Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Aaron Cox wins OU Idol!

OU Idol took over my life for pretty much the entire month of October. I literally ate, slept, and breathed OU Idol. My social life was a bit nonexistent and even my school work took a backseat to this production. It was the first show I have ever produced, and fortunately I had the help of my classmates, our Bobcats for Babies collegiate council, and the NCASC communications club.

In honor of Prematurity Awareness Month which is the month of November, we decided that OU Idol would be a great way to heighten awareness for premature birth and raise money for the March of Dimes. Prematurity Awareness Month takes place every November in honor of all the babies born prematurely, many of whom are no longer here with us today. Even when premature babies do survive, they often suffer life-long health problems such as blindness or cerebral palsy. When these babies are born early, there vital organs are not yet developed causing severe problems. Here is a picture of our campus graffiti wall we painted to further heighten awareness of premature birth.

On October 27th, twenty-six students auditioned for the OU Idol competition on the Athens campus in the Baker Student Center Ballroom. The contest was open to all students on the Athens campus. Contestants paid a $10 fee entry fee that benefited the March of Dimes. Contestants were ask to sing 60-90 seconds A Cappella for the auditions. After each performance, the judges provided feedback to each contestant. At the end of Monday's show the Top Ten contestants were announced, and then two more contestants were added in to make a Top 12. These Top 12 advanced to the OU Idol Finals on Tuesday, October 28th. During the Finals, contestants performed their entire song and were critiqued by three, qualified judges imitating Randy, Simon, and Paula. A Public Vote accounted for the score of the “fourth judge.” Ticket prices were $1 for the audition round and $3 for the Finals round. All Prizes were offered to the Top 12 Contestants. At the end of the finals night, the Top 5 contestants were announced, each receiving $25 to a local hair salon. The grand prize winner several gift certificates from around Athens, a $150 to a local hair salon, a gift basket, and a 3 song demo recording CD with LeVeck Entertainment and Production.

Aaron Cox wins OU Idol and the prize package worth over $1000! Aaron sang John Mayer's,"I Don't Trust Myself with Loving You" while playing acoustic guitar in the Finals Round.

The stage set-up in the Baker Ballroom. 125 students attended the auditions and almost 250 attended the Finals Round. OU Idol raised $700 for the March of Dimes! We had a great deal of media coverage and the front page of one of our local newspapers, "The Athens News." It was a fun show and was well supported by the community. Singers were able to showcase their talent and we were able to raise funds and heighten awareness for the mission of the March of Dimes.

March of Dimes Volunteer Leadership Conference 2008

It seems to have been a long time since my last post, and a great deal has taken place since then! October marked our March of Dimes Volunteer Leadership Conference as well as as OU Idol competition. The later took over my life for a good while, but was well worth it! Below are pictures from our Volunteer Leadership Conference in Houston, Texas. Every fall, volunteers from all over the country and our twenty National Youth Council members attend this conference. The past two year Sherri Shepherd, one of the co-host from "The View," has hosted the awards ceremony. Sherri had a premature baby a few years ago and has since become a life-long volunteerfor the March of Dimes. Other guests included Celebrity Chef Rock (pictured above) and Congresswoman Jackson-Lee, both of whom care dearly about issues dealing with infant mortality and premature birth. The President of the March of Dimes, Dr. Jennifer Howse, spoke to the National Youth Council when we arrived at the conference. This is always a highlight of my weekend. Below is a picture of me with Dr. Howse.She is an amazing transformational leader! The weekend was full of stories of triumph from families who have dealt with premature birth and workshops to help each volunteer better serve his community. I was part of a generation panel workshop that discussed trends in volunteering over each generation. I represented Generation Y and sat along side a representative from the Generation X, the Baby Boomers, and the Elders Generation.This was my third Volunteer Leadership Conference. It is always refreshing to my commitment to the March of Dimes and it is always great to spend time with other members of the National Youth Council. We are all college students from different states across the country and we are almost like extended family. Pictured below are some of our NYC members.

This conference yet another wonderful opportunity with the March of Dimes and I am honored to serve this organization that has contributed to the healthy life I am living today.

Friday, September 26, 2008

OU Idol, Las Vegas, and Miss NEO!

