!
** If you sang the title of this blog, you're awesome (and are probably a 90s child). If not, see here. **
Now, let's get down to business. Tomorrow is the beginning of May and I cannot believe how quickly April flew by! I guess time flies when you're having fun...and when you have 11 events in 11 days. I've been meaning to calculate my travel miles, so I'll be sure to do that soon, too. I feel like I've been to every part of the state since being crowned in March! In fact, I've done so much that I'm going to have to cut this blog into two separate posts! Here we go...
Ronald McDonald House of Long Island
Each year, on April 15th, the Staten Island Giving Circle sends a small group to cook dinner for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. I was excited to be able to join this group for the second time. The kitchen and playroom had been updated since my last visit and they were beautiful! The entire house truly feels like home. It is welcoming and warm, which I'm sure is much appreciated by the many families who stay there, far away from their own homes.
Mom and I were in charge of the cookies, which was a definite test of my willpower. It only took an hour and a half to complete the entire meal and it looked delicious! I couldn't stay long enough to see the reactions of the guests, as I had an appointment next door for a special tour of Cohen Children's Medical Center, but I have no doubt it was hit!
Cohen Children's Medical Center
After cooking dinner for the RMH, I went right next door to meet Victoria Mann, the Development Assistant at Cohen Children's Medical Center, for a tour of the hospital. I had connected with Victoria previously at the Walk For Health Kickoff. Since Cohen Children's Medical Center is the only Children's Miracle Network Hospital in the Greater New York area, I was excited to have the opportunity to learn more about the workings of the facility.
The tour was led by Victoria Maccone, the Development Manager. She took us floor-by-floor and explained the layouts, artwork, and high-tech equipment used in each section. An incredible amount of thought was put into every detail, making sure the patients and families always feel safe, comforted, and - most importantly - happy. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to see exactly where the over $6,000 I have raised for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has gone. I am raising funds directly for this incredible facility this year, as well, with my team "These Crowns Are Made For Walking." Help us out, if you can. I promise, it will be put to great use! Click here.
Kayla's Life Fund
On April 17th, I met a little fighter named Kayla. She was born with Situs Inversus, a condition in which the visceral organs are reversed. Because of this, she now has Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD). I saw that her family was having a fundraiser to help supplement their medical bills, a decided I had to meet her! After conversing with her mother beforehand, I surprised Kayla with a few gifts at her fundraiser - including her very own crown! She was definitely excited and carried her gift bag around like a purse the entire night. To learn more about Kayla, visit www.KaylaLifeFund.org.
Miss America Day Of Service
This year, for the first time, the entire Miss America Organization came together for a day of service sponsored by the Children's Miracle Network. This event, known as "Miss America Serves," encouraged the states to create team volunteer projects and the Miss New York Organization made one of those opportunities the Silver Lake Specialized Care Center. Joined by fellow "downstate" titleholders, I enjoyed a day of games and conversations with the seniors at the center. I even met a 102-year-old rockstar resident, who just wanted to show all the girls how awesome her pink nails were. I have to admit -- they looked great!
After a day of #MissAmericaServes, a group of the titleholders ventured into Manhattan for another event. Founded in 2012, DragOn is an annual showcase of creative costume and drag talent. The event shines a spotlight on New York City’s LGBT community and allies in support of Gay Men's Health Crisis.
I was excited to attend and see my friend, Justin, as he was planning to compete in the fashion show "walk-off." And, let me tell you, he was fabulous! I wish I was as fierce as some of these men! Seriously - 100% jealous.
A special thank you to Jason Shaw, who invited the Miss New York titleholders as his guests. And a great job to Jillian Tapper, Miss New York 2014, who served as a judge!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this April blog. There's much more to come!
Here we are, already halfway through April! My responsibilities are quickly building, but my drive and commitment are as strong as ever. Looking back on these past two weeks, I realize that my appearances had one common theme: they all centered around children. These types of events are always my personal favorite.
