Tag Archive | papillion

Memorial Day

Early 2003. I was a student at UNL, and planned to meet my good friend Adrian for lunch. Many of you know him as KETV’s award winning anchor & reporter Adrian Whitsett; I’ve called him ‘friend’ since our high school days at Papillion-La Vista.

1998

Then, Adrian was enlisted in the Marines and had spent time across the US and in Japan. I don’t remember where we were or what we were doing that day back in Papillion, but I remember at one point, him telling me that he would probably be leaving soon. He couldn’t tell me where he was going or when, but just wanted to let me know.

March 20, I was lying on the couch in my parents basement swollen like a chipmunk after having my wisdom teeth removed, when network news broke in; the United States was invading Iraq. I pointed to the TV and said ‘hey!!’ and realized that was what Adrian was talking about.. he was there.

While I attended candlelight vigils for our troops and wrote Adrian letters from the comfort of my Omaha apartment, my friend was on the front lines of a war-torn, unstable country thousands of miles away. He eventually lost hearing in one of his ears from firing high-power weapons; he cleaned himself in the 120-degree+ Iraqi heat with Wet Wipes; he saw and experienced terrible things most of us will never even think of. Adrian came home that August. Thousands of brave Americans did not.

Army Pvt. Kenny Nalley of Hamburg, Iowa. He was 19 and wanted to be police officer.

Marine Lance Cpl Shane E. Kielion of Omaha. He died the same day his son, Shane Jr., was born.

Army National Guardsman Spc. Joshua Ford of Pender, just 20. The same explosion that killed him claimed the leg of one of his fellow soldiers, a man who bravely stood to salute his fallen brother at their return ceremony.

A Nebraska woman has spent countless hours volunteering and uniting people across the state, ensuring we remember these brave men and women on Memorial Day and ever other day.

Miss Heartland 2017 Allison Tietjen

“My grandfather was a Marine during the Korean War, and was very proud of the years he served his country,” Allison told me recently. “When he passed away, I knew I wanted to do something to honor him and everything he stood for. That is when I first got involved with the Nebraska Honor Flights.”

Vietnam Honor Flight (2016)

The Honor Flights are massive cooperative efforts to fly veterans to Washington DC, at no charge to them, to see the monuments and tributes built for them and the friends they have lost in war or since conflict. They are organized by Patriotic Productions; founders Bill and Evonne Williams are literally angels on earth, devoting their lives to this cause and to their traveling Remembering Our Fallen exhibit, a tribute to every single man and woman who has died serving our country since 9/11.

In 2014, Allison spearheaded efforts in her tiny hometown of Chester, Nebraska to raise $500, the cost to send one Korean veteran to DC on an Honor Flight. They raised $4,000.. and Patriotic Productions asked Allison to join them as a guardian, a trip she also talked about when I interviewed her in 2015.

Korean Honor Flight (2014)

“It was an amazing and humbling experience that truly set me on a lifelong path to honor and respect these men and women,” said Allison. “Since this first Honor Flight, I [have helped] with the Gold Star Kids Honor Flight. This was a weekend dedicated to families who have lost a loved one in combat. To hear these little kids talk about their heroes with such optimism, hope and love was something very special.”

This mission, which she dubs ‘United We Stand: Honoring Our Military’, was Allison’s personal platform of service when she held two local Miss Nebraska titles in 2014 and 2015. She didn’t compete in 2016, but never stopped focusing on this important cause.

“The year I took off I was able to raise over $14,000 for the Vietnam Honor Flight and serve as a guardian for the second time,” said Allison. “I made over 300 ‘Bracelets for the Brave’, used as a fundraiser for a Kindergarten class to raise money for our veterans.”

So why compete again for Miss Nebraska, when she was accomplishing so very much as Miss Allison Tietjen?

Miss Heartland

“This fall, I was looking through Facebook and noticed a message that was never opened,” said Allison. “It was sent May 2015. The message was from a mother who just sent her son off to the Marines. She had received one of my ‘Bracelets for the Brave’ and told me how much that meant to her. She thanked me for thinking of her and wished me well as I competed for Miss Nebraska. At that moment I realized that all of this isn’t about me. It is about those mothers who know that Miss Heartland cares about them and their sons/daughters who are going off to serve our country. It is about the veterans who smile when Miss Heartland shakes their hand and tells them they are appreciated by myself and students across Nebraska. What clicked for me is I finally understood what the ‘power of the crown’ really means, and it’s why I competed for Miss Heartland and I’m working towards Miss Nebraska.”

Allison, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student, has reached out to schools across the state to spread her message of patriotism and appreciation.

“I have students write Thank You notes to our active military and veterans,” said Allison. “I sent them to a non-profit called A Million Thanks that will send them to US service members all over the world. I have collected 300 so far and my goal is 700 by June, and 20,000 as Miss Nebraska.”

Remember that last goal Allison set and crushed? She is on pace to raise 60-times that initial $500 she had hoped for.

“I sent an email out to as many elementary, middle and high school principals as I could, detailing what an Honor Flight is and how they can get involved,” said Allison. “I described what my school and community did, and with just emailing, I was able to help start eight school fundraisers that raised a total of over $14,000. This year, I sent out another mass email and have around six schools that I know of raising money. In total, schools across Nebraska have raised $30,000 for Honor Flights in the last two years!”

Allison credits the Miss Nebraska Organization for showing her another way to serve her country, as well as helping her find a purpose and passion. She also volunteers through her sorority, Alpha Phi, Girl Scouts, and her church, University Lutheran Chapel, where she plays piano.

Ihop

“I always tell students I’m speaking to, ‘find what you love, discover your talents and strengths, and ind how you can use those strengths and passions to serve others.’ Being Miss Nebraska is not alway a glamorous job. I want people to know that behind the makeup and beautiful gowns are just a bunch of strong-willed, determined women who are working to make this world a better place.”

Africa

For this woman, that won’t stop if she doesn’t win the Miss Nebraska crown. She’s proven that twice now. When the lights turned off and the crowds went home, Allison proved her power. She studied abroad in Africa. She went skydiving. She took care of her body and mind (“piano is my therapy”). She was motivated to make every day better than the last for herself and everyone around her.

Every time a man or woman signs that paper, puts on that uniform, and leaves all of our comforts to PROTECT everything we know, they are ensuring we have another beautiful day. Another opportunity to wake up in America and do anything we set our mind to.