This week has been full of tests, quizzes, meetings, and planning for OU Idol! Our Bobcats for Babies group on campus will be producing an Ohio University Idol in October. We will be holding an audition round on Monday, October 27th and a finals round on Tuesday, October 28th. All proceeds benefit the March of Dimes! We are holding both rounds in out student center Ballroom and are currently accepting applications. I have spent at least 20 hours this week getting our registration forms, flyers, and logistics together so we can start publicizing the event. Now that everything is in place, we can better delegate work to committees. My National Communication Club is also working on the event to help members get experience in PR and advertising. For the audition round, contestants will sing 60-90 seconds of a song A Cappella. The top twenty who make it on, will get to perform the entire song to backing music at the finals. Prizes are yet to be determined, but hopefully the community of Athens will be feeling generous!

Tomorrow, I leave for Las Vegas for a week-long internship with Destinations by Design, a full-service meeting and event management company based out of Dublin, Ohio. The fifteen of us going will be working a Fourth-Quarter Kickoff Event for T-Mobile. This corporate meeting is for 2,600 of T-Mobile’s employees, handset vendors, and partners to come together and get ready for the Q4 Selling Season. We will be exposed to logistical planning procedures, event execution, and other event planning details. With a love for event planning, I know this internship experience will be very helpful to my future career.

I will return from Vegas on Friday, October 3rd, before Miss North East Ohio,which will take place on Sunday. It is bound to be a long day after flying across the country and going on no sleep, but I am looking forward to crowning the next Miss North East Ohio! Anne and Ken have been wonderful directors and will be great mentors to any of the contestants competing. Good luck ladies! I will see you in a week:)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Miss Lake Erie

Yesterday, six Miss contestants and three Teen contestants competed for the title of Miss Lake Erie and Miss Lake Erie Teen at Lexington High School. I had a great time getting to know each of the young ladies. In the dressing room, I shared a table with Heather Wells, who was my roommate at Miss Ohio. I also had the opportunity to get to know Ashley Hartman, Alicia Huyghe, Monica Johnson, and Brittany all of whom I had never competed with before. It was an honor to share the stage with each of these talented women. There might have only been six of us, but we had so much fun together! Ashley was first runner-up and I am sure I will see her again on the Miss Ohio stage. Also, congrats to Heather for winning the swimsuit award which was well-deserved. I was happy that my mom, dad, and grandma were able to attend the show. They are so supportive and I am so thankful they were there. I am excited to return to Miss Ohio again this year as Miss Lake Erie. A huge thank you to the Miss Lake Erie crew, James Grimes, and Kasey and Nancianne for putting on a great show.

On October 5th I will give up my title as Miss North East Ohio. Anne and Ken have been wonderful directors and I will miss them very much. If any ladies are interested, Miss NEO applicatons are due on Tuesday.

I am looking forward to my year as Miss Lake Erie and sharing my efforts through this blog. The beginning of this year has been a bit of a struggle thus far, so hopefully things will begin looking up:) My horoscope (Aries) even says I might meet someone interesting this month, so at least that is a start! Thanks to all the ladies for being so wonderful yesterday. I hope to see you all again soon! ...maybe even at Miss North East Ohio in two weeks:) Pictures are posted below!
Miss and Teen contestants before interview
My Miss North East Ohio directors, Anne and Ken Hablitzel
My wonderful, amazing grandma!
My mom and dad:)
Ladies in evening wear

Before the talent competition

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And it begins!

Tonight was our first Bobcats for Babies meeting. Bobcats for Babies is a March of Dimes collegiate council at Ohio University I founded my freshman year of college. We went over general March of Dimes information and our schedule of events for the quarter. The most exciting update is that we will be planning an OU Idol where all proceeds go to the March of Dimes! We are excited to start off the new year and have lots of new faces joining us. At our fall student involvement fair last week we had almost seventy new students sign up. Here is a picture of our table below.
This Saturday I am competing in my first local of the season, Miss Lake Erie. I have been so busy with the start of the school year, it is hard to believe this weekend is almost here. Between my three volunteer jobs with the March of Dimes, new classes, organization meetings, and work, I have had little time to think about competing. I am excited, however, to get back into locals again.
Friday, I am traveling to Columbus to get my National Group Fitness certification. It is an all day process from 9 am to 6 pm. I have been teaching group fitness classes the past two years and absolutely love it! This quarter I teach four Pilates classes, two Step and Strengthening classes, and a CORE class each week. After college, I will continue teaching as a side job and my AFAA National Certification will make me much more credible.