Walk For Health Kickoff
Previously known as the Every Woman Matters Walk, the North Shore-LIJ Walk for Health is a walk for women and their families benefitting both The Katz Institute for Women's Health and Cohen Children's Medical Center (CCMC). Since Cohen Children's Medical Center is a CMN Hospital - and the only one in the downstate region - a group of the titleholders were asked to participate in the upcoming walk on May 17th.
Of course, every walk has its "kickoff." That is why, on April 1st, Kristen Stillwell (Miss Manhattan) and I made our way to Long Island to get some more information for our team, "These Crowns Are Made For Walking." We met the CCMC staff, enjoyed a few snacks, and brainstormed ideas for Victoria Mann (Development Assistant) to further promote the walk and our involvement in it. There are 8 local titleholders participating and we want this partnership to be an enormous success. You can help! Please consider making a donation here!
Coney Island: Light Up Blue
The Parachute Jump is a landmark in Coney Island, which is used as a monument to recognize several worthwhile causes, including pediatric cancer in September. April is Autism Awareness Month. On April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day, I made my way to Brooklyn to join the "Coney Island Autism Angels" as they lit the Parachute Jump blue.
It was an unusually cold night, but there was still a large crowd gathered as politicians and families spoke. After a few presentations, the structure lit blue and the crowd erupted in cheers.
1 in 68 children born in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. On that night, we stood together to help people understand what autism is all about and to create an understanding, supportive environment for all children.
A Voice For Frankie
I met Gina Billera last year when I was interviewed on the Al Lambert Show. We kept in touch throughout the year and I even made an appearance on her friend's program on CTV, Late Night With Johnny P. When she asked if I would come to her fundraiser "A Voice For Frankie" in honor of her son who is living with autism, I obviously whole-heartedly agreed!
My mom and I had a great time at the event, which included comedians, singers, dinner, and raffle baskets. I even walked away with a prize! It was also wonderful to see some friends that I didn't know where attending: Carla Murino of Carla's Closet, Vinnie Medugno, and former teacher, Ms. Carroll. Proceeds went to benefit PS 37, a school for children with special needs, and I know they must be incredibly grateful for the support.
Young Voice Of NYC
Young Voice Of NYC is a talent competition to benefit St Jude Children's Research Hospital.
This annual showcase fundraiser features a panel of judges who award one contestant the honor of becoming the Youth Ambassador for St Jude. When I found the event online, I knew I had to be a part of it. I immediately contacted the organizers and offered to help in any way.
I arrived at the theater in Queens early to help with setting up and, once the event began, I volunteered to help serve food to the participants and guests. I have to say, it wasn't easy smelling all of the sandwiches and chicken wings without eating them all!
Then, it was time for the show to begin. There were so many talented kids; I couldn't even believe what I was seeing and hearing! I knew the judges were going to have a difficult time making a decision. After each performance, the panel asked the contestant a few questions, which always included, "Why do you want to be the ambassador for St Jude?" I was very impressed with all of the answers.
In the end, it was Sparsh Shah who stole the judges hearts. I have to be quite honest, he had already stolen my heart prior to the show, as well. This 11 year old is wise far beyond his years. Sparsh suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, but he doesn't let that stop him. To describe him in my own words will not do him justice. You need to see and hear him for yourself, so here is a link to his public figure page. Congratulations, Sparsh Shah! I have no doubt that you will do amazing things this year as the 2015 Youth Ambassador for St Jude Children's Research Hospital!
*BONUS* - Workshop Weekend
This past weekend, I traveled to Saratoga Springs to meet the rest of the Class of 2015 for the Miss New York Workshop. We spent the weekend touring the Capitol Building, meeting with sponsors, learning about the requirements for Miss NY, and picking our contestant order. I will be representing the Greater New York area on June 4th, 5th, & 6th as Contestant #5!
All 29 contestants also attended the Miss New York's Outstanding Teen Pageant while we were there. Congratulations to Alisa Vasquez, the former Miss Upstate's Outstanding Teen, who walked away with the crown! A congratulations, as well, to all of the 24 teens who made their supporters and big sisters proud. You were all beautiful!
