Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day 2 in Montrose

Game on! But, first…a few words about CASA

Hello from magnificent Montrose! Day 2 in Colorado began with the CASA dodgeball tournament. It quadrupled in size over this past year, so there were plenty of teams and costumed get-ups. It was going to be an entertaining day to say the least!

Outside the tournament with some of the CASA staff and volunteers.

With some of the fiercest competitors.

Later in the day I was able to shoot some promos for CASA of the 7th Judicial District. They will air throughout the next year and so I was more than happy to help beyond the trip.


We then changed clothes and were guests for a luncheon at the beautiful Bridges Golf and Country Club. Just before lunch, I was able to sit and talk privately with someone who has been a great supporter of CASA along with other child-focused organizations. She made SUCH an impact on me. I will share her story in another post, as it truly deserves its own time.

Then it was time to fly home. It’s hard to explain if you have never experienced it, but it’s unique to find a city so well connected with those who live there. Everyone I met is so proud of their beautiful home. And I will admit there were tears shed by Stacey and me as we said goodbye. Stacey Ryan, you are a gem. Thank you for inviting me to come visit and for arranging every last detail of the trip. Karen Tuttle, you have an incredible program in the 7th Judicial District. Brian Brinkerhoff, CASA in Colorado is so lucky to have you at the helm. To the CASA volunteers I met…I thank you for standing up for the children you serve. AND to Tim, Tammy, John, Cayden, Tyra, Abby and EVERYONE who was a part of this wonderful weekend in Montrose, I thank you for being so welcoming and so wonderful. I will hold a very special place in my heart for you and sing your praises to others in need of a little piece of heaven. XOXOX

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

www.CASA7JD.org
www.CityofMontrose.org
www.CASAforChildren.org

Friday, November 29, 2013

Junior Achievement Stock Market Challenge

I first heard of Junior Achievement during a volunteer fair last year and thought their mission of teaching k-12 students real life skills like work readiness and financial literacy. In my opinion this is an incredibly invaluable opportunity for young people to gain this experience and be more prepared to enter the “real world”.

The Western New York chapter hosts multiple competitions and events yearly to let the students put their knowledge into practice including a business plan competition and a stock market challenge. This year I was asked to be a special guest at the Stock Market Challenge and I was blown away with the tenacity and competitive spirit of the participants. Over 360 students came together for a 50-day simulated trade floor experience to see who could build the largest portfolio.

Just walking around the room you could feel the electricity and teammates communicated through cell phones or working up a sweat running from trade floor to home base for up to the minute buying and selling. I am sure I was amongst many future expert financiers and business sharks. The top three teams were rewarded with exciting prizes and also the knowledge that their work paid off!

To become a JA volunteer in your area and help build a generation of educated and ethical professionals visit www.juniorachievement.org

With the winning team from Hamburg High School and their seriously cool trophy, modeled after the famous bull found in the financial district of NYC!

Seek Happiness,

Jesse

Thursday, November 28, 2013

10 Things I’m Thankful for This Thanksgiving

10 Things I’m Thankful for This Thanksgiving

  1. Family & Friends The people who will standby be till the very end no matter what. They are wonderful and generous people who love me for me and accept me as I am.
  2. Laughter In my eyes laughter is one of the most beautiful things. It brings people together from all walks of life and speaks every language.
  3. Grace Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
  4. Home I’m thankful for my beautiful home in Arkansas and the small town I grew up in.
  5. International pageant system This organization has forever changed the lives of women all around the world and truly impacted thousands of people. It brings together outstanding women with a desire to give back and lifts them up to do just that.
  6. Nature The world around us is beautiful, full of marvelous colors, sounds, and smells that continue to surprise me every day.
  7. Difficult times Who would I be without the struggles in my life that shaped who I am?
  8. Health I’m healthy and strong, free of disease or pain. I have the ability to go about my day with ease and for this I am always grateful.
  9. Education I have such easy access to a world of knowledge. Any information I want to know is at my fingertips.
  10. Today Everyday is a new adventure and another day my Lord has given to me. It's another chance to make a positive change. It’s another day to see what a fantastic experience life really is.
So, what are you thankful for?
Happy Thanksgiving!
Haley Pontius

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving

My family and I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving. And may you not end the day looking like this turkey!

Tom the turkey.