JLLL8709

Adrian, an American hero, was home to sing at my wedding eight years ago. I cannot wait to watch him marry his best friend and love, Emily, this October.

We take so much for granted. We take every day for granted, we take our freedom for granted. We never say thank you enough to the men and women, and their families, who sacrifice so much to make that possible.. so we can say what we please, do as we please, and work to become whatever we want to be..

..even Miss Nebraska. And if she wins, Allison hopes to say thank you to as many service members and their families as she can.

“I am the small town farmer’s daughter, but I am able to walk into a room full of strangers, clearly speak, share my story and take control of the room,” said Allison. “I understand what it means to give back and serve others without hesitation. I know how to put your heart and soul into something and be a part of something so much bigger than yourself. I truly believe that we live in one of the greatest countries on earth and that is because of the men and women who have served for us.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about Patriotic Productions, the Remembering Our Fallen exhibit and the Nebraska Honor Flights.

***

Click here to follow Miss Heartland 2017 Allison Tietjen on Facebook!

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALLISON?

CLICK HERE * 2015 * All-American Girl

CLICK HERE * 2014* Where The Heart Is

For more information about the Miss Nebraska State Fair/Miss Heartland Pageant or to become a contestant, email Directors Chelsey Jungck at cjungck@statefair.org or Shelley Penner at sa_penner@hotmail.com.

***

The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Gering 2017 Alayna Wilson

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County 2017 Nikki-Catrina Anderson

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Nebraska Nice

NEBRASKA.

We are the Heartland, the Midwest, the centermost point of the United States.  We are urban and rural.  We are Fortune 500 and the Future Farmers of America.  We are closing in on 2-million strong.. emphasis on the STRONG.  And hardworking.  And kind.

I joke that my Nebraska coat has many colors.  I’m a proud Papillion native.  Omaha is where I’ve found success.  Gretna is now home.  I count down the days every year until my annual trip to North Platte, I spent several years cheering on my Huskers in Lincoln, the list goes on and on.

Every young woman competing this year to become Miss Nebraska or Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen has their own state story.. one, a Tiger proudly representing her community of 1700.

Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Hope McCoy

14-year old Hope McCoy calls Mitchell, Nebraska home.  The small town about 20 miles northwest of Gering is what spurred Hope to put on a crown and sash and step into the spotlight.

“I decided to compete in local pageants because I love being a party of my community,” Hope told me recently.  “I have been in pageants since I was six years old and I loved it.  Being a part of it felt like being more involved; I love meeting new people and making new friends.”

image-3

Hope describes herself as petite, unique and caring.

“Unique because I don’t like to blend with the ‘crowd’,” said Hope.  “I love being different from other girls.  I love being who I am!  I have always cared for people no matter what.  Whenever we get a new student in school, I always make sure that I go and talk to them and make them feel welcome.”

Hope with Haylee

“There are so many amazing girls that compete [in Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen], and I have made so many new friends with all of them,” said Hope.  “The other part of the experience is gaining new knowledge.  I want [people] to know this is not just about the gowns, makeup and the crowns.  Pageants can help you get into good colleges just like any sport.  You gain knowledge doing pageants, not just walking in a nice dress.”

All of this, insight and opportunity she is using as part of her role as a leader throughout Mitchell and beyond.

 In addition to her studies at Mitchell Junior/Senior High, Hope volunteers and takes part in appearances to benefit Children’s Miracle Network and as part of her personal platform of service, Read Across America.

“Ever since I was very little I have always loved reading,” said Hope.  “So when I decided to compete in pageants I wanted my platform to be about reading.  I want to go to libraries across the state and read to children.  I want to go and help out the elderly in my community with anything they need me to do.  I want to sing in all of the care centers for elderly people, and I enjoy hearing their stories.  Any volunteer positions in my community, I want to be part of.”

Hope 4

Our state motto is Nebraska Nice.. and I’d argue you’d find proof of that mentality in communities from Omaha to Mitchell.  It’s a common thread that unites us no matter what our background, demographic, profession or community.  And it’s a message Hope Isabella McCoy hopes she’ll get to deliver in person as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“My goal in general is to go to Children’s Miracle Network, talk to all of the children and get their stories,” said Hope.  “I would love to sit there and make them laugh and smile.  Also, just to help out with anything that I can around the state.”

***

Click here to follow Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Hope McCoy on Facebook!

For more information about the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Program or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook.  You can also email Director Kyla Ansley at kyla_ansley@hotmail.com.

***

The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook. For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Kearney 2017 Jessica Shultis

NEXT.. Miss Northwests’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Makenzie Davies

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Takin’ Care Of Business

To all of the readers who have followed my blog for awhile now, THANK YOU.  And perhaps you have noticed something different here at Anchor’s Away… sponsors!  I’m not in the blogging business to strike it rich, but now topping 328,000 views and counting (what?!?!), ad revenue is something I’ve aimed to explore for quite some time now.  This is a new venture for me… and I’ve learned a) it’s really hard to ask someone for money and b) it’s really easy to say NO.  I am so very grateful to my friends and Omaha area business owners supporting me through advertising on my blog, and I ask you to take a few moments to check out their amazing services and products on the righthand side of your screen!

This world is certainly an art to be mastered.  Fiscal support is often imperative to our goals and objectives in business, life… and even in the quest to become Miss Nebraska.  Every dollar invested in our program through scholarships, cash sponsorships and donations directly benefits the young women taking part across our state.  It’s a message a Papillion woman is delivering directly to as many people as she can.

Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick

“My goal as a titleholder in this organization is to meet as many people as I can and to help change the stigma that comes with ‘pageantry’,” Jenni told me recently.  “I strive to be kind, intelligent and passionate about serving.  I hope the people I meet are left feeling that the Miss America Organization is much more than just women in swimsuits.  It is also my goal to use the credibility of my crown to help in every way I am able – whether this is educating, giving my time, or just putting a smile on someone’s face.”

For this young woman, pageants are not just something that take place every few months to win a tiara for the trophy case.  This is Jenni’s second Miss Nebraska local title, meaning for 13 months and counting, she’s been on-the-go nonstop speaking, serving and advocating for the causes important to her.

