February 24- 27
A couple of weeks ago I received a very special e-mail from Amy and Jay Engle, the executive directors for the Miss Nebraska Scholarship pageant. It was an invitation extended on Teresa’s behalf to invite me to her homecoming celebration in Nebraska for the long weekend! I was very lucky to have Teresa, Miss America 2011, as a roommate in Las Vegas. We quickly became friends and established a close relationship with each other. I felt honored to be invited to Nebraska, not only because I was going to see Miss America- but to see my friend again and to see how she is doing.
Thursday, February 24
My flight this morning left Bradley Airport around 8am. I had a quick layover in Michigan and I arrived in Omaha around 1:30p.m. Bob Kropp and Caroline Bright, Miss Vermont, greeted me as I got off the plane. We waited for quite a while at the airport because of delayed/ cancelled/ missed flights. The time went by quickly though because I was in such great company! Ericka Dunlap, Miss America 2004, came to join us. Then Emoly West: Miss Oklahoma arrived, and finally Jalee Fuselier: Miss Hawaii and Miss Washington: Jacquie Brown! I can’t even explain the feeling of excitement to see everyone again! We went on a corporate jet to North Platte, Nebraska. I have to say, that was one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had! We all were in awe of the plane and we made jokes the entire flight of how we felt like celebrities. It’s not everyday that you get to ride on a private jet!
We landed in North Platte, met with Alyse Eady, Miss Arkansas, and headed to a VIP reception at the Spike. At the small gathering we were able to see Teresa and she ran right up to give me a huge hug! We mingled for a while with everyone, took some pictures, and then ate as we caught up with one other. Teresa is doing very well- of course she is very busy, but she is really enjoying herself. She is still the same Teresa that we all know and love!
After the reception, we were picked up in a stretch hummer limo! Ericka had the great idea that we go through the drive thru at a fast food restaurant. We went to this place called Runza and we decided to all go inside and make a scene instead of going through the drive thru! It was a very funny sight to see all of us. I did not try a Runza, and I’m still not exactly sure what it is, but my milkshake was delicious!
We were dropped off at our hotel and all of us girls, including Teresa and Ericka, got into comfortable clothes and hung out for a while before going to bed. Our “girl talk” was great… I really don’t think I have laughed so much in a very long time. It is just so nice to see how “real” everyone is. I am so lucky to have such amazing friends!
Friday February 25
This morning was very special and almost impossible to describe in words to those who weren’t in attendance. It was the Miss America Prayer breakfast that took place in a large ballroom at our hotel. One thing I love about Teresa is her openness to express her faith. She, herself, explained that she didn’t know she was ready to win- however, it was God that had it in her plans. They read aloud one of her favorite scriptures, Timothy 4:12-16, which says a lot about Teresa’s Message.
12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Teresa’s speech was moving. After she finished, Jay- her state executive director, introduced me before coming up to sing. He explained that people are brought into each other’s lives for a reason and he shared a little bit about the special friendship Teresa and I developed while at Miss America. When I came up to the microphone I, too, felt the need to say a few words on behalf of all of the girls. I just mentioned how we are blessed to have Teresa in our lives and that we are so proud of her and will be with her every step of the way. Then I sang Amazing Grace. It was a very slow, acoustic version of the song that struck emotions of many in the audience. I feel honored that I was given the opportunity to sing at such an amazing event. To top off the morning, philanthropist George Garlick donated 50,000 to create the Teresa Scanlan Scholarship fund to benefit the Miss Nebraska scholarship. He is truly amazing!
This afternoon we had lunch at the Canteen Grill at the hotel in our own small room. It is always great to eat in good company! Afterwards, we had a sound check in the ballroom for tonight’s performance. At around 2pm we went to the Platte River Mall for an autograph signing. We signed about 900 autographs for many children and other Miss America fans. At night was the Evening of Dreams gala where we ate a delicious meal, listened to Teresa speak, and we state titleholders performed. We mingled with the guests and took many pictures before heading up to bed! A wonderful and eventful day!
This morning we flew on our private jet to Omaha, Nebraska! As soon as we hit the ground our driver, Walter, picked us up and brought us to the children’s hospital. We went around to many rooms visiting the children! We talked to each patient, gave autographs, took pictures, and even sang happy birthday to a couple kids! Before leaving we went to visit a floor of the hospital with children suffering from eating disorders. A few girls and their mothers waited for us to come. I enjoyed this visit especially because I was able to have a conversation with them. A few moms told how this illness really was unexpected to them because they didn’t think their child, as young as 10 and 12 years old, could suffer from an eating disorder. They were very happy to talk with us and they were thankful for Teresa promoting her platform of eating disorders to get the word out.
While at the hospital I met a gentleman from a local TV station named Chase who is a friend with former Miss CT contestant and my good friend, Corrina Pysa! We made a video to send to her to say hello! It’s really a small world.
After the hospital, we all went to have lunch with all of the former Miss Nebraska’s. It was really great to meet everyone and to chat during our meal!
After the zoo we went back to the hotel. I found out recently that I had family in Nebraska, so during our down time before the evening events my relatives stopped by the hotel for a short visit! It was so wonderful to see them!!
For our last big event, we had another dinner gala in the hotel. We had a wonderful meal and we were all able to perform our talents again, listen to Teresa speak, and mingle with everybody there. At the end of Teresa’s speech she told an inside joke that only myself, the other contestants, and Ericka Dunlap understood because of our conversation the previous night in the hotel. We all burst out in laughter as the audience sat there watching us. This just goes to show that Miss America is a ‘real’ person, and to us who are able to know her well, a great friend.
Tonight we all gathered in our hotel rooms to spend time with each other before we departed in the early morning. Jay and Amy Engle and Marc Angeli from Miss America joined us. I will truly miss everyone so much. It was an incredible weekend.
Teresa did not join us because she was busy meeting and greeting others downstairs at the hotel. However, I stopped by her room before she went to sleep. It was really neat to see the huge suite she was staying in! I gave her a frame of a collage of pictures of us from Vegas. I also gave her a pin called the “Circle of Friendship” and a note to go with it. The pin had one angel holding hands with a circle of other people. I explained that she is the angel and holding her hands are the rest of her Miss America sisters that will be here for her throughout her journey. I wanted her to know that she has a friend to talk to at any time; even Miss America needs that!
Sunday February 27
This morning we said our final good-byes as we went to the airport and left our separate ways. I am so thankful that I had this opportunity!