Actually, my son created this masterpiece at school last week. Now “Tom,” will forever be part of our holiday. He reminds me of the years I spent working on Thanksgiving as so many others do every fourth Thursday in November. The news never stops and so for more than ten years, we news crews would use studio kitchens to heat or re-heat (depending on breaking news) the traditional turkey dinner. One year, in Indianapolis, we realized just before the 5pm newscast that a turkey dropped off for us was a barely thawed bird. Oops. More pie please! Still, we were a mini-family, a bit dysfunctional at times, but we surrounded each other as friends on that day.

With that said, I am thankful for being able to spend the day with my loved ones. Our thoughts are with everyone serving our country away from home and to those spending the day working so they can afford to put food on their table.

May we always be grateful in the heart for all the blessings that surround us!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

As We Approach the Thanksgiving Holiday...

It’s almost Thanksgiving! And you know what that means: traditional Thanksgiving dinners, family and friends, and of course football!

But to me this is also a time to serve others. During a time when we’re giving thanks for what we have let’s also remember those less fortunate than us and give to them. Whether it’s volunteering to serve a thanksgiving dinner at a church or maybe buying a turkey for a family that can’t afford one, there are opportunities all around us!

Many of us have been blessed in amazing ways and it’s our duty to share those blessings. So, this Thanksgiving I’m challenging you to make a difference, however big or small, in someone’s life.

You’ll be surprised the impact you’ll have!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and truly get to enjoy this time of the year!

Acts 20:35 It is more blessed to give than to receive.

God Bless,

Haley Pontius

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Hints for Doing Good

I am wrapped up in the holiday spirit and LOVE to give gifts that not only make the recipients happy, but also make a positive impact. While shopping, keep in mind these options for doing the most good this year. I even have an idea for that person that is always hardest to buy for – you can thank me later!

Stationary for Animal Lovers

If you’ve already selected the perfect gifts for your loved ones, you can purchase holiday cards featuring adorable rescue animals. 10% of proceeds go to help animal welfare groups and shelters.

http://www.hoorayfortheunderdog.com

For The Fashionista

You may have first heard of TOMS when they were featured on a Cingular cell phone commercial (yes, CINGULAR!) a few years ago. Their mission was founded on a One for One approach. For each pair of TOMS shoes purchased, one pair was donated to a person in need. They have since expanded to benefit eyesight with their line of sunglasses. Their shoes are distributed among 60 countries and provide eyesight restoration in 13 countries.

http://www.toms.com

LUSH Body Butter

Lush is a boutique that sells fresh, handmade cosmetics. Their fair trade body butter is solid in “charity pots” where 100% of the proceeds goes to the charity featured on each particular lid. Silky soft skin and donating to a worthy cause… isn’t that what every beauty queen wants for Christmas?

http://www.lushusa.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-Lush-Site/en_US/Charities-Support

eBay Giving Works

Whether you are looking to buy from eBay or return the duplicate items you receive this holiday season give GivingWorks a try. The seller defines what charity they would like to support and what percentage of the auction price they would like to go to. So far the site has raised 345 MILLION dollars…. Well done, eBay!

http://givingworks.ebay.com

For the person that’s IMPOSSIBLE to buy for

Global Giving is an innovative sight that allows you to support various causes and efforts (including disaster relief, education, health, and more – in all, over 8,000 projects have been helped). You can decide what project you’d like to donate to on behalf of the gift recipient or give them a gift card and let them choose for themselves!

http://www.globalgiving.org

HAPPY SHOPPING!

Seek Happiness,

Jesse

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Colorado - Day 1


Before I even arrived in Colorado, the Western Slope had done a wonderful job promoting CASA and the upcoming dodgeball tournament.  They also did a bang-up job welcoming me to the Montrose, which is a, “2013 All-American City,” not far from fantastic ski resorts at Telluride and Crested Butte. The weather is typically mild and they rarely get snow although white-capped mountains surround them. I arrived to discover a piece of heaven where I was invited to be a part of festivities to raise awareness and funds for CASA of the 7th Judicial District.  The district encompasses 6 counties in Colorado and covers 10-THOUSAND square miles!

They actually put me behind the gears of the loader! Watch yourselves!