She spent her Valentine’s Day delivering surprises to veterans.  She’s delivered food to those in need on the holidays.  She’s helped Shriners raise money.  When I interviewed Jenni last year (click here to read more!) she told me she’d volunteered for more than 40 organizations in about four years time.  Jenni did all of this while attending the University of Central Missouri with a 4.0 cumulative GPA.

“The Miss America Organization has been an excellent networking tool for me but I think the biggest thing I have gained is a sense of purpose,” said Jenni.  “I have a better understanding of how my words and actions influence others, which makes me more deliberate in what I say and do.  I have always participated in service work, and viewed myself as a leader in my community.  However, being a titleholder gives me more credibility and I feel I am able to make more of an impact.”

From the beginning, Jenni has connected with and focused on two groups in particular.. children and people with special needs.

Jenni reading

Jenni reading at Autism Action Partnership’s night at the Omaha Children’s Museum.  Click here to learn more!

“My platform, ‘Celebrating Abilities in the Differently Abled’ is a product of my experiences working with the special needs community for the past 10 years,” said Jenni.  “I began helping the special education classroom in 8th grade as a way of getting out of PE.  That class ended up being my favorite part of the day.  I loved how I could escape my own worries and focus all my attention and love on someone else.  Whether I’ve been a teacher, a camp counselor or working at a group home, I’ve noticed there is an emphasis on what a person with a disability can’t do.  Instead, I’ve found it to be more productive to focus on their strengths.  Everyone has abilities and everyone has disabilities.  It makes more sense to simply appreciate a person for who they are.”

Jenni The Word day

And when it comes to kids, Jenni adores every little nugget she comes in contact with, often as her alter ego, Cinderella.

Jenni princess

“I feel that I have a unique outlook on what it really means to wear a crown because of my experience as a princess character at the Omaha Children’s Museum,” said Jenni.  “When I am in a ball gown and tiara, children hang on to every word I say.  One day, a mother of one of my regular visitors at the museum pulled me aside to thank me for complimenting her child’s glasses.  She said at first her daughter hated the glasses, but after hearing me compliment them a few times, she thought they were great.  That is when I realized how much power I had to influence a child’s life.  An opportunity like this should never be wasted.  I she a responsibility to use this power to teach children and make them feel special.”

Jenni will combine those passions in her chosen career; she graduated top of her class in December with a degree in Special Education.  That field has also inspired her talent for the Miss Nebraska stage, a slam poetry performance summarizing her passion for teaching.

“I am a teacher because I made a choice to be and I have a high GPA because I’m passionate about that choice so I work hard,” said Jenni.  “When I present my talent, it never fails that someone comes up to me after to let me know hat my words resonated with them.  People will tell me that they are a teacher too, or that their mom was a teacher for 40 years and would have loved to hear it.  Performing a talent with meaning is empowering and I love how it feels to make a difference.”

It’s all about connection.. and that is where Miss Nebraska State Fair Jenni Wahonick truly shines.

Jenni Alpha Sigma Alpha

For every appearance she’s made, Jenni has taken the opportunity and extended that exposure tenfold through social media, spreading her messages about inclusion, education and the value of community service and encouraging others to do the same.

Jenni veterans

Those Valentines Jenni delivered to veterans?  They were supplied by a local business.. one of countless donations and sponsors Jenni has secured through marketing her title.  Asking for help is never easy, but this gal is a flesh and blood kickstarter campaign proving that when you support a Miss Nebraska contestant you’re not enabling a beauty queen, you’re investing in a young woman’s impact on the world.

“This organization makes me a better person.  Every aspect of competition makes me a more well-rounded, healthy individual,” said Jenni.  “I make healthier decisions and appreciate my body for what it can do.  I take time every day to educate myself about what is going on in the world around me.  I am more aware and confident of who I am, and I am better able to articulate that in a professional setting.  I am excited to wake up and make a difference every day.”

In 2016, Miss Nebraska contestants were awarded $39,700 in cash awards, more than $25,000 in college scholarships offered, and more than $25,000 in gifts and services.  That’s in addition to what is offered at the local level, and what Miss Nebraska is eligible for at Miss America.  All of that happens thanks to incredible businesses and donors across Nebraska, selfless volunteers who bring them into our world, and incredible women like Jenni Wahonick who give them something (and someone) to believe in.  She may not have an MBA (and darn proud of her Education major!) but this girl is taking care of business in her final push before taking the Miss Nebraska stage.

Jenni final

Photo courtesy Rachel Evans

“When asked which point of the Miss America Crown is my favorite, I have a really hard time deciding between service and scholarship,” Jenni wrote on Facebook last week.  “As a special education teacher, I have found the most value in my life helping others. I also think scholarship is so important though. Not just getting good grades, but loving the process of learning and growth. We are so blessed to live in a country where we are provided an education. We are able to explore ideas like philosophy, art and psychology. How incredible is that? I’m so grateful for my education and the opportunities I’ve had to help others.”

***

To follow Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JENNI?

CLICK HERE * 2016 * #MonarchsForLife

For more information about the Miss Nebraska State Fair/Miss Heartland Pageant or to become a contestant, email Directors Chelsey Jungck at cjungck@statefair.org or Shelley Penner at sa_penner@hotmail.com.

***

The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Haylee Umble

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

 

The Fisherman

POST KETV.. a long awaited trip to the Lake of the Ozarks.  No partying, no late night booze cruises, just family time and the peace of the water.  My Dad says it’s the Dane in us that pulls us to it.. that makes us feel complete serenity when we can hear the calming slap of water on the dock.  Even in sweltering heat; a day at the lake is bearable.  Even when you don’t catch a thing, fishing is nature’s therapy.  There’s something about the water that puts everything in balance.

In a few short weeks, a Papillion family will once again answer a similar calling to the water.  Four, incredible women will stand side by side and breathe in a place that helps them feel whole.. and at peace.

c0cde0_107ec5e87c064fbfa6b94c586209b46f

***

Sherry was a 15-year old cheerleader at Wayne High School.  In the late 70’s, it was an annual tradition for the girls to muster up their courage and ask a guy to the Sadie Hawkins dance.  Sherry, just a sophomore, had her eye on 17-year old Kevin Murray, a junior football player.

“We grew up together in Wayne, a small town, where everyone knew you,” said Sherry.  “Kevin played multiple sports in school.  He enjoyed hunting and fishing with his family and friends, a real guys’ guy.”

