Growing up in Mississippi I was raised in a culture of community service. This tradition taught me the most important lesson of my life. I learned how good it feels to help others smile and find moments of happiness.
As a child and young adult, I competed in pageants. It is customary for pageant winners to lend their titles to various causes. However, during the summer of 2000, while I was working as an intern at the Children’s Miracle Network telethon, I had an epiphany.
There was a little girl named Randa who was singing at the fundraiser. She was a pediatric cancer patient and her struggle really touched me—so much so that I decided that something needed to be done for her. I went home after meeting Randa and found one of my old tiaras. I brought it back to the station and gave Randa that tiara. She put it on and I could hardly believe her response. She began to glow immediately and of course I began to glow in turn. The moment felt like quiet brilliance. After that, events moved quickly. I hosted my first event in 2000 at the children’s hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. Word spread from there and people started contacting me about doing the same thing in their area. Within the first year, the For a Day Foundation hosted chapters in California, Illinois, New York, and Mississippi.
The most important lesson I’ve learned from working with the children is simple —kids fight to stay kids. As children do, they have an optimistic mindset. Even though some of them have illnesses that will take their lives, they somehow always hold on to their innocence. If these kids can stay optimistic about their personal struggles, so can the rest of us!
People always ask me what keeps me from getting burnt out from the emotional demands of running this kind of organization. I always answer the same. The things that energize me most are the stories I hear about patients and families we’ve helped. Here are two stories that continue to inspire me.
A great moment in our history was when I found out that a former patient had recovered and was volunteering to work with us. Amazing! On the other hand, not all the stories are happy ones. For example, I was incredibly touched when I heard that one of our patients had requested to be buried with the tiara that we gave her.
One of my greatest challenges is planning how we should position For a Day in the future. As Queen for a Day and Hero for a Day continue to grow, I think more and more about new ways that our foundation can become more valuable to the community.
Thank you for your interest and I hope this motivates you to become involved in The For a Day Foundation. Throughout the website, you’ll find the photos of children we’ve helped and more information about our programs. Let the smiles touch your heart and enjoy the innocence of happiness.