My schedule was efficiently packed for the two days I spent there.  After landing, I unveiled of a skid loader shrink wrapped with the CASA logo.  For the next year, a portion of its rental fees through Black Dog Equipment will go back to CASA of the 7th Judicial District (CASA of 7JD). The next stop was the Montrose City Hall for a reception where I met dignitaries and CASA volunteers who were so kind and warm.  We were able to discuss the goals of CASA and the needs of the 7JD.  But the day was young!  It was then time for me to sound the horn for the 5K fun run. From there, the CASA staff and I were driven to downtown Montrose to meet with local businesses including the A+Y Design Gallery, which is where I met more CASA volunteers and some who will hopefully become advocates.

We had a great time chatting about CASA and the area.

With CASA 7JD Development and PR Director Stacey Ryan at a showing of the movie, “Dodgeball.”

We then kicked-off a couple of showings of the hilarious movie, “Dodgeball.” It was  a way to rev up the teams who had come to compete the next morning. I was able to speak with everyone about CASA and why it is so important to support CASA. It was such an inspirational evening to meet and talk with everyone.

Then it was time to return to the hotel, where I was showered with gifts from CASA of the 7th Judicial District and Montrose.  They had also saved newspapers with articles about CASA and the International Pageant System for me to keep!



Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

www.CASA7JD.org
www.CityofMontrose.org
www.CASAforChildren.org

Thursday, November 21, 2013

21st Annual Reigning Cats and Dogs Benefit

Ever since I was a little girl I have had a deep love and passion for animals that has strongly influenced who I am today.

That’s why I was so grateful to the Humane Society of Pulaski County for inviting me to attend the 21st Annual Reigning Cats and Dogs benefit in Little Rock, AR. The evening was a celebration of our four-legged friends with a delicious buffet of heavy hors d’oeuvres, beverages, and live music by Bass and Brown.



To top it off the event was complete with a Silent and Live Auction with more than 250 items! The highlights of the Live Auction included a Photo Safari Trips for Two to South Africa, Painting with a Twist Pet Painting Party for 10 with Wine, a 14 Ct Gold with 9 Ct Citrine Stone & Diamond Ring, a Lady's Accutron watch with 88 Diamonds, Chef's Four Course Tasting Dinner with Wine Paring for 6 at So Restaurant-Bar. That morning there was also an online auction that included a Trip to Las Vegas, a two-part cooking school at E's Bistro, amazing pet products, restaurant and ticket certificates, and more!

I had such a wonderful time! The highlights of my night included meeting Ed Buckner, a THV Channel 11 news anchor as well as the emcee for the night.


And, of course, honorably modeling the 14 Ct Gold with 9 Ct Citrine Stone & Diamond Ring as well as the Lady's Accutron watch with 88 Diamonds throughout the night and during the Live Auction. (I never wanted to take off the ring!)


I also had the opportunity to speak about my platform and the International Pageant System! I was able to touch base on not only my work as Miss Teen International and what I have been doing throughout my year, but the International System and what this pageant is doing for women all across the world.

All of the money raised has gone to help the thousands of homeless, abandoned and injured animals in communities all across Arkansas! I’m proud to announce the benefit raised thousands of dollars for the Humane Society!

All my love,

Haley
Miss Teen International 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

JDRF Gala Committee

A few weeks ago I met with the Western New York JDRF office to learn about their initiatives and offer my support to their efforts. JDRF has been the leader in the search for a cure for Type 1 Diabetes for over 40 years. Last year I attended a fashion show in Syracuse, NY to benefit JDRF and just a few days later my then 2-year old cousin, Zachary was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It just goes to show you that you never know when something will hit close to home.

Each year they host a black-tie gala in Buffalo and over the last 13 years it has grown into one of the top-three fundraising events in the area. I was thrilled when they invited me to be a member of the planning committee for this year’s event. I attended my first meeting and wow! was I blown away at the dedication of the committee members. The committee chair, Jane, has been spearheading the event for 14 years, since her daughter was diagnosed. The other members are equally as devoted to finding a cure. What is most inspiring is that their crusade is so much more than about a personal connection, but about finding a cure to prevent other families from enduring the same struggles.

We put our heads together to discuss auction item ideas, potential sponsors and donations, and other innovative ideas to make the event on January 18th as successful as possible!

The poster for this year’s Visions Of A Cure JDRF Gala

Seek Happiness,

Jesse

"Friend of Children" Award

I found myself standing before 600-people I so admire. They are the nurses who carefully help young victims of sexual abuse; some are caseworkers trying to rescue families in need; others are volunteers at our state’s crisis nurseries.