And from the beginning it seems, he was Sherry’s guy.

11884062_10153598597457472_2163498019972624138_o

Their lives from that point on were a John Cougar Mellencamp song brought to life.  They began dating after that Sadie Hawkins dance, and married less than a year after Sherry graduated from Wayne High.  April 12, 1980.. two American kids doing the best they can.

524372_10151550088062472_508231382_n

“Kevin excelled in industrial tech classes and landed a job with a couple small town contractors building farm buildings,” said Sherry. “Work was slow in the winter months and after adding a child, Jennifer, 1982, to the mix we started to have bigger aspirations.   I had an uncle in Omaha that said he thought Kevin could get a job with Peter Kiewit and Sons Construction Company if he wanted to move to Omaha.”

They did; Kiewit hired Kevin in August of 1984.  He didn’t have a college degree, but he did have talent, determination, and an incomparable work ethic.

“He continued to work his way up the ladder with each job he was on,” said Sherry.  “He impressed his foremen and the company bosses and was promoted many times.”

Kevin Murray climbed to the top; the VERY top, named General Superintendent overseeing all of Kiewit’s work in Omaha, including the First National Bank Tower.  Kevin was superintendent for the project, the tallest building in downtown Omaha.

260016_10150220917457472_904544_n

“He would say that was his mark left on the city, they couldn’t take that away from him,” said Sherry.  “He had a very high standard that he held himself to. He was very proud of the man he had become, coming from a small town with no college education to holding one of the highest positions in the company’s construction world. He was lucky enough to become a stock holder with Kiewit and earned a fine salary for someone without a college degree, providing his family with a wonderful life.”

By then, Kevin and Sherry’s family had grown to five, the couple raising three beautiful, spirited daughters.  The ‘guys’ guy’ was the ONLY guy in the Murray household, and taught his girls about the same simple pleasures he had known growing up; hunting, camping and family.

1097882_10151804023342472_1001926272_o

From Sherry: “Kevin had been fishing at a farm pond in Iowa and caught these nice bluegill that the girls helped him clean! Yummy supper that night!”

The Murray girls grew up with barbies, ribbons.. and fishing poles.

1116234_10151801673007472_358101540_o

From Sherry: “Kevin and I and the girls fishing at a Buckskin lake up in NE Nebraska 1990!”

The Murray sisters grew up beautiful, well rounded and strong.  Jennifer excelled in the arts, winning leading roles in musical groups and plays throughout junior high and high school.  Ashley showed athleticism early on, a key varsity softball player on 2 state championship teams.  Marissa, a born leader, set trends and standards from school hallways to the football sidelines as a competitive cheerleader.  No matter what their activity, their parents were their rocks.. and their friends.

1

Fall of 2004.. Jennifer had moved to Lincoln to pursue a degree in dental hygiene. Ashley had just started classes at UNO, and Marissa was just starting her freshman year at Papillion-La Vista High.  Kevin planned to attend the funeral of his favorite great aunt in Dixon, Nebraska, then stop in Crofton for an afternoon of walleye fishing with his cousin.

“The morning he left he was in a hurry and franticly looking for his sunglasses, and we were having a slight disagreement about a parenting issue. I guess you can say we left each other with mad feelings between us,” said Sherry.  “I called him on the phone about 2:30 that day to let him know I had found his sunglasses in a basket of laundry I had put away. He said Gary already had two fish, he was eager to get out there ,too. He was just getting ready to go out on Lewis and Clark Lake, a place he and I had fished many times together, but this day he would be alone. I told him good luck and I love you.”

1_0001

Four hours later, Sherry received a phone call.  Kevin’s boat had been found adrift on the lake, but there was no sign of Kevin.  His cousin, Gary, immediately joined a group of searchers that grew by the day to find any clues.. to find Kevin.

It took five days.  On October 12, 2004.. Sherry’s 43rd birthday.. crews found her husband.

“His death was ruled a drowning,” said Sherry.  “We will never know what caused him to be tossed from the boat.  There was damage to the passenger seat and rod holder that looked as an impact of some sort caused him to be thrown overboard. I have kept those sunglasses and the lesson they taught me: to never forget to say I love you to someone you love. You never know if you will get that chance again.”

Jenni Murray-Rohacik is one of my dearest friends.  In the days crews searched for her dad, I had dreams they found him alive; that everything was OK.  I went to the Murray home during that terrible stretch of days and stood next to Jenni as she knelt down next to Sherry, who stared in her eldest daughter’s eyes, shaking her head, unable to form sentences.  When Jenni and I drove to St. Columbkille to talk to a priest about services, Jenni broke down in grief.  I broke down in tears days later, as Jenni bravely stood in that church and read the Fisherman’s Prayer in tribute to her beloved father.

251043_10150209127917472_4535196_n

I thank the Lord I have never known grief like what this family went through.  At some point in the weeks and months that followed, Sherry and her girls decided to channel their pain into something.. a fishing tournament to honor Kevin.

“That first year planning the fishing tournament gave me something to look forward to and to plan and focus on something positive,” said Sherry.  “I used those sleepless nights to brain storm and ideas just kept popping into my head. With my daughters help, we had our first Kevin J Murray Memorial Fishing tournament September 24, 2005.”

972183_10151791733647472_711466247_n

66 fishing teams signed up.  Countless friends, loved ones and colleagues came to take part, volunteer, or just show support.  Dozens of items were auctioned and raffled off, all raising money for a scholarship or two at Wayne High School for students pursuing building trades just like Kevin did. The tournament was held at the same place Sherry lost Kevin, at Lewis and Clark Lake near Crofton, Nebraska.

“It was a gathering place for friends and family and coworkers who had come to help in the search at the time of his accident. It was the place where we had our summer home. It only seemed fitting that we have a reunion of sorts,” said Sherry.  “I never dreamed we would have the response we did. But I also knew Kevin had so many friends and family that loved him and all wanted to do something to pay tribute to him as well.”

That first year, the tournament raised $8,000.  Every year since, the Murrays have returned with another bigger and better event.  Kevin’s daughter, Ashley, spends months in advance contacting sponsors, bringing in raffle prizes, and organizing the tournament.

