Tuesday, July 24, 2012

John Hancock Observatory, Boys & Girls Club, and Group Dinner & Pictures (Day 5)

Bright and early this morning all of the contestants loaded the buses for a trip into the city. It was raining so we had a change of plans. Instead of visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo we went shopping! We also visited the John Hancock Observatory which has the most breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Meghan Orsley, Miss Florida International 2012, and I had a great time this afternoon sightseeing together. At lunchtime we headed to the Boys & Girls
Club to spend time with the children and eat pizza. I was paired up with the cutest 3 year old. Aubrey was so spunky and full of life. She held my hand and guided me around the room to all the other Miss contestants. She had me read to her what
state they were from and then she asked for a signed picture from each contestant. Later in the evening we were treated to a wonderful dinner and inspirational speech by the famous Eddie Peterson (the California Intl director). All the ladies wore beautiful evening gowns for the group photo. All in all it was a great night with an amazing ending.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Orientation (Day 4)

The evening started with a wonderful dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen, then it was time to get ready for Orientation. It was so nice to finally meet all of the contestants face to face. Everyone looked fantastic and the room was full of energy. After an introduction of all the executive staff, we went over the timeline of activities and rehearsals, introduced ourselves, and had time to mingle. I am looking forward to this week and excited to have this experience.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Free Day (Day 3)

I got the opportunity today to spend time with my California crew. I am so privileged to have such a great group of people who make my pageant experience so great. First things first...Family is very important to me and I could not do anything
without my forever family. I am so happy to have my Papa with me every step of the way this year. I know my grandma is watching from heaven enjoying every minute of this. My mom (who always seems to duck out of pictures) is my foundation,
and without her I would have never been given the opportunity at a second chance at life. Kara is the most uplifting and motivational pageant coach...not to mention an extremely talented hair & make-up artist. Let's not forget my dear friend, Austin, who made me shine on the California stage last September and helped me obtain the title of Miss California Intl 2012. I am so glad you are here to support me and make me laugh. My sister
titleholder, Amanda, who is a true delight to always be around. I am so happy to spend this time with you and watch you shine. Last but never least...Eddie, you are and have been the greatest director twice! I value our friendship and love your support. Our friendship is unique and I would not change it for the world. Thanks for everything!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mrs. International Finals (Day 2)

The Mrs. International final was amazing this evening. I was so surprised to see Sarah Bertrand (Miss Teen Illinois International 2010) who I competed with two years ago for the title of Miss Teen International. She looked beautiful and it was great to reconnect. I am so proud of my sister titleholder, Jessica Cassidy, for her 1st runner
up placement. She is such a class act and I am honored to reign with her. At the end of the night the coveted Mrs International crown went to Sarah Bazey, Mrs. Minnesota International. Congratulations Sarah...your story & platform are amazing.

Chicago Here I Come! (Day 1)

Today was, hands down, one of the most eventful, fun, and exciting days of travel I have ever experienced. Our day started at 6 am, when we all hauled our 10 pieces of luggage to LAX. Mom, Papa, Kara and I spent the morning in the Admiral's Club chowing on delicious muffins and bagels. Our flight was canceled due to maintenance issues. After about an hour we were booked on another flight and we were off! After boarding
the plane I was pleasantly surprised to be called to the cockpit to meet the Captain. He asked to take a picture with me and wear my sash and crown. Once we landed in Chicago my Papa took a nasty fall in the airport. He just had back surgery so after a call to his surgeon, we were told to go straight to the emergency room, do not pass "GO", do not collect $200. Circumstances put aside, we had a blast in the hospital with the patients, nurses and doctors. By midnight Papa was given the thumbs up to be released and we were on our way to Skokie.
We were dead tired but our adventure was not quite over. With very empty bellies we searched relentlessly for a food establishment and were so grateful when the neon pizza signs glowed our way. Kara and I spent a good 30+ minutes rehearsing in the middle of the pizza parlor while our pizza was in the oven. What an eventful first day, can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

$10,000 donation to Luggage of Love from the Scott Foundation

I want to thank the Scott family for your generous donation of $10,000 to Luggage of Love. I am beyond words with your generosity, love, and support. So many children will benefit from your donation and it is people like yourselves who truly are making a difference in the lives of our foster youth. Simply put I am speechless.

Make-A-Wish grant of luggage for Tori's trip to Paris

Today I met the most inspirational young lady. Tori Sather is living with brain cancer. At an early age Tori found herself having mood swings and tripping all the time for no reason. Since the age of 5 her brain tumor had went undiagnosed until she was in her teens. Finally they found the culprit of all of Tori's troubles...a tumor the size of a softball. At the age of 15 Tori underwent surgery to remove the tumor. During the surgery, the left side of Tori's body became paralyzed. Since then, she has spent
countless months recovering in the hospital. She never gave up on her fight to gain feeling and mobility on that side of her body. Today she is mobile and continues to fight on. I am so inspired by Tori and all that she has gone through. She is a beautiful and strong person with a heart of gold. I adore you and your outlook on life. I hope you have the most amazing time in Paris and that you and your mother enjoy your luggage.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A pallet of luggage packed with love from Girl Scout Troop #60477

A HUGE thank you goes to Girl Scout Troop #60477 for stopping the Luggage of Love office to help ship out a pallet. You ladies were great worker bees and I had a blast watching you palletize this shipment from start to finish. From decorating the luggage tags, putting them
on the luggage, separating the luggage, stacking it on the pallet, and shrink wrapping it...YOU DID AMAZING! The children at the shelter will love getting luggage wrapped with care from you. I've loved getting to know each and every one of you and please come back to help and visit anytime!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fellow Casa Pacifica resident and friend of mine, Cristina Miranda, Sr. Youth Advocate, was interviewed by NBC News during her internship at Capitol Hill! Please click on the link below to watch what amazing strides former foster youth around our country are doing today. So proud of all your accomplishments Cristina! Keep up the good work. Click here to watch the video