There were dozens of organizations all dedicated to preventing child abuse. They, along with the Attorney General’s office and the Governor’s office, were part of the Prevent Child Abuse convention in Illinois. I had been invited to receive a very special award!


My belief is we can do more together as like-minded organizations. That is why Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA) inspires me. They are on the front lines, working diligently to protect young children for whom we as CASA volunteers are committed to helping find safe and permanent homes.

After the luncheon with Illinois PCA Executive Director Roy Harley and PCA Illinois Prevention Specialist Belinda Farr who did a wonderful job presenting the award.

My husband and I attended the PCA luncheon where I was introduced and then received the “Friend of Children Award.” It is a highlight for me and I must thank the convention committee for giving me this beautiful award. May we continue to join forces and serve as voices for all our children.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

www.preventchildabuse.org
www.CASAforChildren.org

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute's Festival of Trees

CARTI (Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute) has been working to help cancer patients and their families for almost 40 years in the state of Arkansas. One of the most dazzling and heartwarming events that they hold is the annual Festival of Trees.


At this event dozens of incredible trees are on display creating a cheerful atmosphere! You even have the option to bid on one of the stunning trees and have it delivered to your home!




Since 1976, the festival has raised more than $6 million dollars to provide needed services and programs to Arkansas cancer patients! The money raised from the festival goes directly to the patient assistance funding program to provide medication, housing, transportation, emotional support, counseling, and a statewide cancer educational program.

I stand strongly by CARTI because they not only treat the patient, they treat the entire family. They know that cancer, like heart disease, affects the entire family and it’s a family affair.

With this said, the festival was a huge success, pulling in families from all across the state for fun and a great cause!



Tis the season,

Haley Pontius

Monday, November 18, 2013

Holiday Volunteering

Holiday season is on its way and it’s a perfect time to count our blessings and give to those who may have a few less than we do. Last year my mother and I volunteered to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a local food bank. On a day where its meaning is often overshadowed by exorbitant amounts of food, shopping deals, and simply being skimmed over in anticipation for Christmas it made me realize just how fortunate I am – even on my worst days.

It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the season – the decorating, the gift giving, gift getting, get-togethers - I love this time of year! I also love volunteering around the holidays because there is such a variety of ways and opportunities that you can give back. In the next few weeks food banks and other community support organizations are looking for volunteers to take calls for meal requests, people to prepare and put together these meals, and delivery drivers for Thanksgiving Day.

Beyond Thanksgiving, there are countless programs that collect warm clothing, food, and gifts for the less fortunate so that they can share the joy that we have when the holidays arrive. You can collect toiletries and entertainment items for troops or join an organization that is wrapping gifts in exchange for donations. I urge everyone to add a volunteer experience to what I’m sure is an already busy schedule. I promise you that it will be time well spent and it will help reconnect you to the true reasons for the season.

Everyone has a story, and you may never know how someone got down on their luck, but just by giving your time you can make their day a little brighter and their life a little easier.

The beautiful tables all set and ready for our guests at the community kitchen

Visiting with the residents at Woodbrook assisted living facility on Christmas Day!

Seek Happiness,

Jesse

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rotary Club

After dropping the kids off at school, I drove north to Gurnee. Gurnee is known for Six Flags and their enormous outlet mall. It is also known for having an impressive Rotary Club.


I, along with a few others from CASA Lake County, met with Rotary Club members. The breakfast and meeting was a chance to get to know one another and to tell everyone a bit more about CASA and the needs of our abused and neglected children. In turn, we learned more about what members in Gurnee are working on right now.

Each Rotary Club is unique in that they focus on ways to address issues in their own community. They are supported by Rotary International, the member association and The Rotary Foundation. There has been significant impact made by Rotarians around the world for over 100 years!

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

www.Rotary.org

Friday, November 15, 2013

Veterans Day Parade

To celebrate Veterans Day last weekend I had the opportunity to ride in the Veterans Day parade in Little Rock, AR with Mrs. Arkansas International, Quynci Joyner, and Miss Arkansas International, Mollie Parker. I was so excited because I absolutely love parades and I think it was a lovely way to honor our troops! The parade was complete with fire trucks, veterans, and a marching band playing the national anthem as we paraded down the highway.