With only 7 weeks until Miss New York Week begins, it's time to get serious! I'm going to be a busy bee, so make sure to keep up with me on my public figure page or through my blog posts! Thanks for reading!
After being crowned on March 15th, I hit the ground running. Though I only passed on my previous local title in November, it was definitely an adjustment jumping back into the "titleholder life." In the past two weeks I have made 4 appearances, attended 2 send-off parties, & traveled to 1 pageant. I have also begun preparing for Miss New York, which is now only 65 days away! Eek!!
Giving Strength, Fighting As One
On March 19th, I headed to The Old Bermuda Inn for "Giving Strength, Fighting As One," a fundraiser to benefit Michael's Cause, Pietro's Fight, & Jar Of Hope. These organizations work to find to a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rapidly progressive form of muscular dystrophy that occurs primarily in boys. The event featured vendors, games, and a magician for the kids!
I was also joined by Miss Staten Island's Outstanding Teen & Miss NW Oklahoma City's Outstanding Teen (who had been in New York for Spring Break). It was fun, relaxing night for the families who had young boys affected by the illness and for all other guests, as well.
Our Miss New York Class was completed last week and, though it was 3 hours away, I had to be in Binghamton to watch it happen! After all, this is the last Miss New York Class I will ever be part of (that's a little strange to see in print, but it's true).
The pageant was run by Jack Carr and gave the opportunity for girls who placed as a runner-up in any other local this season to give it one last shot. Two girls were crowned and brought our class total to 29 girls! Congratulations to Cassie Paradise, Miss Southern Tier & Hillary Peckham, Miss Triple Cities!
Inner Circle Show
Since 1922, the Inner Circle (comprised of reporters, journalists, and television/radio personalities) has held the annual "Inner Circle Show" to satirize our mayor and various other politicians through song and dance. Proceeds from the show benefit multiple charities across NYC, chosen by the Inner Circle members. It's comedy for a cause and I was honored to have been a part of the festivities for the second year in a row.
Following the show, my family and I attended the "after party" with some of the performers and I felt like a definite celebrity mingling with them. I even ran into NJ Burkett from ABC 7 who remembered me from last year! A special thank you to Michael Scholl, who had me and my family as his guests. We had a blast!
Iber Cup Fundraiser
After the "Eggstravagant Breakfast" I stopped by a send-off party for the Miss Staten Island Organization teens and then it was time for an Iber Cup Fundraiser. What is the Iber Cup? I was wondering the same thing. Iber Cup is one of the world's largest youth football tournaments. In this case, football means soccer. A local team from right here on Staten Island will be competing in this tournament and my fabulous hair sponsor, Claudia Carucci of Zoe Salon, has been hosting fundraisers to pay for their expenses. Her son is a member of the team.
Claudia asked me to attend the event and give the team a motivational pep talk. Though I don't know much about soccer, I do know about motivation and determination, so I agreed. That night, I spoke to the boys about hard work and making dreams a reality. I could relate to them through my years of competing with a team in dance competitions. It's all about trusting each other and learning to work together. "Most importantly," I told them, "believe that it can happen, and it will." I can't wait to see how they do!
One of the greatest gifts the Miss America Organization gives to its contestants is long-lasting friendships. These friendships are not only within the miss program; they cross over into the teen program, as well. This past weekend, I joined some of my Miss New York sisters in "sending-off" our local teen contestants. This year, we have 5 girls from Staten Island who will be competing in the Miss New York's Outstanding Teen Pageant on April 11th.
We celebrated the girls at two separate parties on Saturday & Sunday. Though Charista and Ashley were unable to attend, we hope they know how much love and support they have behind them! A special thank you to Amanda and Allison who organized the second send-off. You girls are incredible!
Good luck to our "Staten Island Teens!" You will be wonderful!
If all of this happened in just two weeks, I can't wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me! I have much more planned in the coming months and will even be hosting some fundraisers for Children's Miracle Network, Pediatric Cancer Foundation, and Cohen Children's Medical Center! Make sure to follow my Public Figure Page on Facebook to keep up with me (and see more pictures)! Thank you all for your continued support!