Thank you, and have a blessed new year!
Miss Minnesota 2011
To learn more about the Miss Minnesota Organization, please visit www.missminnesota.org.
This is a blog I have written for the Autism Society of America. For those who don't follow ASA blogs, do it! I am posting it on my blog as well because I want to make sure this message is as visible as possible.
This is my last Autism Society of America blog before I leave to compete in the Miss America pageant in January. It is important to me that the followers of this blog know that Miss America is more than just a beauty pageant. The Miss America Organization has given me a voice and an opportunity to take my personal experience with autism and channel it into service work that positively impacts my community. I would like to take this time to share my personal connection to autism as well as some of the ways I have been working to improve the lives of people impacted by this condition.
My brother Trevor has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) called Asperger’s Syndrome. My passion for autism stems from my personal connection to the condition. First and foremost, I serve as a supportive sister. I have been Trevor’s swimming teacher, tutor, coach, advocate, and best friend.
Trevor’s struggle to make friends and his success in doing so after enrolling in a social skills class inspired me to found Awesome Club, a social skills program for special needs children that meets weekly in the Northfield School District, near where I attend St. Olaf College. I wrote a program proposal, met with the district’s autism specialist, special education teachers, and superintendent, and solicited volunteers from my college. Since its inception, Awesome Club has experienced tremendous growth. It began with four students and four volunteers. Four years later, Awesome Club now serves over 30 special needs students at two different schools.
During the six and a half months that I have been Miss Minnesota, I have traveled over 17,000 miles, working to increase awareness of ASD by speaking at schools, civic organizations and community events. My message of hope and success for individuals with ASD has reached even more people through the use of radio, television, and social media. I have collaborated with numerous autism organizations, including the Autism Society of Minnesota as its official spokesperson and Steps of Hope committee member, and the Autism Society of America as a spokesperson and popular blog contributor. I have also volunteered with Autism Speaks, CADE (Children with Autism Deserve an Education), Holland Center, West Metro Learning Connections, Southwest Minnesota Autism Coalition, Fraser, ARC, and the Minnesota Autism Center. I participated in the production of a training video for Boy Scout troop leaders working with children with ASD, which I hope will eventually be distributed nationally to create a more inclusive environment for kids with ASD who hope to find success through Boy Scouts of America. Recently, I met with Governor Mark Dayton to discuss important legislative action related to the Minnesota autism community. My passion for this issue is evident in the number of miles I have traveled, the number of organizations with which I have networked, and the number of people I have touched with my personal story.
I am relaying some of the work I have done, not to toot my own horn, but to let America know that I am serious about working on behalf of the autism community. I leave to compete at Miss America next week, and I may have the opportunity to bring my autism advocacy to the national level as your new Miss America. I need your help. America has the chance to vote one contestant into the Top 15 at the Miss America pageant, which will air LIVE on ABC on January 14, 2012. Each contestant created a one-minute video indicating why she should be the next Miss America. My reason for wanting to be Miss America is greater than myself. I want to bring national attention to the issue of autism by becoming the first Miss America in its 91-year history to have an autism platform.
Please, go to www.missamerica.org/videocontest to cast your vote to get me into the Top 15 at the Miss America pageant. Don’t forget to watch me compete for the title of Miss America LIVE on ABC from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Saturday, January 14. And, if you happen to host a viewing party, please take photos and tag “Miss Minnesota 2011 – Natalie Davis” on Facebook!
Thank you, and have a blessed new year!
Miss Minnesota 2011
To learn more about the Miss Minnesota Organization, please visit www.missminnesota.org.
Tuesdays at Gillette
Every Tuesday, I have the pleasure of spending time with the children and families of Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, Minnesota's Children's Miracle Network Hospital. I channel my inner kid by doing crafts and coloring with the patients while they wait in the lobby, and I visit patients between their therapies at the rehabilitation center. Here are some of the inspiring children I have met:
I met Ava (above left) during an occupational therapy session. She is from Washington, but she is staying at Gillette with her mother while she receives medical treatment.