To me Veterans Day is one of the most important holidays that we celebrate because it’s a day to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Because of this I was thrilled to be able to take part in this event!


Though, I must say, the highlight of my day was hearing all of the children on the sidewalk yell things like “Are those real diamonds?”, “Are you a real princess?”, and “Is that your car?” It never gets old!


And, of course, a big thanks to the Capital City Corvette Club for allowing me to ride in one of your beautiful convertibles!

All my love,

Haley Pontius 
Miss Teen International

Harvest of Hope

I had the pleasure of attending the Muscular Dystrophy Association Annual Harvest of Hope to benefit research and development for ALS. I must say that it was the most organized and effective use of volunteers I have ever seen. I will also add that many volunteers found out about the event on my favorite resource, VolunteerMatch, of course!!

All volunteers arrived early to attend a brief meeting and to get our assignments. Each person had a specific duty throughout the duration, from monitoring the silent and live auctions or helping serve guests delicious refreshments, which made for a smooth-running event and busy, effective volunteers. I teamed up with my new friends Bill and Glory and to sell raffle tickets for a donated iPad.

I was happy to attend such an uplifting, fun, and organized event for a terrific cause. A few of my Miss International sisters had the platform of either MDA or ALS so any time I can offer my support to them (even indirectly) my heart feels extra full.


Seek Happiness,

Jesse

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Golden Ticket

I bought my prized ticket in June and have done everything possible to ensure I would remain free one special Saturday in October to see a man called Buck. Little did I know I would become Mrs. International, therefore it was tough to pull off when so many other great opportunities awaited.

After inviting my dear friend Jennifer to the event, we struck out on our 2-hour road trip to Poplar Grove. At one point I had to post a location on Facebook to figure out where we were as we drove through a number of cornfields. And then we arrived in the middle of…a cornfield. But I do love a good farm and so it was a piece of heaven.


 The event was a fundraiser for Brave Hearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center. They provide equine therapies to children and adults. This particular event raised money for military veterans receiving equine therapy to help with physical challenges and PTSD. We all came to raise money and watch Buck Brannaman work with young horses that had yet to be “broken.”


Buck is a horse miracle worker. He got his start at a very young age. As kids, he and his brother travelled the country and were on the “Ed Sullivan” show for their talented rope tricks. Behind the scenes was an abusive show dad who felt even perfection was not enough. Buck says the abuse only worsened once his mother passed. But someone at school noticed his bruises and made sure he and his brother didn’t remain in their father’s violent home one more day.

Instead, they lived on a ranch with other children in a foster home. His foster father, who he called “Dad,” wanted Buck to have a skill on which to fall back if needed, so he taught Buck how to shoe horses. Through working with horse trainers, Buck quietly became known as the “Horse Whisperer.” He has an amazing way of working with new horses or those horses with a laundry list of behavioral issues. He performs magic on these horses others felt were a lost cause. In fact, Robert Redford, says much of the movie, “The Horse Whisperer,” was based on Buck who was the consultant for the movie.

The real deals.

Buck’s belief is horses don’t need to be “broken,” through intimidation and threats. Because of his own abusive childhood, he realized you can gain respect through respect which is done by approaching a horse from their perspective, you can then understand what makes them tick and that in turn helps you communicate with them. Intimidating them or scaring them isn’t the answer. The same goes for people.


Through the award winning documentary, “Buck,” he has shaped the way people from all over the world, horse fans or not, have come to look at the way we as individuals relate to others, such as animals. By the way, it is one of my all-time favorite movies. The cinematography is breath taking too! Netflix it.

So on that Saturday, we watched Buck go to work with a 3-year-old filly who had not yet been trained. Within an hour we watched him gain her fragile trust and her cooperation. And by the time he was done, she was allowing him to saddle her, ride her and other such tasks she will have to do in her coming years.

Watching him build that trust with the young horse even caused Jennifer to cry. Now, she won’t be jumping on horse or anything like that, but I was so pleased to share this special event with her and to know it affected her as well. And to know we are helping others get needed therapy is what brought us all there.

Thank you Jennifer for encouraging me to talk with Buck. I was so nervous!

It was a true highlight to then be able to meet Buck! I rarely get star struck…but I was by him. I told him about CASA and our work with foster families and children. And I was able to tell Buck how much I admire him and appreciate the good done for both horses and foster families because of the documentary. It was well worth the 4-month wait and the journey getting there.

