Thursday, April 10, 2014

" I will never forget this day" by Gabby Taylor

“In everything you do, put God first and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” Proverbs 3:6

On March 8th, 2014, something miraculous happened. By the grace of God, the support of my family and friends, and determination, I was crowned Miss Minnesota International 2014!

I will never forget this day. Looking back to my crowning moment, I felt such an overwhelming sense of excitement. Looking out at the audience I saw many familiar faces. My family, friends, pageant sisters, the list goes on and on. The amount of support I received from these very special people is something I will forever be grateful for. To my family, thank you for always being there to encourage me throughout my journey with the International Pageant system. To my mentor, friend and coach Holly Ernst, thank you for your endless support and advice. You have taught me how to Sparkle from the inside out! To Allison and Richard, thank you for providing all of the contestants with this very special opportunity.

The International Pageant system is one which offers endless opportunities to young women to make a difference, including myself. I know firsthand just how memorable of a year this is going to be. I cannot wait to continue spreading awareness for my platform “Accidents Hurt, Safety Doesn’t.” This is an issue that is truly near and dear to my heart, and I am beyond blessed to spend another year sharing my story with the state of Minnesota.


Lainey, Rachel and Kim, I am honored to call you three my Queen sisters! Together, I have no doubt we will have a meaningful and fun year of service.


Until next time,

Gabby Taylor
Miss Minnesota International 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

“Crowning Moments”

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman

My husband, Jeremy, places the crown on my head as Mrs. MN International 2013, Andrea Bennett-Xiong, helps to “crown” me as the new Mrs. MN International 2014


When I think back to my crowning moment, these two great quotes that come to mind. Hearing my name called as the new Mrs. Minnesota International 2014 was a dream come true! That moment is indescribable. I remember looking at the judges (who were not looking at me) and looking out to my family and friends in the audience. The moment my name was called, everything was going in slow motion. I saw my friends and family jump out of their seats and the room roared with cheers and applause. I was instantly overcome with emotion and excitement and all I could do was cover my face as I began to cry tears of determination, hard work, and joy. As I made my way over to Andrea Bennett-Xiong, Mrs. Minnesota International 2013, I was congratulated by her and my husband who helped to place the crown on my head! It is so wonderful that the International system makes the husbands feel just as important as the contestants and allowing the new “Mr. Minnesota” to “crown” his wife is a wonderful experience for both of them. Taking my first walk and waiving to the audience as Mrs. Minnesota International was beyond amazing. It was a moment I will never forget.

Immediately after they called my name the photos began. Paula Preston is an amazing photographer and as our pageant sponsor, she hurdled us all to the side and began taking more photos of us queens, our courts, and the queens with the judges. There are two photos that I am anxiously awaiting to get enlarged and hung on my wall. First being a photo of all the former Mrs. Minnesota’s that were at the pageant. I was immediately welcomed into a wonderful sisterhood and to see all of them there was such a great experience.

The second photo is a photo of my husband, daughter, and me. As soon as my daughter came on stage, I was immediately overcome with emotion and we were both so excited to see each other. She was so proud of me and her words and excitement just warmed my heart! I am so blessed to have such an amazing family.

After crowning there was a coronation honoring the new queens and the contestants. Friends and family were present at the coronation and it was really wonderful to see contestants presented with various awards for their hard work at the pageant and in their communities. Each new Minnesota queen was given time to speak about their experiences during the weekend, their platforms, and their plans for their reign. It was a great opportunity for me to speak a little more about my platform, Stop the Shots, and how I plan to use this title to continue to raise awareness for diabetes prevention and management, as well as continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

I have so many people to thank because it sure takes a village to make dreams come true! Thank you to my husband and daughter for sacrificing while I chased this dream! Thank you to my parents for always being so supportive and being the best parents in the world- raising me to be the caring and giving person that I am. Thank you to my wonderful grandparents, Jerry and Gloria Thompson, as this would not have been possible without you and your support. Thank you for taking Ava last minute some weekends which allowed me to go to the gym, meet with my pageant coach, or go shopping for gowns. I do not know what I would do without the two of you.

