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Miss California Night 1 Preliminary Winners

Sarell Diamond Sarah Dahdouh Nikki Holbrook

Miss California begins preliminary competition

Nikki Holbrook Miss Barbary Coast

Miss Barbary Coast Nikki Holbrook entertains with Edward Grieg's “Concerto in A Minor”

Pianist wins first-night talent award

Miss California and Miss California's Outstanding Teen kicked off the 2018 competition Wednesday at the William Saroyan Theatre in downtown Fresno. Taking home the Miss California Preliminary Talent Award for the Beta Group and a $500 scholarship sponsored by the Fresno/Clovis Visitors and Convention Bureau is Miss Barbary Coast Nikki Holbrook. Nikki performed Edward Grieg's “Concerto in A Minor” on the piano.

 

Sarell Diamond, Miss Hollywood

Miss Hollywood Sarell Diamond in swimwear by Kandice Pelletier

Tie in fitness competition

Tying for the Miss California Preliminary Lifestyle and Swimsuit in Fitness award for the Alpha Group are Miss Hollywood Sarell Diamond and Miss San Francisco Sarah Dahdouh. Each wore custom swimwear designed by Kandice Pelletier Swimwear, and both women will receive a $300 scholarship sponsored by the Preliminary Pageant Association. This is the final year for Miss California contestants to compete in Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit as the competition will be retired beginning with Miss America on September 9.

Sarah Dahdouh Miss San Francisco

Miss San Francisco Sarah Dahdouh in the Lifestyle and Fitness competition

This evening in Miss California competition, the Alpha Group will compete in On Stage Question, the Beta Group will compete in Swimsuit & Evening Wear categories, and the Gamma Group will compete in the Talent competition. The competition will begin directly after completion of the teen preliminary. Catch all the action via our live stream at MissCalifornia.org/live, brought to you by Nexstar Broadcasting, CBS 47 Fresno, and Live Light Technologies.

Photos courtesy of Doug Hikawa

 

Asante Sana, Africa | Miss Southland

“Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.”- Jim Rohn

 

Miss Southland Stephanie Behring The Wheelchair FoundationAt twenty-three years of age, I have witnessed more hardship and inaccessibility than most people will see in their lifetime. In 2001, my grandfather, Kenneth E. Behring, established The Wheelchair Foundation, a non-profit organization in Washington D.C. Although this organization is something that I have been exposed to since I was a young child, it is has touched me so deeply that I plan to one day take over for my father as the President of The Wheelchair Foundation. I feel honored and blessed to have been able to support their mission on over ten different mission trips in twelve different countries.

The Wheelchair Foundation has been my gateway to seeing these hardships firsthand in a myriad of different countries and has opened up my eyes to a world that many people tend to shove under the rug. Poverty, disease, malnutrition, armed conflict and lack of proper medical care are all major struggles and causes of disability in the developing world.

To date, The Wheelchair Foundation has delivered over 1,000,000 wheelchairs to over 156 different countries across the globe. It is estimated that at least one hundred million children, teens and adults worldwide need a wheelchair, but cannot afford one. Some international organizations state that the number could be as high as 6% of the population of developing countries.

Miss Southland Stephanie Behring The Wheelchair FoundationMany times, these individuals do not attend school and are less likely to be employed. Families with a disabled family member tend to struggle financially and are pushed further into poverty often resulting in abandonment. Already suffering from the pain, isolation and indignity of a physical disability, many of these people must endure further burdens, many are forced to live on the ground or to wait to be carried to meet their most basic of needs. For many of the disabled, a wheelchair is a critical source of mobility which aids independence and integration into society, including their ability to earn a livelihood. For disabled children, a wheelchair aids their cognitive and psychosocial development.

When I was 14, I had the unforgettable opportunity to travel to South Africa to deliver wheelchairs with my dad and some Rotarians. Though I had always felt it was my calling to serve others, it was this pivotal trip that transformed the course of my life and who I was as a Daughter of the King. Since my last trip to Africa, I had had dreams to return, but this time around I wanted to make the trip happen completely on my own. My father told me that the way in which I could return would be to fund two containers of wheelchairs- which seemed daunting at $16,500 per container.