God bless our Veterans and Brave Hearts. And God bless friends willing to take the road less traveled and God Bless Buck.

Be the Change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

www.braveheartsriding.org

Sunday, November 10, 2013

501 Magazine

Recently, I had the honor of being featured in a very popular magazine in Arkansas called the 501 Magazine. I was so excited when it came out and I knew that I wanted to share this with you! Below is a picture of the article.


I was also excited to see, as I was flipping through the magazine, an article written about my school! It featured several of my classmates and I was thrilled that both articles were in the same edition!

Much love,

Haley Pontius

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Make a Difference Day

After my birthday and Thanksgiving my favorite day is very obviously - Make A Difference Day!  Make a Difference Day is a day of national service that takes place annually on the 4th Saturday in October.  It was started in 1992 and is sponsored by USA Weekend Magazine.  This year upwards of 3 million people went out and helped improve the quality of life of our neighbors.

This year I connected with Heritage Christian Services, an organization that provides group homes for the developmentally disabled.  In addition to simply offering a “house”, the residents gain important interaction, access to various therapies, and fun social events.  

This particular property is a gorgeous ranch house and on a sprawling yard.  Hiring a landscaping committee to complete a fall clean-up would cost an astronomical amount and take away from the other necessary activities their residents thrive on.  So on this Make a Difference Day I joined a team to rake ALL the leaves off the property to ensure it would be in prime condition for a harsh Buffalo winter.

It was no picnic, as it has rained so aggressively the last few weeks that leaves were packed together and the yard a swamp in some areas.  However, the conditions never dampened our spirit or our effort!  The residents were so grateful and their smiles made the blisters, sore back, and sniffles all worth it!

Booker T. Washington said, “If you want to lift up yourself , lift up someone else”.

Raking with Miss Elise, one of the dedicated volunteers from our team!

Seek Happiness,

Jesse

Friday, November 8, 2013

Title Wear: My New Obsession

Slightly Obsessed?

Love my new duds. Thank you to Title Wear.

As Mrs. Illinois International, I was given some great gifts from sponsors. One of those was from Title Wear. I ordered the tricot jacket and have since worn it more times than I can count. Seriously, I am wearing it right now.

During our week at Mrs. International, we were all given a Port Authority jacket, hat and goodies from Title Wear and other wonderful sponsors. I was beyond thrilled to learn that as Mrs. International, I was gifted a very generous package including a lush terry robe and a perfect sized tote from Title Wear. This year I have already been a part of walks and other events that are athletic or much more casual. A cocktail dress or gown simply wouldn’t do! I am now covered, literally.

Title Wear has a number of items with crowns and bling, however, as an official sponsor of Mrs. International, they are also the only company to offer items with the International logo. I ordered my favorite tricot jacket in blue as it’s the color which represents child abuse and CASA. I also got it in red which will be put to much use for many Go Red for Women events! My new favorite find, which I adore, is the hooded coat. It is a longer length… perfect for covering up the backside! And the tricot pants are a perfect alternative for the non-forgiving yoga pants I often stare down in my closet when finding something to wear for a fundraising event. Try ‘em; you’ll love ‘em.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

www.titlewear.com

Thursday, November 7, 2013

MS Society Fundraiser

Some people will just always hold a special place in your heart. My very first judge in the International Pageant system is one of those people. Until that point, I had only ever participated in panel-style interviews so I was terrified to sit a foot away from a person and try to win them over. Those nerves melted away only moments after I sat down across from Mary Moulds, Mrs. New Jersey International 2009. I did not know who she was then, all I knew was how well our conversation flowed and how natural it was to laugh with her. (I jumped up and down when I saw her headshot in Dothan, AL on Clay Spann’s studio wall!)

I am now so proud to say that she is a very special part of my “pageant family”. When I found out she was hosting her annual MS Fundraiser in Princeton, New Jersey, without hesitation I added it to my calendar. MS is an immune system attack against the nervous system which causes nerve impulses traveling to the brain or spinal cord to be distorted or interrupted. This is something that Mary lives with every day and has for 12 years. She has proven to be a true asset to the entire MS community, raising over $85,000 (and that was BEFORE this year’s event!).

