Monday, June 27, 2011

Start! Walking Paths

Since moving back, I have been doing research on getting involved with the local chapters of my favorite charities. In getting reacquainted with the American Heart Association’s website, I came across a new initiative they are putting together to make it easy and fun for people on the go to fit exercise into their everyday lives.

There are Start! Walking Paths popping up all around the country, and they are so easy to find! The AHA has created an app for both the iPhone and the Android that makes it easy to find a path near you. If you can’t find one, you can create your own and document it so others can follow in your footsteps.  Such a fun new way to get healthy & make it fun for kids to do it too!

Ashley Smith

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bac Lieu

Bring Home the Bac Lieu Orphans

My heart breaks for these children & their forever families! 3 years ago, Halle-Grace & 44 other children were in a very similar situation. PLEASE take a minute to sign the below petition. You can also immediately send emails to your elected officials. There's POWER in numbers! Please don’t stop there; I encourage you to call your Congressman, email his constituent leader and his office in Washington, DC!

I’m almost positive that I was the most annoying individual on the planet 3 years ago for members of the USCIS/DOS in Washington, DC…but my tiny miracle was languishing in an orphanage a world away and NO one had answers for me or the other families with children in Tuyen Quang, Vietnam (TQ).

It took a movement  and the HOT HENS (my adoption support group) to bring home the TQ 44…one of those angels you know as Halle-Grace! I know one of the mothers who’s little boy has been waiting in Bac Lieu for his forever family for more than 2 years!!!! WHY? No one has answers? Again, this sounds way too familiar! It’s horrific, incredibly sad, and a shame to say the least! Can you begin to imagine the heartbreak?  I can tell you from experience, it is beyond heartbreaking! Gabriel and many others remain institutionalized!

If you are reading this and you don’t know all of the details of our adoption journey, you probably think, “Wow, she’s outspoken”! Please know I am extremely passionate about this issue and I know the torture these families are enduring…in our case, we never received an answer! To fight for your child’s life, sometimes you must be “outspoken”!  In August of 2008, I left the country to adopt Halle-Grace via Vietnamese law and wait the process out in Vietnam until our  USCIS/DOS decided to answer questions and take action.

Not all families have the option to move to a third world country for an indefinite time! I am asking you to please join me in helping these waiting children and their families in any way you can. I cannot begin to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to US Congressman Patrick McHenry! He made our adoption journey a “personal” issue and he lead us through the storm! He made sure Halle-Grace and I were back on US soil well before the 2 years I was told I would live in her birth country! The Congressman scheduled a visit to meet Miss Magic (probably to witness for himself, “who is this crazy lady who fled the country”) haha! In all seriousness, he is a remarkable leader who truly cares!

Love will make you do things you never thought possible. Halle-Grace was abandoned at birth, and there was never a question in my mind…she would NOT be abandoned again! Regardless of what I had to do.  

I encourage you and ask you to please show your support! Be a part of this mission…you can help build families through the miracle of adoption! On behalf of the waiting children and their forever families, THANK YOU for your time and action in advance.   

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Last Minute Pageant Prep

I remember this time last year, I was working out every day and going over and over my list of what to pack. I’m sure a lot of you girls are the same way! I want to share just a few bits of advice for preparing as we get so close to pageant week! 

1.      Eat Healthy

a.       I know the fitness competition is a big part of the score, but getting in shape should never include starving yourself! Eating healthy is a good way to make sure you are in good physical and mental condition for the non-stop week in Chicago!

2.      Get Organized

a.       There is a lot that goes into being a State Queen and Miss International. It’s important to be able to stay organized throughout your reign, and it is especially important for being in Chicago. If you’ve looked at the schedule, you’ll see we are going, going, going all the time! It will create a lot less stress for you if you organize your outfits and time to meet with your family and friends while you’re there!

3.      Don’t Forget…

a.       If you are like me, you have made a list of what to bring with you on your trip. A few things that I was glad someone told me to bring with me last year are: shoe inserts (thanks to my wonderful director!) because my feet were worn out, a jacket for the hotel, and snacks for the hotel room!

I’m sure you are excited to get to Chicago and meet the other contestants, but make sure you are doing all you can to promote the pageant and spread the word about your platform! Can’t wait to see y’all in Chicago! Only a few more weeks!