“We have all types of fishermen; some who are local to the area and have never met our family, others who are friends and family from the Wayne or Omaha area. Some are experienced fishermen; others who fish once a year for our event,” said Sherry.  “Regardless of fishing knowledge or expertise, our fishermen come away with memories, maybe a prize, and probably many exaggerated fishing stories.”

Later this month, the Murray family will hold their 12th fishing tournament honoring Kevin.  Their hope: to top $100,000 in money raised for Wayne High.  That plan for ‘one or two scholarships’ has grown to 25 scholarships and awards, as well as playground equipment, weight room rubber mat flooring, treadmills for rehabbing athletes, to welders for the tech department, softball and baseball field repairs, and more.

“I think Kevin would be very proud of the event,” said Sherry.  “He would love to be sitting around telling fish stories with all the guys after a day of fishing. He would be happy that we have honored him in such a way.  Together we leave a mark in history, to the place where it all started for us, Wayne High School, In Wayne, America as it is known there!  I think he would be surprised that people still think of him and continue to come after all these years.”

His family thinks of him every, single day.

12063554_10153674018237472_8168484425851651469_n

Of all of the incredible things Kevin Murray accomplished during his time on earth and inspired by how he lived his life, I’d argue THIS is what he’d be proudest of.  The three confident, striking, INCREDIBLE daughters he raised who are all successful and happy.  Joe and Deven, the two men who are raising his grandchildren and offering love and friendship to his girls.  Nathan, Kyler and Maggie.. the kiddos who never got to meet their grandpa, but no doubt know him and learn his fishing secrets every year at the annual tournament named in his honor.  And his high school sweetheart, wife and best friend who dug deep to find a new path, never forgetting what always mattered most to them; finding happiness through love, family, and to simply live like you were dying.

“After a tragedy you have choices to make.. shrivel up and die or move forward,” said Sherry.  “I chose to move forward, with the emotional support and love from my family and friends. I guess when life throws you lemons make lemonade, is a message I always heard. A guy who was a small town boy made it in a big town. People like to see others succeed in life. He was a success. Although he didn’t get the chance to live a much longer life, being taken in his prime at the age of 45, I know he lived what he had to the fullest. He loved big and worked hard and always found time to enjoy the outdoors with his friends and family.”

unnamed

I pray that I may live to fish, Until my dying day.
And when it comes to my last cast, I then most humbly pray:
When in the Lord’s great landing net, And peacefully asleep
That in His mercy I be judged, Big enough to keep.

On August 27, hundreds of people will once again drawn to the water to share their love and respect for a great friend.  It’s another opportunity to raise money for students who want to follow in the footsteps of a man who climbed to the very top. One more day for Kevin’s family to remember their father, grandpa and husband, and to remind each other to make the most of every day we have.

12375004_10153817961112472_4286017332872576015_o

“I have a different perspective on the fishing tournament than my daughters do.. I guess I think of it as a tribute to a man I loved. A love story of sorts, I guess you could say,” said Sherry.  “Through the help of my friends and family all with a common goal to raise money with our event, it has helped to heal the hole left in my heart with Kevin’s absence. It is my way of paying him back for the wonderful life he gave me and our children.”

***

The 12th Annual Kevin J Murray Memorial Fishing Tournament will take place August 27, 2016 at Lewis & Clark Lake near Crofton, Nebraska at Weigand Marina.  Teams of 2 are welcome to sign up in advance online or in person the day of the event; cost is $120/team, which includes shirts and a buffet meal at a banquet following the tournament at CJ’s in Crofton.  Prizes include $500 for 1st place, $250 for 2nd and $150 for 3rd largest weight totals.  Prizes are also awarded for largest walleye and largest non-walleye.  Raffle prizes are available all day at the tournament.

For more information, CLICK HERE to visit the event’s website or

CLICK HERE to visit the event’s Facebook page

With More Complete Coverage..

Journalism 101.  Start every story with your best sound and your best video.  Don’t bury the lead.  With that… this month is my last at KETV, after 15 years as a journalist at the only station I’ve ever known.

***

When I was a little girl, I used to sit on the stairs in our split level house in Papillion, with my legs dangling through the steps and a notebook in front of me.  I would just write.  I would write about my day.  I would play the game Life by myself, and use each space as a prompt to write a fictional story.  I’ve kept a journal since I had huge glasses and buck teeth.  In college, long-form essays and papers weren’t hassles, I relished them; I love letting the words just HAPPEN, and the surge of accomplishment when those words come full circle and everything just FITS.

I’ve always been a natural ‘performer’.  I was the ham hogging the attention for our 1st generation camcorder, jumping in front of my Dad with a goofy voice or song whenever he had the thing rolling.  I tried out for show choir every year I could, and joined the speech team my very first year of high school.  Speaking just came easily for me; and I was GOOD at it.  Forensics, theater and choir were my LIFE in high school.

I was never in journalism.  I didn’t carry around a Barbara Walters lunchbox.  I floated around my first year of college not knowing where I belonged or what my future looked like.  My sophomore year at UNL, I took Introduction to Broadcasting with Tom Spann, and was fascinated by a world of history, SHARING history, writing, and reporting.  Somehow the idea of an internship surfaced, and KETV was the station I grew up watching.  My mom bumped into longtime weekend anchor/reporter Pamela Jones at a city meeting, got contact information for the intern program, and I emailed Managing Editor Joe Kasmir the next day.  I showed up for my interview a good half an hour early.. and I will never forget walking through the Newsplex doors, overwhelmed to see the same set and newsroom I had watched on TV for so long.  Julie Cornell and Rob McCartney were just finishing the 6pm broadcast, and Julie looked up and smiled at me.

***

How do you sum up 15 years?

My first breaking news live shot at NP Dodge Park… that was God awful.

Covering my first night of tornadoes as an intern, Scott Buer at the wheel of the car, and me in the passenger seat wearing a green skirt suit and heels, trekking around in mud and rain COMPLETELY unprepared, but willing to stay out as long as Scott did.

Talking to a suspect in jail dubbed the ‘Bare Butt Bandit’, and hearing later from my best friend’s now-husband: ‘I said, Please God, let Brandi be doing that story..’

An Iowa shooting late at night with photojournalist Mike Richard, and then lying in the backseat on the way home  with my eyes squeezed shut, battling a nauseous migraine.

