Tag Archive | Melissa Ryan

Standing Tall

There are things about each of us we KNOW we are good at. ¬†I’ve got really nice teeth (never had braces!), God gave me the gift of public speaking and thinking on my feet, and I’m not gonna lie.. my children are BEAUTIFUL and PERFECT ūüôā

There are also things we each know are not our strengths.  Plants literally die in my presence.  I am a junk food junkie (currently fighting the urge to eat Gardettos instead of apples).  I CANNOT dance.  At all.  Not even a little bit.

There’s also this..

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.. my posture. ¬†I HOPE that’s not the first thing you notice when you look at this wedding photo on my bestie Melissa’s special day–because SHE IS GLOWING! (And my other besties Jenni and Pammie are pretty dynamite, too!) ¬†But to me.. I just focus on my crooked-as-all-get-out-shoulder… just a glimpse into the poor posture and resulting slouch I’d developed after 20+ years.

Last summer, fearful I was going to be a hunchback before I turned 40, I finally sought out advice and found Dr. Vanessa Green at Elite Chiropractic.

Photos courtesy Elite Family Chiropractic

This woman has changed my life. ¬†At my first appointment, ¬†x-rays showed that I had a pretty severe curvature of the spine. ¬†What’s more, I discovered my chronic headaches, which I just chalked up to allergies, stress and LIFE, were NOT normal. ¬†I’ve been seeing Dr. G once a week ever since, and I truly FEEL a difference in how I view health, how I function, and how I carry myself on a daily basis.

NOTE: This is not a paid promotion, endorsement or advertisement for Elite Chiropractic. ¬†I’m¬†simply¬†a very happy client.. and this is all transitioning to a bigger story, I promise!

When I first read Allison Baird’s story,¬†Dr. G was one of the first people I had to tell. ¬†I had NO IDEA what this beautiful young girl was hiding underneath gorgeous gowns and a dazzling smile.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I was having severe back pain, went in for an xray, and they discovered that my curve had become 46-degrees and was congenital,” Allie told me recently. ¬†“Meaning, it was a birth defect so I wasn’t really a candidate for surgery or treatment, since they had found it too late. ¬†The doctors basically told me that I would have to live with the pain, and would probably not be able to do everything I wanted to.”

The Allie on the left is the girl I’ve known for about two years now.. the photo on the right shows what her spine looked and felt like within her body. ¬†Allie had been diagnosed with scoliosis at 13 and underwent physical therapy, but she had no idea how dramatic her problem had become. ¬†Still, that dire diagnosis from a doctor didn’t derail this incredible young woman from everything she intended to pursue.

“I smiled politely and said ‘watch me’,” said Allie. “Most people do not know I have it, strangers I meet on the street have no idea, and many close friends didn’t know for years. ¬†We all know someone who is struggling. ¬†We don’t always know their story, but to attempt to understand what that person is going through can mean the world. ¬†Now, I am so much more aware of those things, and I try my very best to have empathy towards others, but also not beat myself up too badly when it feels like I am nowhere near as good at something.”

THAT IS the Allie I know.

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For several years now,¬†Allison Baird has devoted herself to her community and others¬†as¬†a local titleholder in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program. ¬†Twice, she finished 1st Runner Up in the state pageant. ¬†To give you an idea of the caliber of talent and character in those years.. both of those winners finished in the Top 10 at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. ¬†Each year when the other girl’s name was called, Allie conducted herself with grace and humility, being the FIRST to genuinely and warmly congratulate the winner (read more here!)

Without skipping a beat, Allie entered the first Miss pageant she was eligible for.. and in her first try, won the title of Miss Scotts Bluff County 2016.

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“My mom is my best friend and definitely my role model,” said Allie, hugging her mom in the photo above, moments after winning the Miss Scotts Bluff County title. ¬†“She has been a serious source of my strength these past few months. ¬†I think I would have pulled all of my hair out and not had any fingernails if it weren’t for her! ¬†I truly wish everyone could have someone like her as their manager, friend, confidant and coach.”

And with that support system firmly in place, Allie began a nonstop year of appearances, college preparation, and activities as a senior at Gering High School.