Ashley Smith 

Thursday, June 23, 2011


My Corporate Sponsor’s International Sales Meeting

My international corporate sponsor’s meeting was relocated to a US destination due to the recent earthquake in Japan. Three out of 5 of their facilities were severely impacted by the disaster. They moved their meeting to Orlando, Florida at the beautiful Peabody Hotel (famous for the Peabody ducks). It was an honor to be invited to the event and to finally meet some of the Japanese executives who were behind the decision to sponsor me for my quest for the title of Miss Teen International.
So once again, I packed my wonderful pink suitcase set (a prize from the International System) and jetted off to sunny Florida. It was a much needed break of sorts, having just finished up my sophomore year of college and final exams. 

When we got there, we were invited to a VIP reception where I met many of the top executives (some of which I had met previously in Atlanta). The next day was full of informational meetings about the effect of the earthquake and new products and research and development efforts.

The 2nd night was an incredible teat as my sponsor rented out the entire Universal Studios for a private party. We had special rides set up just for our group of VIP’s and the food was out of this world.
I spent much of the next day, soaking up the sun at the fabulous pool. It was so nice to finally relax and work on my tan.

By 5 pm I had to be dressed and ready in sash in the Mallard Lobby, I had been asked to help lead the duck march on the red carpet with Donald the Duckmaster. There are 3 world famous Peabody Hotels and each of them has a Duckmaster that leads the ducks from duck palace where they sleep (over $100,000 of marble and fountains grace the duck palace) to the fountain in the hotel. They march to the hotel fountain like clockwork every morning at 11 and back to their palace at 5 pm sharp each night. I was given a walking stick to help with the march and it was so much fun. I was the only one besides the Duckmaster and the ducks allowed to ride in the duck elevator to the duck palace. When we arrived, Donald (real name) gave me a souvenir autographed rubber duck from the Peabody.

The next two nights had special awards dinners and presentations including being entertained by comedian Louie Anderson- he is one of the top 100 comedians in the world and was so funny! Before I knew it, it was, unfortunately, time to go home.

Juliana McKee

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Treat Yourself and Treat It Forward
 Celebrate Adoption and Fathers this weekend by treating yourself to a Frosty at Wendy's!

This Father’s Day Weekend, you can help raise money for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a fund that helps place many children in the Foster Care System into permanent, loving homes.

This weekend, June 18-19, Wendy’s will donate 50¢ for every Frosty purchased! 
(They will also donate 50¢ for every time this message is shared on Facebook or Twitter)
I know Fitness Competition is around the corner for many of you ladies competing in a few weeks…however, you can FEEL GOOD about having a Frosty this weekend!
"Any man can be a Father but it takes someone special to be a dad."

Happy Father’s Day to my daddy! I am incredibly blessed!!! Halle-Grace is very blessed as well to have Jason as her daddy.
This photo was taken in Hanoi, Vietnam the night Jason boarded his flight to the US. This is one of my all-time favorite photos of Halle-Grace with her daddy!

Tell your daddy what he means to you…and don’t forget to treat him to a Frosty! A yummy treat that will help children find their permanent, loving families.  

Shannon Devine

Friday, June 17, 2011

Status on Vietnam Adoptions

Halle-Grace was adopted on September 1, 2008, the very same day that Vietnam adoptions were closed to the US. As Mrs. International, one of my goals was to not only see progress, but to somehow play a role in the movement towards re-opening the country and allowing adoptions from Vietnam to continue. Many of you may read this update and feel defeated? Personally, I see it as a light, maybe not as bright as I would like for it to shine…yet, I strongly believe that an ounce of progress is better than no movement! It inspires me and gives me hope for the future!
This photo of Halle-Grace was taken approximately 2 weeks before her adoption day.

And here’s Miss Magic (these photos were taken approximately 2 weeks ago) Wow, how my tiny miracle has changed!