Live shots on the field at Memorial Stadium with Rob on one side and Jon on the other.. when a stray football was punted right into the side of my face.  Hearing my Assistant News Director Vonn Jones yelling in my ear ’30 seconds!!’ as I tried to regain my composure.. as did Jon and Rob (from dying laughing…)

Driving 8 hours throughout the night with Justin Riviera to cover an arrest in the Jon Benet Ramsey murder in Boulder, Colorado.  I was overwhelmed by literally HUNDREDS of rabid reporters; he shoved me and said ‘get in there, Petersen!’

Covering an afternoon and evening of tornado threats across western Iowa with photojournalist Dave Hynek.  Laughs because of a nerve-wracking live shot.. laughing that turned to chaos and sheer sadness when we learned less than an hour later about the tragedy at the Little Sioux Boy Scout Camp.  We worked through the night side by side, waiting for the details that would shake our community and the country.

Countless tears when things went wrong.  Crying to my roommate, wondering what I should have done better.  Coming home and sobbing to myself, questioning my decisions as not only a reporter, but a human being.

Westroads.  Derek Ruth.  The Butternut fire. The paralyzed bride.  Clayton Hildreth.  Evan Sharp.  Pediatric brain cancer.  Amber Harris.  Baby Lawrence.  La Paz, Mexico.

JP Carter.  John Matya.  Trisha Meuret.  Tom Elser.  Joe Kasmir.  Cathy Beeler.  Jay Roberts.  Vonn Jones.  Jon Schuetz. Sean McMahon. Justin Riviera.  Renee Ludvik.  Kristyna Engdahl.  Jeremy Maskel.  Adrian Whitsett.  Andy Ozaki.  Natalie Glucklich. Melissa Fry.  ROB, ANDY, DAVE. My coworkers that have become my family.

Through KETV, I met my husband.  I was on air throughout my pregnancies with both of my boys.  We moved; twice.  This is where we grew up; this is home.

At KETV we lost Joe, my mentor who hired me, fueled my passion for journalism, and always, ALWAYS pushed me to be better, while making me feel like I was really something special.  I often wish he had been alive to see me anchor ‘the big show’.

We lost Jeff Frolio, the photographer who told me about jazz, and how special music was for him and his wife.  It was the music at his final service that broke me down.

***

Just like my stories… in so many ways, THIS story has come full circle for me.  My sweet ‘baby’ boy Easton will start Kindergarten in a few short weeks.  Guys, I need to be here with my children.  I need to hear about their days, I need to be there for school concerts and carnivals and dinner on our deck.  I need to hear THEIR stories, and I need to be PART of their stories when they look back and share them throughout their lives.  News is a business like no other; it never stops.  Tornadoes don’t drop from the sky from 9-5, Monday through Friday.  Tragedies don’t happen just while we’re on the clock.  There will be another journalist, waiting and ready, to slide into that spot next to Rob to anchor our evening newscast every night, but I am my boys’ ONLY MOTHER.  I am the ONLY MOMMA they will ever have.

God works in mysterious ways; he always has a plan, though we may not understand it as it’s unfolding.  Next month, I will join the Communications team with Westside Community Schools.  I still get to tell stories; GREAT stories about incredible students, teachers making a difference, programs that impact generations of kids.  I get to showcase the GOOD in our world; I get to WRITE.  But every day, I also get to go home to my family.  We can eat dinner together.  We can play at the park, and watch the sunset, wake up the next morning and do it all over again.  I know I’ll be home every Christmas morning, I’ll get to watch fireworks with my kids every 4th of July, I get to stay at the pool with them Sunday mornings instead of putting on my makeup, straightening my hair and heading to the station.  I need to say this: I have SO MUCH RESPECT for working parents, regardless of their shifts.  People all over America work crazy hours, love what they do, and love their lives at home.  I work with many of them here at 7!

For me.. it’s just time.  Still, as I write this, I still feel the tears welling up behind my eyes.  I am so excited for this new opportunity and new chapter in my life, but it truly is so hard to say goodbye.  My fear is that I didn’t matter.  That time will go on and it will be like I was never there. That sounds really narcissistic and egotistical; truly, I’ve tried to make a point in my career to NOT make everything about me, to make our stories about THE PEOPLE, PLACES, AND ISSUES we are sharing.  But to everyone throughout these 15 years who’s made me feel ‘like a big deal’.. to everyone who has watched us, followed us, trusted us.. THANK YOU.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  I don’t have words beyond that.. but I hope you understand the deep gratitude from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

WATCH KETV.  You will NEVER find a better journalist than Rob McCartney.  This dude is one of the best human beings I have ever known; he cares, he listens, he is always asking questions and trying to dig a little deeper to share the most complete story possible, and I’d argue NO ONE is trusted as a journalist in our state more than Rob.  He is noble, smart, a leader, compassionate.  He is a good friend.  Bill Randby is HANDS DOWN THE BEST meteorologist you could ever turn to; NO ONE cares more about providing people accurate information than this guy, and truly one of the most genuinely KIND people I have ever met.  Kristyna Engdahl is BRILLIANT.  Her writing is phenomenal, she’s fair, she has a GIFT for public speaking and thinking on her feet, and I WISH everyone at home could meet her and feel her energy in person.. because she makes EVERY DAY better when you’re around her.  Andy Kendeigh is the big brother I never had–always supportive, always caring, just an AMAZING GUY and such a wonderful friend.  And holy crap, is this guy GOOD.  Athletes and coaches LOVE him for a reason–he’s hilarious, hard working, devoted to what he shares every night and throughout every season.  In addition… our future is so very bright.  Alexandra Stone, Chinh Doan, Laurann Robinson, Sean Everson, Matt Serwe, Cem Brinklow, Ashley Nodgaard, Josh Gear, Davonte McKenith, David Earl, Katie Bane, Tanner Kahler, Matt Lothrop, Camila Orti… all of the people you see and many you don’t… they are HUNGRY for good journalism.  They want to tell good stories.  They are willing to sacrifice sleep, personal time, personal LIVES, to make KETV the best it can be.  This team IS TRULY THE BEST.  You will not find local news in our state that is better–YOU JUST WON’T.

***

I knew this day was coming.  I didn’t think it would be this WEIRD.  That’s the only word that makes sense.  I don’t have enough words, and at the same time, I feel like I’ve said too much.