She surprised me (and brought tears to my eyes!) when she announced that I was one of the recipients of her very special volunteer awards. (I’m used to giving these not receiving them!) I had a wonderful conversation with Karen and Jim, executives for the New Jersey Metro Chapter of the MS Society and how much they value their volunteers. It was a wonderful night to celebrate Mary’s accomplishments and fundraising goals with my pageant family. I was so happy to be a part of it.

With Mary and Jim Roberts, Chapter President, upon receiving my award.

Seek Happiness,

Jesse

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pancreatic Cancer Association

Pancreatic cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. One of our greatest defenses against this disease is simply awareness. Because of this the Arkansas Pancreatic Cancer Association holds an event every year to honor those who are fighting against this disease and those who have lost the fight. Each year it takes place on the steps of the Arkansas State Capital.


Although it rained for quite a while, when the sky cleared and the stars came out it was a beautiful sight. During the ceremony they read aloud a list of names of beloved friends and family who had pasted from pancreatic cancer. As the name of your loved one was called you would snap a purple glow stick and hold it in the air to honor them. By the time they finished we had lit up the front steps of the state capital in purple.


Jessica Thompson, the community volunteer director of the Arkansas Pancreatic Cancer Association, and I at the event.

Jessica lost her father to pancreatic cancer in 2007. He was diagnosed in February of that year and passed away in July at 54 years of age. Hearing Jessica share her story was moving and seeing the passion that she had for this organization was inspiring.

I’m truly excited to see what’s next for this organization and I hope to attend many more events in the future.

Love,

Haley
Miss Teen International 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Coffee Talk with St. Jude


I was invited to meet for coffee Danielle Kinzer who is the event coordinator for the Midwest region of St. Jude. She was kind enough to reach out to discuss the needs of St. Jude and how I can be of help to them. There are some terrific events coming up in the next several months. There is the sold out St. Jude “Dream a Little Dream,” fashion show and luncheon and in December there is the US99.5 Country Cares for St. Jude Kids and in May, the Four Stars of Chicago Restaurant Extravaganza and that’s just here in the Chicagoland area!

Sounds like fun times, and for good reason. Most of us have heard of St. Jude and we know the organization is dedicated to helping children who are sick. But, what they do and how they do it is much more complex and impressive. Specifically, St. Jude is focused on research and the treatment of children facing catastrophic diseases by helping advance cures and means of prevention.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is located in Memphis Tennessee. They are on the cutting edge of therapies and SHARE their life saving research with hospitals around the world. Only a few decades ago certain diseases had less than a 5% survival rate. Now, thanks to St. Jude, some of those survival rates are up to 94%!

AND families being treated at St. Jude have enough to worry about; therefore no family ever pays St. Jude. And that is why I was so pleased to spend time with Danielle. I look forward to helping them in any way I can so they can better help children and their families.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International
www.stjude.org

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dove Self-Esteem #GirlsUnstoppable Project

To honor Domestic Violence Awareness month, I was part of the Dove self-esteem project and met with students from the Boys and Girls Club program at Wells Academy in Chicago.

To support positive self-esteem and help make #GirlsUnstoppable, they asked me to talk about having a belief in yourself. From an early age, I discovered the role sports and setting goals positively played with my confidence. Still, there were those who would try to knock me down or wanted to see me fall. It seems to happen to every student at some point. So, I took a step back in time (a big step) and I tried to put myself in their shoes. How did I feel when I was their vulnerable age and what advice do I wish I could have given myself then? Oh, where to begin?!

I began by taking off my fake eyelashes, make-up and taking out clip-in hair extensions as a way to help explain reality. Given photo shopped magazines and “reality,” shows, it’s hard to not compare yourself to what really doesn’t exist. It’s a set-up to never feel you can measure up. None of us are perfect and we all have issues, some more than others;)

Here I am with some of bright young women. They were incredibly sweet.

Then I spoke about Court Appointed Special Advocates. As CASA volunteers, we handle the fallout of children who have many times lived with domestic violence in their homes which SHOULD be safe havens. We know a positive self-esteem can help someone avoid controlling and/or violent relationships or help them get out of one. There was so much guidance I wanted to give to these bright students, as I want so much for each of them. And so I pass along just some of it to you:

*If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who makes you feel bad, have the courage to leave it behind. They don’t deserve your time and attention.
*Abuse is not love. They may say things or do things that make you feel powerless. Apologizing doesn’t make it okay either. There is no excuse.
*No one should call you stupid, worthless or other demeaning names…not a parent, not a girlfriend or boyfriend. No one should belittle you.
*No one has the right to violate your personal space, to touch you in places or ways that make you uncomfortable.
*If someone has or does subject you to sexual abuse, tell them no. Tell an adult or someone you trust about what has taken place…you can even get a hold of me! It’s not right, it’s not your fault and it needs to stop.
*If someone is bullying you, please talk to a teacher, a parent, a family member or reach out to me. It’s not right. It does not need to continue.