On September 29th I leave for a week-long event planning internship in Las Vegas through the company Destinations by Design. I will be traveling with fourteen other members that were chosen from my National Communications Association club. I will miss a week of school, but the hands-on experience will be well worth it!

Well, for now I am off to study for a quiz and read from my exciting Marketing book. I teach aerobics at 8 am so I hope to get to bed at a decent time. Until next time!


Friday, August 15, 2008

A slight pause after a long week

Friday could not have come any sooner! This was an extremely busy week, but very worthwhile. With the school year quickly approaching, I had a great deal of work to do for our Bobcats for Babies organization on campus. We have increased our membership to over thirty students, but always like to utilize the student volunteer fair at the beginning of the year to recruit more members. Bobcats for Babies is a collegiate chapter of the March of Dimes I started my freshman year of college. With the help of several supportive friends, it has grown into a well-known student organization. We organize mission events, raise funds, and heighten awareness for premature birth and birth defects. We now have started a blog for our organization to keep students more informed of our efforts on campus.

While catching up on my March of Dimes work, I have been working at our Ping Recreation Center on campus. As a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and fitness assistant (basically a desk job), I spend a great deal of time at Ping. Today was especially long, since I put in eleven hours. A nice break from the week was taking a trip up to Cleveland to judge the Miss North Royalton pageant which is led by Sylvia Jenson, the director of the Miss Ohio local preliminary, Miss Greater Cleveland.

Since Cleveland is closer to my hometown than Athens, I drove home Wednesday night after work to cut the drive down to two and half hours. My mom, always trying to help, decided she would drive with me (I think she fears I will fall asleep at the wheel). Regardless, I had not seen my mom too much lately and it was fun spend time with her on the trip. The pageant took place on Thursday with interviews beginning in the afternoon. The contestants were split into five categories ranging from age five to twenty-one. I enjoyed talking with the little ones and was impressed with their speaking ability at such young ages. When I was seven years old, I highly doubt I could articulate my words very well. I was more worried about digging in the dirt and beating the boy next door in basketball.

Janelle Zindroaski, Miss North Royalton 2007, kicked off the event by singing the National Anthem. Janelle has competed in several Miss Ohio preliminaries, and shared that she has been participating in pageants since the age of seven. Later in the show she also sang LeAnn Rimes, "One Way Ticket," which has always been one of my favorite songs. She is a very sweet person and I hope I will be seeing her in the near -future at Miss Ohio locals.

One of the highlights from the show was when the youngest contestant and only boy, won the title of the Miss North Royalton Little Prince. After he was crowned, he began throwing up his arms, performing karate moves and flexing his muscles. He was adorable and the audience loved him!

Our judging panel had a great time the whole day. There were many laughs and stories told outside our judging duties.
From left to right: Me, Louisa Cieprel, Ann Carroll, Alison Liscoe, Lisa Iwasaki

Lisa (pictured with me on the right) is the current Miss Teen Ohio International, which was held in Zanesville this past March. She is a very beautiful, talented girl and was full of energy the whole day! Alison Liscoe also had a very impressive resume. She was a past competitor in the Miss Ohio America program, 3rd Runner-Up to Miss Ohio USA, and a semi-finalist on "America's Next Top Model." Now you know why I stood at the opposite end of the line for the judges photo! Also, Alison is getting married next week. Sylvia's husband Harvey was giving her all kinds of marriage advice, most of which was rooted in humor.

Another exciting part of the evening was the opportunity to meet Whitney Sue Fricke, the new Miss Cuyahoga County. She is absolutely beautiful and she too has a recent obsession with super-high waist line. We even took a picture to prove it. Whitney did a wonderful job performing her talent piece, "Orange Colored Sky." She has great stage presence. After the show, my mom and I met Whitney's family, who were all very kind. I can see Whitney doing very well this year at Miss Ohio.

Before we left, Lisa and I took a picture with Sylvia. Her energy amazes me! She never stopped moving the whole day. My mom and I arrived back in Zanesville around 1 am, and then I drove back to Athens. Since I had to work this morning at 6:30 am, there was no sense waiting to go back in the morning. It made for a long eleven hour day at work, but the experience at Miss North Royalton was worth it. It is always nice to experience an interview from the other side of the judge's table. I enjoy judging and it is always a good learning experience.