Allie is a 4-time state speech medalist, she’s held lead roles in all of her school’s theater productions since her freshman year, she’s a nationally-qualifying DECA member, she’s captain of the Varsity show choir, and was a cheerleader at Gering for 3 years. ¬†An aspiring actor, singer, journalist (or all of the above!), Allie is also a news anchor for her broadcasting team, the Editor In Chief for her high school paper, she’s had articles published by her hometown paper, and she’s shadowed yours truly here at KETV.

Somehow, Allie finds time¬†to volunteer in her¬†community as Miss Scotts Bluff County, whether it be making quilts, donating blood, or simply making a child smile. ¬†She speaks to groups large and small about her personal platform, ‘Learning CURVE’, teaching courage, understanding, respect, value and empathy. ¬†Her favorite part of the pageant experience is Interview, the chance to tell a panel of judges about everything she’s doing.

¬†“I truly believe this is where the magic happens at the competition,” said Allie. ¬†“When the judges get to see that spark of passion, that light in your eyes when you talk about what is so near and dear to your heart, there is absolutely no better feeling. ¬†Public speaking is a passion of mine, and I wish that Interview could be 20 minutes instead of 10!”

Public speaking is the ONE THING I promote to EVERY SINGLE CLASS, STUDENT AND INTERN who I come in contact with, and Allie Baird is a shining example of WHY that tool is so powerful. ¬†It’s a trait she credits to her participation with the Miss Nebraska Organization.

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“The amount of self confidence I have gained from being involved in this organization, I will be forever grateful for,” said Allie. ¬†“I am not scared to talk to a group of CEO’s or a classroom of kindergartners because of the communication skills I have received. ¬†I have heard girls on the Miss America stage, and even the Miss Nebraska stage, articulate their opinions on hard hitting subjects with better grace and dignity than most of the [presidential] candidates. ¬†These ladies are the future. ¬†We want to make a difference. ¬†All of us have the potential, drive and work ethic to do just that. ¬†We breed leaders in the Miss America Organization, and I think that is pretty amazing.”

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A final confession.. I am pretty ASTOUNDED by this young woman, and consistently shocked that this kind of maturity, intelligence, and independance are already so strong in a girl who JUST turned 18 years old. ¬†Complete disclosure, she may also be my little boys’ favorite, after staying with us during a trip to Omaha this fall and playing ‘Olympics’. ¬†Allison Baird connects with people, and inspires them.¬† She works hard and stays humble. ¬†She stands tall, despite the things we don’t see that might break others down. ¬†That is the message she hopes¬†to take across the state if crowned Miss Nebraska 2016.

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Photo courtesy Morgan Wallace

“I want to spread awareness that if you are going through a personal battle, have courage and keep going,” said Allie. ¬†“Know that you are valuable and worthy and that a setback does NOT mean you can’t achieve something you want to achieve. ¬†It just means you might have to take a different road to get there.”

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Click each link to follow Miss Scotts Bluff County 2016 Allison Baird

on Facebook and on Instagram

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALLISON?

2015 * Just Add Glitter

2014 * Special Feature, Nebraska’s Outstanding Teens

For more information about the Miss Scotts Bluff County Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page and HERE on their website. For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by phone at 308-783-2940 or at 308-635-8615.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS..¬†Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Emma Wilkinson!

NEXT.. Miss Dawes County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Aubree Noble!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Sister, Sister

I am the oldest of three, with two ‘little’ brothers. ¬†‘Little’, because now they could crush me if they wanted to, but in a way, I’ll still always be their big sister.

I’ve never longed for a sister, in part, because I am blessed to have such dear friends who have always filled that role for me beautifully.

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But to be a woman and have a sister must be a beautiful thing; sharing secrets, dreams, frustrations, CLOTHES.  To have their support when you need them most, and to help you fly even higher when you soar.

The young woman you’re about to¬†meet has shared a bond with her twin sister since the moment they arrived in the world, a journey now inspiring her individually as one of the state’s most outstanding teenagers.

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MISS KEARNEY CRANE FESTIVAL’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 MERRILEE PRILL

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I was born at Children’s Hospital in Omaha as a micro preemie weighing in at 1 pound 7 ounces and I had a 10-percent chance of survival!” ¬†Merrilee told me recently. ¬†“At 2 years old, [my twin sister and I] were featured on the Children’s Miracle Network telethon. ¬†So, I am Children’s Miracle Network!”