Below is the most recent update from the U.S. Department of State regarding adoptions from Vietnam:

Intercountry adoption is not possible from Vietnam at this time. Adoption service providers and prospective adoptive parents should not seek or accept new (or potential) adoption referrals from Vietnam until an announcement is posted that the United States Citizenship and Information Service (USCIS) is again processing new I-600 or I-800 petitions for intercountry adoption in Vietnam.
 In June 2010, the Vietnamese legislature passed a new adoption law which took effect on January 1, 2011. The Vietnamese Prime Minister subsequently signed the new adoption decree on March 21 which took effect on May 8. Vietnam continues their efforts to implement the new law and achieve Vietnam’s stated goal ratifying the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.
 Vietnam signed the Convention on December 7, 2010 and has expressed its intent to ratify the Convention in July 2011 which means that the Convention would enter into force (and Vietnam would become a party) in November 2011. Under U.S. law, if/when Vietnam becomes a party to the Convention, the United States Central Authority (USCA) must evaluate whether procedures leading to the adoption of a child in Vietnam conform to the standards established by the Convention and the U.S. Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA).
 The United States recognizes Vietnam’s initiatives as significant developments in the renewed commitment by the Government of Vietnam to strengthen its child welfare system and the integrity of its domestic and international adoption process. Nevertheless, adoption service providers and prospective adoptive parents are cautioned that important steps must still be taken before Vietnam completes this reform process and before intercountry adoptions between the United States and Vietnam can resume.
 The USCA cautions adoption service providers that they should not offer or appear to offer adoption services in Vietnam until specific adoption service providers have been accredited or otherwise approved by the Government of Vietnam. In addition, under applicable U.S. regulations, accredited or approved adoption service providers may only provide services in a Convention country if the USCA has determined that the Convention country is compliant with Convention standards.
 The United States welcomes Vietnam’s strong efforts to create a child welfare system and an intercountry adoption process that will meet its obligations under the Convention. At this time it is not possible to estimate when adoptions between the United States and Vietnam may resume.
Visit for updates and to find out status concerning other countries.

Shannon Devine

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Komen North Texas Race for the Cure

This past Saturday I participated in the Susan G. Komen North Texas Race for the Cure in memory of my Mom-Mom & in celebration of my Momma being a 17 year survivor!! It was my first year as a Team Captain. My goal was to have about 10 people join my team and together raise $1000. To my WONDERFUL surprise I had 16 wonderful ladies on my team, and together we raised $1160 for the cause!! What a wonderful turn out & generous giving - I know the money we raised will be put to good use, but what is more important to me is the number of people that came out! Just raising awareness about breast cancer is my ultimate goal.

Mom joining other survivors for a picture before we got started.

The titleholders on my Queens for the Cure team.

Mrs. Texas International, Angelique Hoover; Miss Oklahoma International, Natalie Wells; and myself

Ashley Smith

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Did You Know?

While I was at the Race for the Cure, I noticed there were very few men participating. Most think of breast cancer as a woman’s disease – the color of awareness after all is PINK! But we can’t forget that this cancer affects men too. I must admit that I have not met many men who have breast cancer, but I remember at my state pageant one of the judges’ husbands had fought breast cancer (and won!), and she thanked me for remembering that it is not just a woman’s disease. She asked me to make sure that I made it part of my mission as Miss Texas International to spread awareness about breast cancer in men. I promised her I would! And so I have continued that as Miss International as well. I was very happy to see this sign at The Race.

It says: Komen for the CURE in honor of ALL women & men.

Ashley Smith

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tiara Magazine's "Most Beautiful & Influential People"

Recently, Juliana McKee, Miss Teen International 2010, was named by Tiara Magazine as one of the ten "Most Beautiful & Influential People" in the Industry. She will be featured in Tiara Magazine along with their exclusive interview with her. ….. Check out their website and see who else made the list this year!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Recess By the River, June 2011

The Spring 2011 “Recess by the River” event was June 7 and is the finale to the second season of the Recess by the River program hosted by the American Heart Association. Personally, this was my fourth Recess by the River event, and it is such a privilege to continue to be at the center of such a worthy project!

In addition to the International Pageant System, Recess by the River received support from Erick’s Hope Foundation, CareFirst BlueCross-BlueShield, the DC Parks and Recreation Department, the National Association of Teen Fitness and Exercise, the Washington Redskins and GSK, the DC Divas (all female semi-pro football!), Chef Mitchell and more.

The program featured me, Juliana McKee, Miss Teen International, the District of Columbia International queens, and the Washington DC Divas – the District’s women’s football team! 