We’ve got a few weeks left, Omaha–let’s make it awesome.  Westside, I hope to make you proud.  KETV, I hope I’ve made a mark, some kind of difference.

And to my boys.. I love you.  Let’s go hunt some pokemon and have a great morning together.

11999573_887728364640812_3603216887058617254_o

Photo courtesy Photography By CB

#MonarchsForLife

A few posts ago.. I mentioned my letter jacket.  I know that you, my wonderful, loyal readers.. have been dying for another look ever since.

210840_432054030166418_463708893_o

BAM!! And this time, you get the added bonus of seeing KETV’s Rob McCartney in HIS letter jacket, too!  (Here’s a secret.. the embroidered name on his is ‘Robby’.  It’s pretty fabulous.)

WE ARE PROUD MONARCHS, FOLKS!  Rob and I both went to Papillion-La Vista High School, along with KETV alums Adrian Whitsett, John Campbell and Brittany Jones-Cooper.  For awhile, our News Director Rose Ann Shannon joked that if you weren’t from Papillion, you weren’t going to get hired at KETV!

My family moved to Papio when I was five years old.  I was a proud Carriage Hill Cougar all seven years of elementary school, went to Papillion Junior High during construction of the second story, and graduated from PLHS before there was a second high school.

#Old

pap_web

I love this town.  I love working in an area that includes the place I grew up.  I love that Rob and I can still take part in events, like the Papillion-La Vista Schools Foundation Gala above, and reconnect with the same friends, teachers, and colleagues we’ve known for years.  (Want a big laugh?  CLICK HERE to watch our tribute to Rob on his 20th Anniversary at KETV, with the help from the people of Papillion!)

There’s no Miss Papillion or Miss Sarpy County (yet!), so one of our most impressive butterflies, Jenni Wahonick, recently flew west to represent our city and a powerful message at the 2016 Miss Nebraska pageant.

jenn cady

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Someone told me to surround myself with people who I aspire to be,” Jenni told me recently.  “The women I have gotten to know because of Miss Nebraska are so kind-hearted, intelligent, and passionate, and I am a better person for knowing each of them.”

Jenni says she inititally got involved with the pageant as a teenager because it sounded like fun.  The relationships she made, and scholarship money she brought home, kept her coming back for more.

12998752_1018173781610918_3673920545735576068_n

Jenni, presenting at the University of Central Missouri’s undergraduate scholars symposium

“It’s helped me pay for my college education,” said Jenni, a senior at the University of Central Missouri.  She’s majoring in Special Education for Severe Developmental Disabilities to help and empower people she’s been helping for nearly a decade.

“I have worked closely with the special needs population for the past nine years,” said Jenni.  ‘During my time at UCM I have worked at a group home for three years and spent a winter at a camp for people with disabilities.  I have also developed and taught dance class geared towards the special needs community at the community center.  I’ve been a regional recruit team member for Missouri Miss Amazing, and help organize and spread the word for End The Word campaigns on campus.”

12688052_971156172979346_1003925284992950778_n

Crowned Miss Twin Rivers 2016 in February, Jenni took her advocacy one step further, calling her personal platform of service ‘Celebrating Abilities in the Differently Abled.’

“Whether it was in a group home, as a classroom aide, or at a camp, I have found that there is an emphasis on what a person with a disability cannot do,” said Jenni.  “However, I’ve found it to be more productive to instead focus on their strengths.  Everyone has abilities and everyone has disabilities, but isn’t it just easier to appreciate a person for who they are?”

For Jenni, these efforts are all part of a natural desire to serve others.  Over the last four years, she’s volunteered for more than 40 different organizations.  Jenni is also the Philanthropy Chair in her sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, and was recently nominated for the Greek Leader of the Year award.

“I love to volunteer because of the poeple and opportunities it exposes me to,” said Jenni.  “Every time I volunteer for an organization, I learn something new and grow as a person.   I love going to visit my friend at the veteran’s home and delivering meals on wheels.”

Jenni does all of this in addition to her other activities; she holds numerous leadership positions in the Greek system at UCM, she’s a member of Rho Lambda and Order of Omega (Greek Honor’s fraternities), she’s in the Honor’s College, she’s modelled for Kansas City Fashion Week, and she works as a princess character at the Omaha Children’s Museum.

12705629_982622318499398_5863178954230874326_n

“I especially love my princess job because I am able to make connections so quickly with the children who visit me at the museum,” said Jenni.  “It’s a great teaching tool because children generally want to listen to what you have to say when you’re wearing a poofy dress.”

Ironically, the same often holds true with a crown and sash.

 Jenni has networked across the UCM campus to draw support and raise money for her mission, for Children’s Miracle Network, and for the Miss Nebraska pageant.  She’s also drawing upon her own strengths, using her training as a Dance minor to choreograph UCM’s main stage dance concert and to earn her certification as an Autism Movement Therapy Instructor in Los Angeles.

“I truly value the relationships I make and the opportunities I am given,” said Jenni.  “I’m so blessed to have so many experiences, and I like to step out of my comfort zone so I can really grow as a person.  After two of my sorority sisters passed away in a car accident my sophomore year, I haven’t taken for granted the people in my life.  I think people are put in your life for a reason and everyone has something valuable they can teach you.”

In one month, Jenni Wahonick hopes to do just that, even using the talent competition not to showcase dance (which she’s trained in), but to educate the audience about teachers, the profession she plans to pursue.

“My talent is reading slam poetry,” said Jenni.  “The poem I read is ‘What Teachers Make’ by Taylor Mali.  I feel powerful performing it, and I love to see how the audience will react to it.  Most people are close to someone who is a teacher, so it is easy to relate to.”

13007160_10154271107837044_949001337678974222_n

 Before you jump to any conclusions about Jenni’s talent, or the Miss American Organization in general, this young woman notes how her confidence for interviews and speaking in front of a crowd has grown because of her involvement in this system.

“Competing in a pageant like Miss Nebraska is not easy to do.  There is a lot of preparation that goes into each phase of competition,” said Jenni.  “Because of my interview preparation, not only am I more comfortable speaking under pressure, but I am also more educated and concerned about what is going on in the world.  Because of the swimsuit competition, I have learned to love my body and treat it like a temple.  I am constantly striving to be the best version of myself.  Each phase of competition makes me a better person, and my experience holding a title has made me view myself as a leader and role model in my community.”