3 years ago, that dream to return to Africa became not only a plan, but a mission. For three years, I went to Rotary Club after Rotary Club putting together presentations on The Wheelchair Foundation (TWF), spoke at local schools, and put together fundraisers hoping that people would aid me on this mission. It is still SO darn humbling to know that so many incredible individuals provided what they could to help me surpass my goal of 2 containers, in fact, these servant-hearted folks helped me raise $42,500 to bring with us to Africa!!!! (Forever saying thank you for this!)

My dream had come alive and before we knew it, we were contacting non-profits and organizations in Africa and booking our flights to Tanzania.

Stephanie Behring Miss Southland The Wheelchair FoundationWhen we arrived in Tanzania, we were sent on our way to the first wheelchair distribution at the Arusha District Commissioners Office. When we arrived, we were greeted with over 100 smiling faces of recipients, supporters, and family members. I'll never forget pulling up to the distribution and seeing so much joy and gratitude in one sitting. We were escorted to a small, white table in front of all the recipients where a few members of the Tanzanian government introduced us and spoke about our non-profit and our mission. Before we began placing the recipients in the wheelchairs, my father and I were able to give speeches of our own (it was pretty nifty to have our own Swahili translator!)

The next day marked our second wheelchair distribution which took place in Monduli at the Monduli Rehabilitation Centre where we were once again greeted with about 75 smiling and joyous faces! At the rehab center, we were able to see the rehabilitation services provided by the Tanzanian government and were able to visit with a few of the children who were recovering from amputations, limb separation, prosthetic limb attachment, or facial surgeries.

Miss Southland Stephanie Behring The Wheelchair FoundationFollowing the tour of the rehab center, we began to set up the 50+ wheelchairs we had brought with us, most of them being “kanga wheelchairs,” which are specialized wheelchairs for those with severe deformities (I.E cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, Mermaid Syndrome). Most of our recipients on our distributions were children, and upon seeing all of them, I immediately wished that we had been able to provide more of the kanga wheelchairs (which is tough because they're pricier at $650 per wheelchair versus $150 for the regular ones).

As always, it's incredibly difficult to see the disabilities and struggles that plague a third world country, and this distribution was no exception.

One of the most heart-wrenching feelings is seeing the way in which many of these people live when they are immobile. Many recipients arrived on motorcycles by being strapped to the driver, crawled their way to the distribution, used crutches as transportation, were carried on the backs of their caretakers, and some even made make-shift wheelchairs that were falling apart piece by piece.

We saw so many children that had horrific birth defects- most prominently cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus (brain swelling), Sirenomelia (Mermaid Syndrome where a baby is born with their legs sewn together), and congenital amputation (where a baby is born without limbs). A lot of these birth defects are due to lack of proper nutrition during pregnancy, excess fluoride in the water, AIDS, unsafe food and water, and poor prenatal care.

The remainder of our recipients were a mixture of elderly, people who had been paralyzed by car accidents, and people that had been involved in work accidents.

Stephanie Behring, Miss Southland, The Wheelchair FoundationOne of the most heartwarming stories from our distribution happened at our first distribution in Arusha. I had just placed this 8-year-old boy who had been paralyzed his entire life into a wheelchair when I asked the young girl next to him if she was his sister. She spoke English and told me she had been practicing so that she could thank us properly.

She took hold of both of my hands with tears in her eyes as she looked at me and said, “He is my best friend. We are best friends. We dreamed of the day that he could have his own wheelchair. I pushed him 35 miles for this. He is my best friend and now he is free to play on his own.”

You best bet I lost it at that moment.

One of the most incredible things I noticed in Africa was the immense sense of family and love that Africans have for one another. At these distributions you see family members who have taken care of the recipient for years, sometimes even decades. For example, at the Monduli Rehab Centre I met a recipient who was 104 (yes, 104) years old who had been taken care of by her son for over 40 years. Her son said that the government doesn't provide healthcare and hospitals refused to give her a wheelchair because they didn't believe it was necessary.