I ran into Alvin (above right) while he was playing with a castle and princesses! He was the sweetest! He blew me a kiss before I left, and then got very shy when I blew a kiss back to him!
Lydia is 6 years old, and because of a brain tumor that was recently removed, she has lost her sight and some of her mobility. Despite the adversity she has faced, however, Lydia has come so far with the help of the doctors and rehabilitation therapists at Gillette Children's Hospital. Lydia was a little cranky after her therapy because it tired her out, but she cheered up when I knelt next to her, told her who I was, and pulled her hands toward my crown so she could feel it. Her face lit up with the sweetest smile. It made me feel so good to make her day. And of course, we had to get a photo of her wearing her Pretty Pretty Princess crown and jewelry!
To support Lydia, Ava, Alvin, and the other children of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, please make a donation by clicking on the Children's Miracle Network tab above. You can also purchase my lullaby CD, Sweet Dreams. All proceeds benefit the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and go directly to the children being served in Minnesota at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare.
West St. Paul Optimist Club
I spoke to an Optimist Club, the West St. Paul Optimist Club to be exact, for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was a fabulous experience!
1) I met Chuck (left), who arranged for me to speak to the West St. Paul Optimist Club, at the State Fair, and at that moment, I was primarily trying to find ways to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. I had no idea until later that he also had a son with autism! A serendipitous encounter!
2) I'm used to speaking to Rotary Clubs at 7am (i.e. I wake up at 5am to get ready and leave home by 6am to get there in time!), so an evening meeting with the Optimist Club was a treat!
3) The mayor of West St. Paul sent me a special mayoral proclamation, stating:
WHEREAS, the City of West St. Paul is honored to have Miss Minnesota, Natalie Davis, visiting West St. Paul's Wentworth Library on Wednesday, November 30th, 2011; and
WHEREAS, she will be speaking on "Autism-The Missing Piece" and sharing her brother Trevor's incredible success story as well as speaking about families and children who are living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); and
WHEREAS, she will be singing songs from her new children's CD "Sweet Dreams," lullabies which she recorded to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network; and
WHEREAS, the City of West St. Paul no only welcomes her but acknowledges her many accomplishments and passion to increase awareness and acceptance of Autism.
BE IT RESOLVED, that I declare today, Wednesday, November 30, 2011 as Miss Minnesota, Natalie Davis, Day.
Given under my hand on this day, the 30th of November, 2011.
November 30, 2011 was Natalie Davis day in West St. Paul! How cool!
4) The Optimist Club has an inspiring creed that they strive to live by. Cheryl, the West St. Paul Optimist Club's president, gave me a plaque with this creed, which I plan to take with me to Miss America to keep me grounded. It states:
Promise Yourself ...
-To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
-To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
-To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
-To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
-To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
-To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
-To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
-To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
-To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
-To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
I had a wonderful time speaking at the West St. Paul Optimist Club. Thank you so much for listening to and caring about my message of hope for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and thank you for supporting me in my quest to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals by purchasing so many copies of my CD! The West St. Paul Optimist Club absolutely stays true to its goal of helping children succeed!
Salvation Army Bell Ringing
I spent several hours bell ringing outside Apple Valley Walmart for the Salvation Army. I'm thankful it wasn't TOO cold! That day of bell ringing earned almost $300 for the Salvation Army. I will also be appearing at "Celebrity Bell Ringing" on Friday, December 16 at Southdale Mall at 1:00pm. Stop by, say hello, and donate while you are shopping!
Minnesota Autism Center
I was recently invited to a Parents Night Out event at the MAC (MN Autism Center) School for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Parents could drop their kids off for a night of fun at the MAC School while they ran errands, went Christmas shopping, or enjoyed a date! We did crafts, played games, and ate treats. I had so much fun spending time with them. I met a boy named Hunter (below left), who promised he would cheer for me while he watched Miss America in January as long as i didn't forget him. (See, Hunter? I haven't forgotten!) I also met a little girl named Hanna (below right), who sang her rendition of "Part of Your World" from the Little Mermaid, complete with choreography!