Cheri Kennedy, Krista Wanous coined it perfectly when she said “Cheri Kennedy is like a fairy Godmother, she waives her magic wand and makes dream come true!” Cheri, you are amazing and I am so grateful for not only your coaching but your words of advice and your friendship. Sarah Moses, thank you for your amazing talents and wardrobe! Donnell Rank, you are the best kept secret! I am so thankful I met you and God put you and Cheri in my path! James Peterson and Penny Wells, you guys are the best duo and made me feel beautiful on the inside and outside! Thanks for the laughs! Adam Spiker, I am so thankful that you helped me be the fittest me I could be! Krista Wanous, I am so blessed God put you in my path, but more importantly, God made us sisters and friends! You were always there for me giving me advice, clothing, and most importantly, teaching me what true sisterhood and mentors are all about! Stephanie Thorson-Olesen and Karry Thorson, you are my biggest supporters and introduced me to this pageant system! Thank you for all of the advice and pointing me in the right direction. Mary Swenson, you are fantastic and my pageant bestie! Charity Bess, Sarah Wall Beckman, Dennis Jensen, Megan Muehlberg, Krista Wanous, Donnell Rank, and my other mock judges that I may have missed- I could not have done this without all of you. All of you gave me fantastic advice before, during, and after mock interviews. Words of encouragement, words of critique, and always telling me I was wonderful, helped me more than you know. I grew by leaps and bounds in the two short months that I worked with all of you and I am so grateful for all you have done for me.  Mindy and Terry Rick, thank you for not only giving me my start but being the best second mom and sister a girl could ever have! Love you both!
Thank you to those that supported me in my endeavors and to those that came to support me during the pageant! I am so thankful and blessed!

My crowning moment was a moment that I will never forget. I am proof that if you dream a dream and work hard to catch it, anything is possible! I am so very blessed to have been crowned the 2014 Mrs. Minnesota International and I am beyond thrilled to spend the year with my new sister queens, Lainey, Rachel, and Gabby!  

 New Minnesota International queens at the coronation

 Together, we can Stop the Shots!

 Yours truly,

Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. Minnesota International 2014

A dream come true!

Going into pageant weekend I have to say I was a little nervous, which is only natural.  But over all super excited!  One of my favorite parts of the weekend was going out to eat at Perkins with the outgoing teen titleholder Megan Muehlberg and the rest my fellow contestants.  I had so much fun joking around with them and creating new friendships.  It was an incredible and humbling feeling to have SO many dear friends and family at the pageant to cheering me on.  I loved hearing my name being shouted by so many people who cared about me each time I walked out on that stage.


Being crowned Miss Teen Minnesota International was a dream come true!  I was so overwhelmed and there are no words to truly describe how I felt.  All I could say was “Oh my gosh!” over and over again.  I am so thankful to my family for giving me this opportunity.  I am honored to represent the state of Minnesota this year and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

" My life changed in an instant" by Gabby Taylor

December 17, 2009.  My life changed in an instant when I experienced a cheerleading accident that resulted in the paralysis of my right arm. 

I was a sophomore in high school and very proud to be a varsity member of our school’s nationally ranked competitive cheerleading squad.  In preparation for an upcoming competition, we were practicing a certain stunt right over and over to make sure it was perfect.  The first time the stunt was performed, the flyer landed on my neck region.  The pain was searing but I shook it off.  The second time we tried it, the same thing happened.  I knew something was wrong but I didn’t sit out in fear of losing my coveted spot on the team.  The third time the stunt was performed was the last time I had full motion of my right arm—the repetition of the flyer landing on my neck three times had caused a severe nerve injury that would change my life forever.  My injury could have been prevented had I communicated with my coach and listened to my body’s natural pain signals.


            My journey from that moment on has been an extremely difficult one.  The past five years have been full of surgeries, procedures, therapies, and appointments.  As a result, I am THRILLED and blessed to say that I have made some improvements in regards to the mobility as well as strength in my right arm.  I am not yet back to my pre-injury health and well being.  However, I wholeheartedly believe I am on the right track.



            Throughout all of the pain, I know that I have finally found my purpose.  Since my injury, it has been my mission to share my story with anyone willing to listen, especially student athletes, coaches, and parents alike.  I am proud to be the National Spokesperson for The National Center for Sports Safety.  By forming an alliance with them, I have been allowed the opportunity to broaden the audience I can reach regarding my platform “Accidents Hurt, Safety Doesn’t”.  Countless doors have opened for me to serve as a living example of just how important sports safety and injury prevention truly is. 