I am grateful that is finally Friday and to top the day off, I now have internet in my apartment. Basically, that means you will be hearing from me again soon.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Good Luck Sarah!

Sunday I attended the Miss Outstanding Teen Send-off party for Sarah Hider. I first met Sarah at Miss Lake Erie this past year and was immediately impressed with her. She is very mature and put together for her age, and a extremely sweet girl. Sarah leaves on Wednesday for the 2008 Miss Outstanding Teen Pageant which will take place in Orlando, Florida August 12-16th. If you would like to send her a card for good luck, the address is listed below:

Miss Ohio's Outstanding Teen
Sarah Hider
c/o Rosen Centre Hotel
9840 International Drive
Orlando, Fla. 32819

At the send-off, Sarah modeled her wardrobe and performed her talent piece, "Mr. Melody." Not only is Sarah beautiful, but I've always thought she is one of those naturally beautiful people. I am sure she will leave a great first impression with the judges. Below are some of the pictures I took of Sarah in her different wardrobe pieces. The bright pink gown at the bottom was Sarah's prom dress which she will now use for a production number. I love a girl who knows how to reuse and save money! Especially when the gown looks like brand new and great on her. The middle picture is of her walk-on gown and the top picture is of Sarah in her evening gown. It looks even more beautiful in person.

Since the send-off took place the day after I returned from Atlanta, I was extremely sleep deprived and not feeling too well. Because of this, my mom decided to take the trip with me to Mansfield. This made it nice that we could catch up and spend time together before I headed back to school. It was also great to see Kasey Wilson, Becky Minger, Roberta Camp, and Marlia Fontaine. We each performed two songs: Kasey sang "Never Alone" and "Time to Say Goodbye," (my favorite of hers), Becky sang "Summertime" and "Gold," (her Miss Ohio talent piece), and Marlia performed "The Impossible Dream" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I sang "At last" and Jordin Spark's (last years American Idol) rendition of "To Love Somebody." Originally, I had planned on singing my Miss Ohio talent piece, "I am Changing," but I lost about half of my voice from getting no sleep at my conference. Thankfully, I was well enough that I could somewhat sing by Sunday.

Marlia did a great job emceeing the event which was held at the Westbrook Country Club in Mansfield. One of the highlights of the event was getting to see Roberta and Kasey's engagement rings...both which are gorgeous! Best wishes to them both, although, I must say I will miss competing with Kasey. I always enjoyed competing with her and thought she would become a Miss Ohio.

After a group picture and many well wishes, my mother and I went to visit my host family from Miss Ohio this past year. Dr. Chuck and Nadji Young live on sixty acres of farmland on the outskirts of Bellville. This was their first year hosting, but they did a fabulous job! My roommate, Heather Wells, and I had a wonderful week with them. On the day of Heather's interview, I had spare time in the morning, so Dr. Chuck took me out on his gator. We went through miles of woods and farmland with their dog Buff chasing along behind us. Everynight Dr. Chuck would stay up until Heather and I would return home so we could all chat about the day as we rampaged the cupboards. After eating all of his dried mangos, he decided to buy us each our own pack.

Unfortunately, Dr. Chuck recently had a very serious surgery dealing with his aorta. When I saw him on Sunday, however, I was thankful to see him walking around and being his usual chatty self. He still has an infection, but you would never know it because of his optimistic outlook on life. Before we left, I got a picture with Nadji and Chuck as well as Buff whom they call, "The best dog in the world"....for good reason.

It ended up being a great day and seeing the Young's made me anxious to start competing in locals again. I'll keep my fingers crossed that my luck this year will lead me back to the Young's Tree Farm next summer.

A refreshed spirit

This past Saturday I returned home from our 2008 National Youth Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. While I have been to many March of Dimes conferences in the past three years, this one in particular had a much greater impact on me than I anticipated.

Let me first give you some background on the National Youth Council. We are a group of twenty college volunteers from around the country who build youth volunteers efforts for the March of Dimes. Every year, our National Youth Council has three meetings we attend; a volunteer leadership conference, a staff conference, and our own National Youth Council meeting in White Plains, NY. Every three years; however, the March of Dimes holds a National Youth Conference for youth from all over the country to attend. This year, the National Youth Conference was held in July on the Georgia Tech campus.

