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Miss City of Sacramento: Extra Life

Hello everyone and thank you for taking time to read my blog! For those of you who do not know, my name is Ashley Ott and I have the honor of representing the City of Sacramento this year. I am 23 years old and a recent graduate of the University of California Davis with a Bachelor’s of Science in Cell Biology and minors in Chicano/Chicana Studies and Art Studio. I will be applying to medical school this June with the goal of obtaining a Medical Degree in Pediatric Oncology and a Master’s degree in Global Health, ultimately with the goal of working in rural clinics both in the United States and abroad. I am an avid pianist, scuba diver, archer and I, like many others, am a gamer.

1661179_10153956525515175_913259327_nNow, when I tell people that I’m a gamer, I usually get a wide variety of responses. From surprise to shock, each response never seems to be the same. If you think about it, however, it shouldn’t be that surprising because, in reality, we are all gamers. Whether we play video games, puzzles, sports, cards or board games, each and every one of us, regardless of age, gender or culture, cannot escape the fact that we enjoy playing games. And why not? They challenge us, they motivate us and they bring us together. From my perspective, games make us better people and they genuinely bring joy to our lives.

Three years ago I discovered the Extra Life initiative, a fundraising movement that utilizes the power of gaming to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network, an organization I have been working with for the past six years. Each member commits to playing games for 24 hours during one calendar year and aims to find people who will sponsor them as they work toward accomplishing this task.

Seven years ago, the Extra Life initiative was developed as a way of honoring Victoria Enmon, a vibrant young lady who instantly touched the lives of all she encountered. Victoria was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a disease that has a cure rate of about 80%, at the age of eleven at the Texas Children’s Miracle Network Hospital; however, Tori’s battle with this disease was especially difficult. She relapsed three times and was forced to stay in the hospital for many months at time as her entire community rallied around her and her family. In 2007, the developer of the website Sarcastic Gamer reached out to his gaming community and requested that games be sent to Tori to help ease her stay. What resulted was an outpouring of love and support like the hospital had never seen, while hundreds of games were sent to Texas from all over the world.

Tragically, Tori passed away on January 21st, 2008 after a four-year battle with leukemia; however, her story and strong spirit continues to touch the lives of children throughout the country, as it was her story that inspired the creation of the Extra Life initiative. In the past seven years, gamers across the nation have raised over 14 million dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network and these funds have gone toward saving countless lives.

Extra Life 2Ten million children are treated within the Children’s Miracle Network and, whether we are aware of it or not, almost every one of us knows a child whose life was saved from the money raised within our organization. I am so passionate about the Extra Life initiative because it provides a fun and almost effortless way for you to be part of something greater – to become the person that saves the life of a child within your own community. I am so excited to announce that this year, due to the hard work of the gamers in Northern California, the Sacramento district was selected as one of the first 30 Extra Life Guild communities in the nation, an honor that will allow us to work closely with national leadership to spearhead the Extra Life movement throughout Northern California. We now exist as one of six guilds in our state that are passionately working toward increasing membership, boosting fundraising efforts and establishing corporate partnerships that will benefit the children throughout California for years to come.

Extra LifeSo what kind of games do you enjoy? I encourage each and every one of you to check out your local guild to find out how you can become involved with our organization or simply start your campaign from the comfort of your own home! You can begin an Extra Life Club at your school, compete against your friends to see who can raise more money, or turn this initiative into a family gaming night and dedicate two hours a month toward playing games together. The fundraising possibilities are endless but it is up to you to take the first step and sign up.

So how can you become involved and save a life in your community?

  1. Register and create your personal fundraising page.
  2. Try and get four friends and family members to sponsor you at $1 per hour ($24 each).
  3. Play games for 24 hours – consecutively or throughout the year! Our national day begins at 8am on Saturday, November 7th but you can begin your campaign at any time.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information on how you can get involved with Extra Life or check out our website at www.extra-life.org. Game on California and I’ll see you online!

With love,

Ashley Ott

Miss City of Sacramento 2015

 

 

 

Miss Hollywood: My Gift of Life from Children’s Miracle Network

Hello there, this is Joell Posey Grager, Miss Hollywood 2015!

Baby Joell at Seattle Children's Hospital just a few days old.

Baby Joell at Seattle Children’s Hospital just a few days old.

I wanted to use this opportunity to share my personal story about the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. As you may know, the Miss America Organization teamed up with CMN to raise funds for children’s hospitals throughout the U.S.

I personally was a children’s hospital patient growing up and if it wasn’t for the intelligent, caring doctors and nurses of that hospital, along with the new technologies they had introduced when I was born, I wouldn’t be alive today.

At birth, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital (a member of the Children’s Miracle Network) only gave me a 5% chance of survival, but through the use of new life-support technology and medications, the dedicated medical team at Children’s saved my life. They also assisted me through the follow-up care in facing the residual challenges of Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Lung Disease, and a heart condition.

The wonderful nursing staff of Seattle Children's Hospital spent weeks dedicated to saving my life, even dripping medications once every few minutes for over a day straight.

The wonderful nursing staff of Seattle Children’s Hospital spent weeks dedicated to saving my life, even dripping medications once every few minutes for over a day straight.

Later, when my father’s job forced a family move to Medford, Oregon, I became an outpatient at what is now named the Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, also a part of the Children’s Miracle Network. The hospital’s innovative processes of diagnostic evaluation resulted in my early diagnosis of Autism, immediately followed by cutting edge therapeutic interventions for me. I was referred to the special education preschool associated with the hospital, newly-founded “Roots and Wings,” one of the first to offer targeted instruction for Autistic children.

It was suggested by the school director Rebecca Tree and my occupational therapist Joy Lacy that my parents enroll me in dancing, singing and acting lessons to improve my muscle movement, social interactions and vocal expressions. My progress was unprecedented in overcoming the symptoms of Autism and CP. Most people who’ve met me in recent years have no idea I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy.

After my family relocated back to Seattle, I was diagnosed at Children’s Hospital with Scoliosis and the orthopedic specialists were on top of everything!

This was the first person to ever recognize my love of music. When my nurse played music my vitals would become stronger.

This was the first person to ever recognize my love of music. When my nurse played music my vitals would become stronger.

All the excellent medical attention I received throughout my life along with the endless giving of my parents, siblings, family, friends and the special network of educators, coaches and art instructors has created a miracle of healing for me.

I’m thrilled my participation in the Miss America Organization allows me to give back to the amazing Children’s Miracle Network and assist other young people with special needs through my platform “Overcoming Adversities through the Arts!”