So for 40 years, he took care of his mother.

This blog post doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the joy and gratitude that these wheelchair distributions provide. For my readers who have never been on a wheelchair distribution, it is one of the most life-changing experiences. I don't even know how to describe what it feels like to place someone in a wheelchair- to give them independence, hope, mobility, and a new lease on life by providing a simple seat and 4 wheels.

Nothing in my life has been as rewarding as not only being able to provide the funds for 2 containers of wheelchairs, but also to be able to distribute the wheelchairs with my family. I am forever grateful.

As I did when I was 14, I once again left my heart in Africa.

Nothing But Gratitude and Goals- Miss North Bay

Molly Crawford Miss san diego, Molly Crawford San Diego State University

Courtesy of Hart Photography

I am an undergraduate, full-time student at San Diego State University studying Journalism and Media Studies with an emphasis in Public Relations, and a minor in Dance. I would not have had the means or courage to pursue my dream of higher education had I not taken the leap to compete in my first Miss America’s Outstanding Teen local pageant in 2010. I’m proud of who I am and who I am becoming, and the Miss America Organization is an integral part of that.

Molly Crawford Miss North BayOne of the most invigorating parts of being a local titleholder is attempting to live each day in embodiment of the Four Points of the crown: Scholarship, Style, Service and Success. College is one of the most challenging yet exciting goals I have ever set for myself. I take pride in my status as a student, remain eager to learn and be successful in my academic career. Nothing feels better than giving your school the scholarship dollars this organization provides. My personal style has evolved fluidly throughout my journey. It has become representative of where I’ve been, where I am at currently, and where I am pointing my arrow next. I am firm believer in the influence of everyday surroundings on the way you style yourself. My style projects an image of me that is representative of my adolescence in the Bay Area and my early adulthood in San Diego. My platform is called Perfect Imperfection: Body Positivity and Respect. I created this movement to inspire a culture of respect and positivity when we talk about our bodies and their differences, particularly among children and teenagers. Serving my community in this way has allowed me to contribute to the Body Positive movement. Success is something I strive for in every part of my life with each day I pursue my dreams.  

Courtesy of Hart Photography

Courtesy of Hart Photography

If I could add a fifth point to the crown, it would be Sisterhood. Beyond the scholarship and the opportunity for personal development, the Miss America Organization provides a place for people to connect and create long lasting relationships with some of the world’s best people. I have found some of the most wonderful friends in the contestants, volunteers and sponsors I’ve had the opportunity to work with and get to know. I have found so many people who inspire me to push myself, be kind and to remain grounded in my purpose. I am an advocate of empowering others due, in large part, to the people I have met through the Miss America Organization. The sisterhood is strong, influential and so very real.

Molly Crawford Dancing Miss North BayBeing a Miss America local titleholder affords women endless, incredible opportunities that are extraordinarily unmatched. There are obvious perks, like the scholarship money each contestant is awarded, the chance to make a difference in our communities, and the ability to train professional, social and emotional skills in the field on a regular basis. “Adulting” is my favorite way to put it. This organization gives women scholarship money in exchange for the chance of a lifetime. I have spent the last seven years competing in this organization because my involvement in is directly tied to the accomplishments from all facets of my life.

I am honored to be Miss North Bay 2018. Being a Children’s Miracle Network Ambassador, and an advocate for body positivity and respect is an absolute dream come true that I am fully engaged in. I am diving into this year of service with gusto, courage and so many ideas I can’t wait to manifest. Follow me at @MissNorthBay on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with my journey!

Tiny But Mighty- Miss Bay Area

Ashley Nelson Miss Bay AreaGrowing up I have always been looked down upon… literally. My short stature has always made me feel in some way inadequate. For example, in certain buildings, the mirrors are placed too high and all I can see is the top of my head. Also, some eye holes in doors are too high for me to look through.

In addition, when people first meet me they say you’re so “cute”, because you’re so “tiny”. When I was younger I took these comments graciously, but as I became older, I wanted to be noticed for more than just my height when people first met me. I wanted to be noticed and remembered for my confidence and how personable I was, rather than just my small stature.