Our March of Dimes National Youth Council began planning this conference fourteen months ago in conjunction with the March of Dimes National Office. The purpose of the conference was to recruit life-long volunteers for the March of Dimes and provide these students with the resources they needed to implement March of Dimes work in their communities. As a council, we were divided into committees to plan workshops, general sessions, attendee experience activities, special events and excursions, and many other logistics that went into planning the conference. To the left is a picture taken of some of our National Youth Council members. Megan Myers (on the far right), our 2008-2009 National Youth Council chair, is also from Ohio but attends the University of Pennsylvania.

The National Youth Council arrived to the Georgia Tech campus on July 27th, two days before the attendees arrived. We had meetings from morning to night to ensure that we had gone over every last detail. When the attendees finally arrived, we were excited to meet the one hundred and fifty student volunteers and get our conference agenda rolling. Each National Youth Council member served as a dorm floor leader which consisted of about twenty attendees. Since the title of our conference was "Destination: Healthy Babies," each floor was a different location. My floor was Kansas City, which is known for the biggest "Bikers for Babies Ride." To the right is a picture of our dorm floor taken during the Amazing Race competition. Our dorm floor had attendees from Ohio, Nebraska, Alaska, Nevada, and Oregon.

While our National Youth Council responsibilities created a great deal of stress and little-to-no sleep, it was clear that the attendees were having a wonderful time. They were excited to learn more about the March of Dimes, take part in workshops, and listen to our inspirational guest speakers like Greg Gumbel (pictured to the left) and Kari Strug (former gold medalist in gymnastics at the '96 Olympics). Everyone was truly moved by the heart-wrenching stories from our ambassador families. Premature birth is more common in multiple births. The mother of these triplets (pictured to the right), credit the March of Dimes for their survival because of the amazing medical breakthroughs and advances funded by March of Dimes research.

By the end of the week, the attendees from all states were intermingling, networking, and sharing ideas as if they had known each other all along. During a reflection period on my dorm floor, I was truly touched by some of the remarks made by the attendees. One high school student in particular, shared with me that this conference had changed her life fovever. In July 1994, Lauren's mom lost a son to a birth defect and a year later lost a daughter. Devastated by these events, the mother decided she did not want another mother to go through this pain. She soon became involved with the March of Dimes, and now Lauren follows in her foot steps. After attending our 2008 National Youth Conference, Lauren has created a group to further motivate teenagers to take their volunteer efforts to the next level. This is an excerpt from the note she wrote me:

The March of Dimes will fight day and night until the day all babies are born healthy. All of the teens around the United States who are a part of March of Dimes Team Youth need to hear the mission. They need to realize that every person, every dime, and every hour they spend volunteering changes a life and changes the future of the March of Dimes and babies born all around the world. That is why I feel that the group MOD.youth.motivation. will teach teens the mission of the March of Dimes and give them a reason to work and volunteer that much harder and be able to have a lot of motivation. Every teen counts and makes a difference. My goal is that every Chain Reaction across the United States will join this group and that every teen will work even harder. The March of Dimes has changed my life forever. The things I have learned and the people I have met will always be life long friends of mine whom I will never forget. My name is Lauren Stephens and I plan on being a life long volunteer for the March of Dimes.

I asked for permission to post a piece of her message, because it displays the energy and drive of our youth volunteers today. Lauren's passion for this organization reminds me why we push ourselves so hard in our volunteer work...why we work day in and day out raising funds and heightening awareness for this cause. It is our duty- our responsibility as the next generation of parents. I volunteer for the March of Dimes because I know that the end result is worth it. Thanks to March of Dimes research, we now know that surfactant therapy can be given to premature babies to help their lungs develop and that women can decrease their chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect by over 70% by taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. These are just two amazing discoveries that have saved thousands of lives.

The March of Dimes was founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to conquer polio in 1938. Seventeen years later, it did just that. The March of Dimes then broadened its mission to prevent all birth defects, and in recent years has focused on preventing preterm birth. These problems cost our society billions of dollars and have devasting effects on families. In addition, infants born prematurely are more likely to develop cerebral palsy, blindness, and mental retardation.

I want to be there the day when we can ensure that all babies are born healthy. I want to be there when no family has to suffer the heartbreak of seeing their baby hooked up to a ventilator in the NICU struggling to survive. I want to be there the day when the March of Dimes must once again redirect its mission, because birth defects and premature are no longer a problem. The organization has done it once, we can do it again. My March of Dimes volunteer work will end the day we can ensure all babies are born healthy and full-term.