I was so impressed by the MAC School, a year-round program that serves students in 4th grade through 12th grade who lie on all points of the autism spectrum. The goals of the MAC School are to foster academic success, independence, self-awareness, social consciousness and behavioral management skills. The MAC School is unlike any school of its kind in the nation. According to the MN Autism Center website, the MAC School:
Bowling for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals
For those of you who know about my atrocious lack of bowling skills, you'll be happy to know that I did not bowl at this event, but I was happy to be at Southtown Lanes to thank Marriott Hotels for supporting the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals organization. I took photos, signed autographs, and volunteered to help with the raffle drawings. I also spent some time with Christian, a patient from Gillette Children's Hospital, who spent the evening bowling with his dad.
KS95 for Kids
On Saturday, I volunteered at the 13th annual KS95 for Kids Radiothon at the Mall of America. Over $400,000 was raised to support Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare (Minnesota's Children's Miracle Network Hospital) and the Children's Cancer Research Fund. Thank you to the many people who volunteered their time to plan the event and to take donation pledges over the phone that weekend! If you would like to donate to Gillette Children's Hospital, click the Children's Miracle Network tab above.
Autism Friendly Christmas Party at the Holland Center
After my appearance at KS95 for Kids, I met Barb (the Miss MN Business Manager) at the Holland Center in Minnetonka for a Christmas party, complete with autism friendly Santa Claus and Buddy the Elf! Blake (left) is 14 years old, he has autism, and I think he may be my biggest fan! According to his mom, Blake did not come to the party to see Santa; he came to see Miss Minnesota! He knew everything about the upcoming Miss America pageant, including the fact that it would be aired by the "America Broadcast Company." He now also knows what airline I am taking to Las Vegas, what hotel I am staying at, and how I am getting from "McCarran International Airport" to the hotel. He is very thorough! I had so much fun chatting with Blake. He and his mom may even come to my send off party on Saturday. I am excited to introduce him to my brother Trevor.
Holland Center is a day treatment clinic for children with autism. Holland combines what is researched to be the most effective forms of therapy combined with the environmental interventions that have been proven to make a difference in a child's ability to learn. The people at the Holland Center have also been enormously supportive of me on my journey to Miss America, and I am so thankful for that! For more information about the Holland Center, visit: www.hollandcenter.com
High School Awesome Club Christmas Party
It was the last day of Awesome Club for the semester and I was SO thankful to finally have a Thursday free to visit my favorite people! We had a Christmas party in which everyone brought White Elephant Gifts to exchange. I want to take the opportunity to thank Nick Hoverstad and Noelle Waldschmidt for their incredible leadership this year. I am confident that Awesome Club is safe in their hands, and I am excited for this program to continue to serve children with ASD and other special needs for years to come! Also, thank you to Apoorva Pasricha, an Awesome Club volunteer and talented writer, for putting together a beautiful article about Awesome Club. (Click the photo below to read it!)
Ordway Glass Slipper Ball
I spent a magical evening at the Ordway Glass Slipper Ball in St. Paul on Sunday. This royal event included gourmet food, dancing, and an exclusive look at the final dress rehearsal of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. I was escorted that evening by Alex Wendling (i.e. my Prince Charming for the past 2 years). All proceeds from this event benefitted the Ordway and its educational programs for local children. Thank you to the Ordway board of directors for inviting me to this event. I love theater and I love fairy tales! My experience at the Ordway was absolutely enchanting!
This week, I had radio interviews with KDUZ and KKMS. Stay tuned for more media appearances leading up to the Miss America pageant!
December 19-Twin Cities Live
December 27-Interview on KARE 11 at 4:00pm
December 28-Interview with Tim Bergstrom on KLFD radio at 8:20am
December 29-Interview with Don Rivet on KTOE The Morning Blend at 8:20am; Interview with Lisa Crownie on KEYC TV at 12:00pm
To arrange a media appearance with me, Miss Minnesota, before I leave for Miss America on January 4 (the day after my 22nd birthday by the way!), contact the Miss Minnesota Business Manager, Barb Ghelen: