Miss Black MN USA hopefuls support children in need—By Donavee Chapell, Contributing Writer

A group of 2011 Miss Black Minnesota USA contestants donated handmade bears to children at the St. Paul Ronald McDonald House. -Photo courtesy of Donavee Chapell

On September 10, 2011, Miss Black Minnesota USA Scholarship representatives and over 20 pre-teen and teen contestants met at the Build-A-Bear store in the Mall of America to donate handmade bears to needy families and children subject to extended stays during treatment or surgery.

The day of giving started with a rousing chant by the contestants and staff at Build-A-Bear in Mall of America, then they began building, naming and donating 20 costumed bears to the Ronald McDonald House in St. Paul.

The Ronald McDonald House began in Philadelphia in 1973 when Fred Hill, a member of the Philadelphia Eagles football team, learned that his three-year-old daughter, Kim, had leukemia. Now, some 38 years later, the Ronald McDonald House has over 300 locations worldwide, with two in the Midwest.

The Miss Black Minnesota Pageant contestants, as a kick-off to the Miss Black Minnesota Pageant to be held at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center November 18, 2011, took time to show compassion and care to others by giving to families that are going through tough times in the hospital.

The young pageant contestants took a tour of the facilities at the Ronald McDonald House and learned about their healing and loving environment, and how spending time giving to others is an important part in the recovery of sick children with long stays in the hospital away from their extended families for long periods of time.

The time they spend with others in need will also go far toward their development as pageant aspirants, according to the contestants. The path of “the crown” is filled with education, positive relationships and a lot of giving unto others. “It’s hard work,” one contestant commented.

While watching the contestants on their tour, it was clear that they were excited and wanted to know more about the families and if the children would be alone during their stay. “How long do they stay here, and does the whole family get to stay with them?” one young contestant asked.

The guide replied, “Yes, the whole family is able to stay here, and the average family can stay up to six months, sometimes more.”

The girls replied with a gasp, realizing that this is like a home away from home, and having mom and dad with a young patient while they are getting treatment would make it so much better. With a separate kitchen for each family, a full game room, computer room and their own playground on site, it was obvious to the girls that the Ronald McDonald House is not about burgers and fries. It’s making life a little easier during a tough time for very sick children and their families.

The Ronald McDonald House even has a pet dog named Jerry, which is very tall and loves children. He walked around with the tour and played with the kids as they went from room to room. He was a positive distraction from the seriousness of surgery and recovery.

As the contestants left the Ronald McDonald House, they were very appreciative of the opportunity to give to the families, and thanked their guide many times over. They took pictures and bid farewell to Jerry the dog.

The Miss Black Minnesota Organization, under the direction of State Director Latonja Eppinger and Assistant Director Kim Dean, have embraced our communities and made steps toward mentoring the young girls of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

To find out more about the Miss Black Minnesota USA Pageant or the Miss Black USA Pageant, go to www.missblackminnesotausa.org or email missblackminneso ta2010@gmail.com.
Donavee Chapelle welcomes reader responses to upentertainment2010@gmail.com.