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Merrilee and her sister, Mariclaire, spent four months in the hospital as newborns. ¬†Many deemed them miracle babies since they later only underwent surgery for ear tubes and had no other developmental problems. ¬†This personal story inspired Merrilee’s platform of service ‘Believe the Impossible: Miracles Happen.’

“Because I have experienced this miracle in my own life, I want to inspire others to believe that miracles can happen in their own lives no matter what the circumstances,” said Merrilee. ¬†“This piece of the Miss Nebraska system holds a very special place in my heart!”

One piece of many for not just Merrilee, but the entire Prill family.

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Merrilee’s big sister, Lianna, was Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2012, and just last year, competed for the title of Miss Nebraska (click here to read my profile of Lianna during her time as Miss Crane Festival 2014). ¬†Merrilee’s twin, Mariclaire, was Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen 2013.

“I first got involved in the Miss Nebraska program because my sisters were titleholders,” said Merrilee. ¬†“I experienced challenges while competing for [local titles]. ¬†Consequently, winning did not come as quickly for me as it did for my sisters. ¬†Now as I come to the close of my reign as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen, I have been able to sharpen my public speaking and stage presence skills. ¬†These parts of the competition used to terrify me. ¬†Now, I comfortably speak to a crowd of insurance professionals as a keynote speaker, address a crowd of community members at an outdoor festival and convey encouragements to patients at Children’s Hospital.”

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And those visits to Children’s are among Merrilee’s favorite moments as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s OT.

“My signature project for this program has been decorating over 400 colorful place mats for patient meal trays,” said Merrilee. ¬†“Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces during craft hours just makes my job as a titleholder so gratifying because that makes me feel like I am making an impact by encouraging them that miracles can happen in their lives as it did in mine.”

Among Merrilee’s other top memories this past year include signing nearly 400 autographs for the annual Daddy-Daughter Banquet in Kearney and spending time with her sister queen Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen (click here to to learn more about Allison!).

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“I know the importance of being a positive local role model for young girls,” said Merrilee. ¬†“It was a bonus during my year to share this event and many others with Allison!”

Merrilee is also looking forward to connecting with a few other ‘sisters’.. her fellow outstanding teens from across the state. ¬†She sent me this picture, taken the last time many of these girls were together, at the Crowns and Gowns weekend in North Platte.

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Merrilee striking a pose with Miss Douglas County’s OT 2015 Steffany Lien and Miss Scotts Bluff County’s OT Grace Heggem.

A year’s worth of moments and memories, all leading up to one amazing night. ¬†So many ‘sisters’, biological or otherwise, that will no doubt be in¬†Merrilee Prill’s mind and heart¬†during those moments she takes the stage alone in North Platte.

“I have to say that walking in my evening gown is the most fulfilling part of the competition for me, because that’s the point when I feel the most confident and I feel like I’m on top of the world,” said Merilee. ¬†“Very few teenagers get to do this on such an awesome stage!”

Only 11, in fact, this year. ¬†And of those outstanding girls, one will be crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. ¬†Will it be Merrilee Prill? ¬†Just ask the once 1.5 pound miracle who defied all odds at birth; ANYTHING is possible.

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Follow Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Merrilee Prill on Instagram.

 To contact Merrilee for appearances and events, visit the Miss Kearney/Miss Tri-Cities Pageant on Facebook.

Click here for a special feature on Merrilee on the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Facebook page!

For more information about how to become a contestant, email Director Megan Goeke at megan@hellobeautifulbridal.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

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PREVIOUS..¬†Miss¬†Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Cherokee Purviance

NEXT..¬†Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen

To read more about the Miss Nebraska‚Äôs Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‚ÄėThere She Is‚Äô link at the top of the page.

When I See You Smile

There are some people in the world who can literally light up a room with their smile.  Take one of my best friends, Melissa.. no matter where we are or what time we are at in our lives, her smile makes everyone around her smile.  She is PURE JOY, pure sheer goodness, and that positivity just radiates out of her.

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My best friends and I at Omaha Fashion Week.  Melissa is the hottie second from the right.  Thanks to Herb Thompson for the photo!

I first saw the young lady you’re about to meet when she competed in the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen pageant last fall, where she finished 1st Runner Up. ¬†From that night on, I continued to follow her over social media through the pageant where she would win her own title, and I don’t think this teen HAS EVER STOPPED SMILING.