An afternoon of fun activities aimed at helping the children learn about nutrition, exercise and the importance of making good decisions about them was designed to help fight childhood obesity in the District. The day served as a reward for 250 children and the Recreation Centers who participated in the program.
Juliana McKee

Friday, June 10, 2011

Princess Closet

On the job training for the next Mrs. International… The Princess Closet

Hello 2011 delegates! I am so excited to meet each and every one of you in just a few weeks! I can’t believe my farewell speech is complete; it seems like yesterday that I was preparing to become Mrs. International! Trust me; I know how you are feeling at this very moment. I cannot stress enough the importance of remaining true to who YOU are, what you represent, and the legacy that you want to leave. You are all beautiful, accomplished, intelligent women with amazing stories to share and I am thrilled that I have the honor of spending a week with you in Chicago!

Being Mrs. International is truly a job of service, with that being said, I want to encourage you to support The Princess Closet. You will have the chance to meet Maria, the founder of this amazing organization during Orientation. I know your suitcases will be overflowing, however, please leave some space to bring an item to donate to this amazing organization. We all have an item or three hanging in the closet (probably with a tag still attached) that we can part with for such an amazing cause. Just imagine the impact you can have on the life of a young girl who doesn’t have the means to “feel like a princess”! You have the power to change someone’s life and make them feel like a princess for a day!

The Princess Closet was founded in 2010 by Maria Davalos.

In 2010, over 300 young ladies found the dress of their dreams. In 2011, over 800 were dressed and with your help, we can continue to help Maria’s mission grow. Her vision also includes being able to provide resources that will encourage teens to become responsible, successful young women!

“Teens are at a critical time in their lives; a time where one person CAN make a difference. We believe that our YOUTH are our future and we need to support them.”

As I stated, being Mrs. International is a job of service! My request (consider this as “on the job training”) to each one of you is to bring at least one item to donate during Orientation. Find it in your hearts/closets to give to those who are less fortunate. It will make your heart smile while making a young girl’s dream come true. I’m counting on each one of you! Thank you in advance and I will see you in a few weeks!

Until next post remain blessed,


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Green Initiative

I had the chance to repay one of my corporate sponsors, whose company primarily serves the federal government, by being the “Green Queen” at his recent event! He invited me to speak about the green initiative, recycling and sustainability at his annual product fair.

Environmental sustainability is a very important topic these days and I have become somewhat of an unofficial expert on the topic. I am glad that I could give back to my sponsor and help him at his event; I am still so grateful to all of those that supported me in my quest for the title of Miss Teen International!

It was a well attended event and I met many fascinating and influential people including military and Department of Defense representatives, homeland security experts, and White House officials.

As the day progressed, over 200 people filtered through. They were fascinated with the International System and its strong emphasis on service to the community and others.
Juliana McKee

Monday, June 6, 2011

Registration Now Available for National Adoption Conference

Registration is now available for the 2011 National Adoption Conference! 
"Age to Engage for Adoption"

JULY 6-9, 2011
*Early bird rate extended through Sunday, June 12, 2011*
Every year during the National Council For Adoption’s (NCFA) annual conference, leaders in the field of adoption learn what is happening at the forefront of adoption policy and practice and how they can play an active role in improving and safe-guarding adoption.

NCFA is committed to producing professional, educational conferences of the highest caliber to ensure a rich learning experience that promotes best practices and sound policies in adoption and educates attendees on pertinent adoption-related research in the areas of domestic, intercountry, and adoption out of foster care. 

What’s new this year? Educational tracks that provide prospective adoptive parents with the unique opportunity to learn about the latest research on various topics surrounding adoption, as well as resources available to them pre- and post-adoption.

Partnering with NCFA as a conference sponsor gives you the perfect opportunity to showcase your company or brand before adoption agency executives, adoption service providers, adoption advocates, government officials, prospective adoptive parents, and more. Benefits include featuring your logo/link on NCFA's website, ad in the conference program, complimentary exhibitor table, tote bag item for all attendees, and recognition throughout the conference, including all conference materials, plus more form. For more information contact Lauren Koch at (703) 299-6633 or visit

Shannon Devine

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Miss Teen International Meets LPGA Champion

Recently I traveled to Orlando, Florida, to make appearances on behalf of my platform to support the American Heart Association's Alliance for a Healthier Generation (combating childhood obesity and encouraging children to make good choices concerning their health and life).

While there, I had the delightful opportunity to meet with the LPGA Champion, Paula Creamer.  Paula was as excited to meet Miss Teen International as I was to meet her, and even asked someone to take her picture with me on her blackberry so she could tweet abaout having met Miss Teen International!

Paula was very sweet and humble in person, a real role model. It was an honor to be able to spend time with her!

Juliana McKee