We then discussed the crucial differences between good supportive relationships and those “other,” relationships where someone wants you to be part of their misery party. These bad relationships may not be abuse, but you shouldn’t waste any more time with those who will not help your reach your goals and celebrate with you when you do. But that goes both ways!

Thank you Wells Academy for having me!

This is serious, even if it was a fun night. These are young women who are smart and can conquer their dreams IF they stay true to themselves. We need these young women to do just that! A healthy self-esteem is integral. I firmly believe if someone knows just how valuable they are, it will be easier to focus on what is right for them.

Be the Change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

http://www.dove.us/Social-Mission/default.aspx

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Project Sunshine

Interacting with children is one of my favorite parts of being a titleholder. Nothing beats seeing their sweet faces light up when they meet a “real life princess” (no, really – it NEVER gets old). So as most people can relate, one of my LEAST favorite things is seeing a child living with restraints and ailments. Kids should be able to be kids without stress, pain, or limitations! Sadly, though, the reality is that many children do live with illness and the best thing we can do is help them smile and laugh as much as possible.

Project Sunshine is a wonderful organization that does just that. Their network of over 15,000 volunteers provides free social, educational, and recreational activities for children facing health challenges and their families in 175 US cities as well as Kenya, Canada, China, and Israel.

This month they hosted a Halloween Carnival in a treatment center in Harlem. They like to invite “celebrities” to give the children a little extra excitement, and for this carnival I was lucky enough to be asked, along with Cookie Monster! We decorated fairy wings, made healthy snacks like “boo-nanas”, had our faces painted, and my personal favorite – decorated crowns (shocking)! The volunteers from United Health were just fabulous and I was so impressed with their willingness to go the extra mile to make each child feel loved and special.

I was so grateful to be involved with helping the children and their families trade in the daily worry with some serious fun!

Okay, the kids weren’t the ONLY ones excited to meet Cookie Monster!

Seek Happiness,

Jesse

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Highwood Pumpkin Fest

Let the carving begin!

This weekend was the 4th annual Highwood Pumpkin Festival. Perhaps you have even seen it on HGTV’s show “Pumpkin Wars.” There are literally thousands of pumpkins carved and lined up on scaffolding over the three-day event. The festival hosts several events and helps benefit St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancers.

Pumpkins for as far the eye can see.

And each year spectators take a stab at the Guinness books of World Record for most pumpkins carved and lit at once. It was a success (for a fourth straight year) with more than 28-thousand pumpkins on display. We carved a few to add to the substantial wall of jack-o-lanterns. Pictures won’t do it justice. They look pretty incredible once they are lit up after dusk. Congratulations to Highwood for keeping the record and for helping St. Baldrick’s!

Be the Change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

www.stbaldricks.org
www.HighwoodPumpkinFest.com

Friday, November 1, 2013

Jovani

Imagine walking into the prettiest room you have ever seen. This room is dripping with crystals, rhinestones, beautiful flowing fabrics in every color on the spectrum. This room has shining floors and is filled with a glamorous lightness reserved only for somewhere very special… this room is the Jovani showroom in New York City.

Jovani holds a special place in my heart – the gown I was crowned in bares its label. I so admire Jovani and the fact that they are not afraid to take fashion risks.

My fabulous wardrobe sponsor The Competitive Image was kind enough to set up a magical day for me to visit with the Jovani staff and try on everything, EVE-RY-THING, at my heart’s content to find the styles and sizes that could work best.

I hesitate to share any of my photos with you from that day because you never know which Jovani fashions I will wear this year and I certainly want it to be a surprise ;-) Thank you again to Joey and The Competitive Image as well as Jovani for helping make this special day possible.

Posing in front of the Jovani Step and Repeat with PR Director, Jameela, and my good friend and Jovani Intern, Katie!

Seek Happiness,

Jesse