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MISS PLATTE VALLEY’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 EMMA KATE BROWN

(Photo courtesy J Allen Photography)

Now, as I read¬†my interview with Emma Kate and see what’s behind that smile, her attitude not only inspires me.. she’s kinda knocking my socks off. ¬†Emma Kate is fighting two chronic illnesses, Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.

“I¬†was diagnosed with Celiac Disease when I was three years old, so we’ve been doing gluten free at our house before it was trendy,” joked Emma Kate. ¬†“I cannot eat wheat, barley, oats, malt or flour.” ¬†(For more on what Celiac Disease is, click here to read my interview with Miss Crane Festival 2014 & Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2012 Lianna Prill.)

Emma Kate has also been an ambassador for Diabetes awareness and research long before her pageant days, appearing on KETV First News for an interview with John Oakey several years ago.

“Something else unique about me is my love for public speaking! ¬†I had a great time talking with John Oakey and showing him my dance moves,” said Emma Kate. ¬†“I wasn’t nervous a bit, but I do think my interview skills have improved.”

She’s getting plenty of practice; Emma Kate is also a youth ambassador for the JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).

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Emma Kate: ‘Had a great time this morning volunteering for my favorite group, the JDRF. Met this little girl who was diagnosed with diabetes two months ago. She inspires me by how strong she is facing such a life changing disease. Loved getting to talk about my story and hearing hers.’

“My platform is turning Type 1 into Type None and it is about raising awareness and funding for a cure to Type 1 Diabetes,”
said Emma Kate. ¬†“[It] allows me to tell my story to businesses in the area. ¬†I also volunteer at JDRF events throughout the year.”

(For more about Diabetes and fundraising efforts in the Omaha area, click here to read my interview with former Husker Jay Foreman regarding his work with the Foreman Foundation, as well as Diabetes services through Nebraska Medicine.)

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Until I heard about all of this from Emma Kate during our interview, I had NO IDEA she faced challenges like this.  The 16-year old junior at Elkhorn South High School is on the go NONSTOP, participating on the dance team, in show choir, concert choir, in speech and in National Honor Society.  This year alone, Emma Kate starred in Shrek the Musical as Princess Fiona, and took part in a grueling competition schedule with Elkhorn South Blackout (the varsity show choir), including trips to regionals and then nationals in Chicago.

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And off stage, when she’s not volunteering, there’s yet ANOTHER side to this¬†girl.

“Even thought I am super focused and goal-driven, I love to get lost in a great book,” said Emma Kate. ¬†“I love the ‘Matched’ series, the ‘Selection’ series and the ‘Red Queen’ series. ¬†One of my proudest moments would be when I recently got a group of my friends to start reading as much as I do. ¬†Now we talk about books at our lunch table and it’s so much fun.”

One of those friends is Emma Kate’s fellow dance team member and Blackout star, Morgan Holen, the current Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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“Morgan encouraged me to compete in an upcoming pageant. ¬†I was hooked after my first pageant experience in November. ¬†I was so impressed by the whole organization that I knew I wanted to take part in it,” said Emma Kate. ¬†“I enjoy meeting like-minded, successful girls my age and learning about their platforms and experiences. ¬†All the girls are so kind and I have made lifelong friends.”

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That is Emma Kate’s message to other teens who may read this; she wants to encourage them just as Morgan encouraged her.

“This program is relevant because there are more girls like me and other contestants who can benefit from the scholarships, volunteer opportunities and sisterhood of the pageants.”

I agree with Emma Kate on the positives that come from the Miss America Organization. ¬†I DISAGREE with her that there are other girls like her. ¬†That smile is simply one of a kind; welcoming, full of life, excited about what every day could bring. ¬†She’s got ‘Outstanding’ on that sash for a reason.. and Emma Kate Brown is ready¬†to prove it in North Platte.

Emma Kate Dance Team Pic (original)

(Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography)

Follow Miss¬†Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen Emma Kate Brown, and contact Emma Kate for appearances or events¬†via¬†Facebook, Instagram¬†and on Twitter.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Northwest 2015 LaRissa McKean

NEXT.. Miss Gering 2015 Kaylee Carlberg

To read more about the Miss Nebraska‚Äôs Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‚ÄėThere She Is‚Äô link at the top of the page.