As a newcomer to The Memorial Foundation and high school pageants, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. I knew it was:
1) YouthWorks girls and boys coordinating the selection of contestants by their teachers, advisors and YouthWorks coordinators.
2) Money being raised for The Memorial Foundation.
3) A pageant night of talent, some silliness, some poignant moments, and the eventual crowning of a winner and a Mr. Congeniality.
Oh! What those amazing young people taught me: Our future is in the hands of thoughtful, talented, creative, and caring young people. The first fund-raiser was a bowl-a-thon bringing five schools from Sunnyside to West Valley together for an afternoon of bowling with their Miracle children. I witnessed kids in wheelchairs, surrounded by big high school boys who helped them have the time of their lives! There were tours of kids through the NICU who looked with wide, concerned eyes at the multiple tiny babies hooked up to tubes and resting in incubators unable to breathe on their own. One boy asked: “Why is all of this equipment so expensive? Some day, maybe I will become president of a company like that and make things affordable!”
These young men were constantly asked: “Who do you think will be the winner?” – they would all look at each other puzzled. It really didn’t matter to any of them who would win – it was this cause, the Children’s Health initiative at Memorial that would be the winner. They toured Children’s Village to see how life really is for those with special needs, they shared their own personal stories of friends, family, and in some cases, themselves who benefitted from services at the Village. These young people totally forgot themselves, grew, and looked beyond their own lives and discovered what philanthropy truly means.
On pageant night, these very random groups of people, all so different, were brought together with one goal: to help those kids they had met and some they will never meet. They set aside their egos, their pride, and their fears and they danced, sang, performed, gave moving tributes to heroes, and made a difference.
The definition of a pageant is “entertainment consisting of a procession of people” – perhaps we need to rename these events as Philanthropy 101.