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Meadowlarks Award Luncheon

The Meadowlark Service League ("MSL") is a non-profit organization of women dedicated to raising funds for a variety of local charitable organizations and programs. They have given over $2,500,000 to worthy organizations since their inception in 1971. This year was their 40 year anniversary, and they awarded $233,000 to deserving, non profit organizations and scholarships to local graduating high school seniors and continuing college students. One of the conditions of the grants is that all recipients must be located in Ventura County and the money must be spent in Ventura County. I am honored that the Meadowlarks once again included Luggage of Love as one of their recipients this year. Thank you to all of the ladies who work countless hours to raise these funds, it is greatly appreciated and I am humbled beyond words. Your grant money will help the many children in transition in Ventura County so they do not have to put their personal belongings into trash bags.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Soroptimist International Ruby Award

Soroptimist International of Camarillo is a member of an International organization that improves the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world. This morning I was honored as this
years recipient of their Ruby Award for my efforts with Luggage of Love. Honorees of this award are women who have worked in extraordinary ways to benefit women and girls. I am blessed to have been
chosen for such a distinguished award. Thank you to all the ladies in the organization, I enjoyed the lovely breakfast with each and everyone of you and I thank you for your continued support of my organization.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Buena High School Speaking Engagement

Buena High School has a specially designed class for students who were "at-risk", and have now changed turned it around and improved their grades, and more importantly... their lives. This class often has outside speakers come and share their story of overcoming adversity and making the best possible lives for themselves, despite who they were or where they come from. I was asked to share my story of being a former homeless, shelter, and foster youth; the challenges I faced and the struggles I continue to battle. This group of young men and women all had similar stories so we were able to relate to one another on a deeper level. I hope that my story made a difference in their lives. Thank you Buena High School for having me and I am honored that you have asked me to return to speak again.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Princess Serena's Birthday

Happy Birthday to the beautiful Little Miss Serena! Today my team and I helped Serena celebrate her birthday in style. The theme of the party was American Girl and fairy, so each of Serena's guest had an American Girl doll as well as a beautiful fairy headpiece. After a fun-filled day, we ate yummy cupcakes and the young ladies were elated to open their goodie bags that I had brought for each one of them. Thank you so much Princess Serena for spending the day with me, I had such a fun time! May your tiara shine and all your dreams come true. **And thank you, Paula Miller, for your generous donation to Luggage of Love**

Friday, April 27, 2012

Talk of the Desert

Today my adventures as Miss California International 2012 lead me to the City of Palm Dessert to film a segment on the show "Talk of the Desert." I was interviewed by the host and executive producer of the show, Melinda Read, who also
happens to be Mrs. California International 1996. It has been 2 years since I was last on the show as Miss Teen California International 2010 and I quickly brought Melinda up to date with what I have been doing the past two years. I shared my
perspectives on my early childhood and what it has been like growing up since being adopted. We also discussed how I now use the tragedy of my past as a positive influence to do good things like starting Luggage of Love, speaking to
youth in the system, bringing awareness to the huge population of foster and shelter children who just need a chance. I also talked about of getting involved with other organizations to make a difference in our communities. I explained the importance of the International Pageant System in the success of my endeavors with Luggage of Love. During the interview Melinda surprised me on set with a new 3 piece set of luggage. The entire crew was beyond nice and I had a wonderful time. Thank you Melinda for once again having me on your show. And thank you to the Time Warner Cable studios for your warm welcome, my visit was amazing.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thousand Oaks Girl Scout Troop

Girl Scouts...girls changing the world one community at a time. These young ladies aspire to be someone, to do more with their lives within their community. This in itself is so heartwarming. After introducing myself I shared with the group why I founded Luggage of Love and why it is so important to me. To my surprise at the end of the meeting each girl generously donated some very cute pieces of luggage to the shelter and foster children in our community. I had a great time meeting with the Thousand Oaks Girl Scouts, sharing my story and decorating luggage tags. I look forward to your trip out to the Luggage of Love office to pack a pallet of luggage for shipment.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Teenage California

Happy Birthday Mom...were going to watch a pageant! Not exactly the words my mom wanted to hear but over the course of these last few years she has definitely grown to love my "sport" of pageantry. Actually, I can say that it is days like this that are so special. Having the opportunity to drive an hour and have that mother/daughter bonding is priceless. More importantly we were in route to watch my "little" (Claire
Wright) compete for Miss Teenage California, and we would not miss it for the world! The pageant was huge and we enjoyed watching all the girls compete. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces from the International Pageant system on the stage competing. (Taylor Kandris **TOP 10**, Andrea Barrett,
Paige Knight, and Jayne Geist **3rd Runner Up**....great job ladies!) It was a pleasure to also see one of my sponsors, Tiffany Tollett from Crowns & Gowns, as well as Courtney Critz (Miss Teen Nevada International 2012), Shalyn
Stanfield & Kara Knudsen (Crowning Moments), Karen Wright (Claire's mama), Christian Pelay & Kristen Bradford (Crown Diva), and last but not least my sister titleholder Amanda Jenkins (Miss Teen California International 2012). I am so proud of all of the ladies who competed and congratulations to Cassandra Kunze for being crowned Miss Teenage California 2012 and to my "Little" for her 2nd Runner Up placement, so proud of you!