OUR community, says this blog author and Jenni’s fellow Papio native.  I hope to see our hometown raise up and support ANY young person working hard and finding success, and especially so in this case. The symbol of our city is the Monarch, and we may soon have real royalty in Papillion.. Miss Nebraska 2016.

JKG Photography

Photo courtesy JKG Photography Omaha

“Miss Nebraska is my dream job becasue making connections with people is my very favorite thing to do,” said Jenni.  “Whether I win Miss Nebraska or not, I will continue to make philanthropy and service a huge part of my life and view myself as a role model in the community.  My platform is more than just a platform to me, it is what I have shaped my entire life around.  However, with the title of Miss Nebraska I will be given more credibility to really take these things to a new level.  As Miss Nebraska, I would continue to work every single day to share my message with anyone who would hear it.”

***

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Twin Rivers 2016 Jenni Wahonick on Facebook, where you can also message her about appearances and events.

For more information about the Miss Twin Rivers/Miss Sandhills Pageant, contact Directors Barb Smith or Becky Smith-Wagner by phone at 308-532-4720 or by email at wearhousedance@hotmail.com.

***

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.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Shaniah Freeseman!

NEXT.. Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Emma Wilkinson!

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!

Everyday America

Omaha, Nebraska.

This isn’t just where I work, it’s the area where I grew up. I’m officially a Papillion girl.. I rode my bike to Papio Pool, sled on the ‘big hill’ at 72nd and Hwy 370 before the apartments went up, and I graduated from PLHS back when there was only one high school.. #Old.  The first home I remember was near Central Park in La Vista. I played softball as a little girl in Glenwood.  I’ve spent countless family road trips heading west to Seward and east to Atlantic.  This area is all I know–it’s HOME. (And I think these were the original lyrics to Sugarland’s Everyday America.. #TheMoreYouKnow)

North Platte, Nebraska is synonymous with the Miss Nebraska Pageant.  For more than three decades, this city has crowned the women who have gone on to compete at Miss America.  So when North Platte is YOUR home, I suppose it’s destiny that someday YOU will be competing for the historic honor.

Courtney Pelland was been immersed in the Miss Nebraska Pageant for years, and one of the key descriptors of the accompanying Teen program, ‘Outstanding’, could be her middle name.  I think they call this fate.

12729135_957716974313221_3441998454845282809_n

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“My mom has taken me to every state pageant since I was 5,” Courtney told me recently.  “I’m involved in dancing at the Dance Factory with Becky Smith-Wagner, Miss Nebraska 1999. I was involved in the Little Sisters Program in 2008 to Brittany Jeffers, Miss Nebraska 2009.  We are Miss Heartland 2016 Tosha Skinner’s host family.  The girls in this program are welcoming and open to who any one girl is as a person.”

While it may have taken Courtney awhile to come out of her shell and compete on her own, there was never a question as to what her platform of service would be.. she wanted to share her personal story.

12507132_940065079411744_7075014241639584367_n

“My platform is called ‘Knowing Your Body, Taking A Step Back’.  I decided on this platform after being hospitalized in January 2015,” said Courtney.  “My hemoglobin was at 6.6 (normal is 12) and I had no iron or iron storage left in my body; I was ghost white.”

Courtney received two blood transfusions and iron that day, and had to visit North Platte’s cancer center once a week for the next two months.  In October, doctors diagnosed Courtney with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune condition preventing the body from absorbing needed nutrients (like iron).  In addition, she underwent a hip labrum repair in June, an injury that had caused Courtney pain for at least two years.

“This whole experience has taught me to pay attention to your body and know when something is wrong,” said Courtney.  “That’s the message I want to get out and tell kids about.”

12717152_952422481509337_3393650646794518222_n

So in November, when Courtney won her first title as Miss Sugar Valley’s Outstanding Teen, she set out on a mission to spread that message to as many people as possible.

12764837_747634935336182_6470554738343634258_o

Multiple times every week, Courtney updates both her personal and Miss Western Nebraska Facebook pages with photos and recaps of schools she’s visiting, events she’s speaking at, and where she’s volunteering.  The North Platte High School newspaper, the Bulldogger, even featured Courtney in a recent article (click here to read more!)

“I have gone around volunteering for the Salvation Army this past Christmas, volunteering at my old elementary school, Osgood, at Fun Night, {in addition to Sutherland and Stapleton}, and served at the homeless shelter here in North Platte,” said Courtney.  “My favorite thing about holding a title this year has been going out to schools and talking to them about my platform.”

Courtney is also an All-State choir member, plays the tenor saxophone, is involved with National Honor Society and volunteers at her local hospital for the JV Ambassador’s Program.  Her home away from home is the Dance Factory, where she assists with pre-school and kindergarten classes at the Dance Factory, in addition to training in dance herself.

Pageant--2190-X3

Photo courtesy Irish Eye Photography

“My favorite part of the competition is talent because I get to show my skills, release and express my emotions and entertain the crowd,” said Courtney.  “Through this program I have become more confident in who I am as a person and more comfortable with my body.  I have learned to love myself for who I am.  I overcame my shyness and learned more about myself.  This organization is not based on beauty.  It is based on intelligence and builds confidence in girls and women.”

12390991_929313127153606_2234632626712226242_n

Now, with the support of her mother (who Courtney calls her role model and best friend), and the rest of her family (“I don’t know what I would do without them”), Courtney wants to become one of the women she learned from and admired all these years in North Platte, and continue the sisterhood of role models crowned in this great city and sent out across the state.

‘That’s how it goes in everyday America, A little town and a great big life.’ — Sugarland

“My parents always tease me about being the social one,” said Courtney.  “I enjoy being with people and talking to children.  I should be the next Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because I have a passion to share my experience with others.”

11693921_906134336138152_3447106300490813787_n

***

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Sugar Valley’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Courtney Pelland

ON FACEBOOK and ON INSTAGRAM.  You can also follow Courtney on the Miss Western Nebraska Pageant Facebook page.

For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Kyla Ansley by phone at 308-631-0938 or by email at kyla_ansley@hotmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

***

The 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival 2016 Kara Kriha!

NEXT.. Miss Chadron 2016 Tyler Rambali!

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!