Ashley Nelson Miss Placentia's Outstanding TeenEntering the Miss America Organization gave me the opportunity to do so. I was a fairly new teenager coming into this program and it was around the time I truly wanted to find out who I was as a person. After holding my first title as Miss Placentia’s Outstanding Teen 2015, I gained so many qualities that boosted my confidence and pushed me to be a better representative of not only myself, but of something greater than myself. I learned that I am not just what is on the outside, but I am so much more than that. I am a strong, independent woman who has her own opinion and can stand in a room and exude an inviting essence.

Ashley Nelson MIss Bay Area 2018I’m so grateful for the Miss America Program for giving me the opportunity to find out who I am while representing the cities I love. Winning the titles of Miss Placentia’s Outstanding Teen 2015 and now, Miss Bay Area 2018 proved not only to myself of my capabilities, but also how unique this organization is. It is purely about who the women are on the inside, and shows it is not in search for a cookie cutter type. It promotes diversity and individuality, and I am honored to be part of this organization. I hope to grow even more as a woman this year as Miss Bay Area 2018 and I cannot wait for the experiences I will gain.

I know now, that I am not just a five foot girl who only sees the top of her head in mirrors, but I am a confident and successful woman, and I owe that all to the Miss America Program.  

Miss Garden Grove- Where Sash Meets Science

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Volunteering at USC-affiliated Children's Hospital of Los Angeles

When I share that I am pursuing a career in medicine while wearing a sparkly accessory (albeit one that is perhaps not the most inconspicuous), I often get a few raised eyebrows. For some, it can be understandably difficult to reconcile the two and imagine how two seemingly different worlds could mesh together. But having traversed both paths, I can attest that the two worlds are inextricably linked and each arena compliments and enhances the other. Having gone from a complete outsider to now a staunch supporter of the mission and values of this organization, I can share firsthand the impact the Miss America Organization has made on me.

Sarah Bui Miss Garden Grove
The Miss America Organization is founded on four principles, also known as the “four points of the crown”: Service, Scholarship, Style, and Success. This multifaceted foundation enabled me to be a better public servant and has equipped me for a lifelong devotion to service in medicine. The medical vocation is most notably marked by a relentless commitment to advocating for others. I am most grateful to the Miss America Organization for allowing me the opportunity to do exactly that each and every day as Miss Garden Grove. Not only am I privileged to be a voice for my hometown at large, but I am also blessed to meet community members from all walks of life. From the precious kids at our Children’s Miracle Network hospitals to the devoted members of our Garden Grove community service groups, every child, parent, and public servant has shaped me by sharing their story. I met a woman who shared how the Pink Door Salon, our incredible local (and state!) sponsor, had changed her life by helping her heal and regrow her hair after experiencing alopecia areata symptoms. By taking the time to hear her journey and healing process, I better understood how we as healthcare providers can empathize with and advocate for our patients. Connecting with the Garden Grove community continues to mold my vision for what it means to serve, care, and advocate well both at the individual and community scale.

The very people that I am privileged to serve are the ones who have generously supported my academic journey and helped me to attain my Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Southern California in three years. In addition to awarding scholarships, this organization has given me the tools to help me hone my public speaking and communication skills in professional and diplomatic settings.

Steve Jones, the Mayor of Garden Grove, is also an USC alum!

Steve Jones, the Mayor of Garden Grove, is also an USC alum!

Success looks different to each individual. Personally, I experience success in investing and sowing into relationships – from my Garden Grove neighbors and friends, to the people I meet from all over the world. Each of us have the ability to sow into relationships and lift up those around us, with or without a title. That being said, it has been an honor to have a platform to mentor and empower the youth in my community, and to learn from those who have gone before me.

The past few years have remarkably transformed my outlook and vision of what it means to truly have a servant’s heart. I can’t wait to see what growth, challenges, and blessings lie ahead in this coming year.

 

 

Excited to share this journey with you all – join me on Facebook and Instagram at @missgardengrove to stay in touch!

 

Yours truly,

Sarah Bui

Miss Garden Grove 2018