This is it. Last Monday, the clock began to tick down (and my nerves began to spiral) to the date of the pageant: Oct. 22. It was a week away! If it was coming in hot before, now it’s burning me.
So, I could have spent this last week freaking out. I could have spent it trying to talk myself out of it. I could have spent hours guesstimating how many times I am going to trip on the stage. But I thought I’d try to a bit more … productive (less destructive).
When I think of pageants, I think about glitz and glam, sparkles and a hell of a lot of hairspray. I’ll admit, the charitable platform pageants pave the way for is often overlooked — I’m guilty of not really thinking about that when I’d turn on Miss America.
Wrong. So wrong.
There has been a tradition at the University of Florida Homecoming pageant called the Queen of Hearts. During the week before the pageant, contestants are encouraged to recruit as many people as possible to donate blood in their name in support of LifeSouth Community Blood Centers. We have buses parked on campus all the time ready for donations. It’s amazing how many Gators walk in and out of those buses in between classes to lend just a few minutes of their time to donate and save lives. As you can imagine, recruiting my friends to donate was not a daunting task — at all.
I mentioned in my previous post about how my sorority sisters and families have been helping me out through this whole pageant process, and a week before the pageant, they certainly didn’t let up.
When discovering this competition for blood donation, my sorority sisters Meredith and Brittain immediately stepped up to help me. They made a Facebook event inviting hundreds of people to donate blood and they even posted up these hysterical face-in-hole posters of me around our sorority house.
All this week, I’ve had people coming up to me with their arms wrapped in gauze telling me. “I donated!” or texting me “I did it!” I can’t really put into words how awesome that made me feel. Sure, it helps me for the pageant, but even more importantly, it’s helping out some people in need of blood donations. It’s amazing, really.
But the philanthropy didn’t stop there, folks. The pageant is part of our university’s homecoming festivities including Gator Growl, which is the World’s Largest Pep Rally. I’m not joking. It’s insane. The football stadium fills up with people for fireworks, performances from students and this year they booked Josh Turner and Tracy Morgan to perform — huge deal. And the Gator Growl stage is where the winner of the Homecoming Pageant is announced (the pageant elects the top three men and women).
The theme for Gator Growl this year is “United We Growl”, aka America-themed. Fittingly, this year’s Gator Growl is benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project, which honors veterans. Specifically, you can sponsor a veteran by buying them a $25 ticket for them to attend the Gator Growl festivities.
I’m no stranger to seeing the good that comes from the Wounded Warrior Project. My father and little brother were part of a huge effort for his high school baseball team’s work for the Wounded Warrior Project. Last year, the Venice High School Baseball Boosters, which my dad headed, had a night at the baseball field dedicated to veterans and those who had served. They even held a fishing tournament, which put veterans on boats to go fishing. To see how touched these veterans were by these efforts was pretty indescribable. Some even walked up to my father thanking him with tears of joy in their eyes.
You can imagine how thrilled I was to hear UF was working with the Wounded Warriors, too. This was actually a major driving force for me signing up for this pageant.
Now, it was just time to see how I could contribute to the cause. I did a bit of fundraising for ads in the pageant program, and I did a lot better than I expected. Again, thanks to my sorority sisters. Long story short, Delta Zeta and myself donated enough money to send 22 veterans to Gator Growl this year. 22!
Hopefully, they’ll be able to sing along to Josh Turner a little better than I can (which isn’t saying much.)