Over the past few years, I have given numerous presentations to schools and civic groups to share my story and teach the necessary tools to keep athletes safe both on and off the field.  My story has been featured on local news stations (FOX 9 News and WCCO 4 News) and I was interviewed on WCCO radio as well.  As these segments hit the news and airwaves, more and more people began contacting me and I realized that I had the opportunity to truly make a difference.

In 2012, I was honored to be a keynote speaker at the Minnesota Childhood Safety Summit.  It was an amazing event where I spoke to some of the best health care professionals from my home state.  Another contact I made through my website was an editor for Scholastic Scope magazine.  This is a nationally distributed magazine that targets middle and junior high teens.  After a number of emails and phone conferences, they decided to put me on the cover and do a feature article on my story!  

It is my hope to be a passionate voice for this very serious issue society faces today.  Sports injuries happen each and everyday worldwide.  By sharing my personal story as well as providing education for students, parents, and coaches, it is my goal to prevent injuries like mine from occurring in the first place.


Gabby Taylor

Miss Minnesota International 2014


"What is "true hunger? by Rachel Flynn

What is “true” hunger?  It's not just the feeling of skipping a meal. True hunger is not knowing where your next meal will come from.  This is the realization I came to at the young age of 7 on a trip to Mexico with my parents.  This is when I saw true hunger for the very first time.  It made a profound impact on me and is what inspired me to get involved in the fight against hunger.


When I returned home I felt the need to help those less fortunate.  My family and I became regular volunteers at Feed My Starving Children.  This organization sends healthy meals across the world to many third world countries feeding those hungry in body AND spirit.  I knew hunger was a problem in other countries but I never truly realized it was a problem right here in Minnesota and across America.  I never knew it was a problem because I had never personally experienced it nor had I seen it before.

When I realized the enormity of the problem, I immediately searched out my local food bank Second Harvest Heartland (a member of a national network of over 200 food banks called Feeding America) and started volunteering on a weekly basis.  My family and I pack food in the warehouse at Second Harvest every Wednesday evening.  We also volunteer with the Meals for Minds program where we hand out food to students and their families at local schools in the Twin Cities.  I am also proud to be one of three trained members of the Second Harvest Speakers Bureau and I also am the youngest member ever.  I go into local schools and speak in hopes of raising awareness and recruiting volunteers.  Volunteering with this incredible organization has been a life changing experience.  I love sharing my passion for those in need with my family and friends.  When we work together we can help one person, one meal, one day at a time. If you'd like to learn more please visit my website: OR



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Stop the Shots" By Kimberly Stommes

I grew up being an avid volunteer within my community, but I began my journey with the American Diabetes Association in 2005 when I attended a Step Out Walk to End Diabetes. At this event I met a little girl named Amanda who was suffering from type 1 diabetes, which means her body does not produce the insulin needed to convert her starches and sugars into energy needed for everyday life. Listening to her story was very touching and I immediately knew I had found an organization that I wanted to be involved with long-term; an organization in which I knew I could help make a difference in the lives of others.


After the event, I went home and spoke to my parents about how this little girl had touched my heart. My parents were involved with the Sauk Rapids Riverside Lions Club and told me about the work the Lions Clubs worldwide do for people suffering from diabetes.  The International Lions Club is dedicated to improving the lives of people with diabetes by raising funds and collaborating with partners to effectuate diabetes research, education, sponsor preventative health activities, while helping to raise awareness and find a cure for diabetes. However, this is only the beginning of my story.   


It has been almost two years to the date, since I received a phone call from my mother stating that she thought my father was having a heart attack or perhaps another stroke. He had blurred vision, a hard time breathing, and he was not sure of his surroundings or who his own family was. I cried for hours while I waited to hear what the doctors would be able to do to save my father.


After conducting many tests, the doctors diagnosed my father with Type 2 diabetes. I thank God every day that it was not a heart attack. If his diabetes had gone undetected any longer, it could have been, because heart disease is a complication associated with diabetes. We were fortunate because my family had been involved with the American Diabetes Association, the MN Lions Diabetes Foundation, and the Sauk Rapids Riverside Lions Club for many years. We knew what my father had and we understood the road that lay before him.


My mother and I did what we knew how to do best; support my father. We all integrated exercise into our daily activities and lowered our carb and sugar intake. My father was diagnosed shortly before Easter, so Easter was our first opportunity to host dinner at my parent’s home to ensure my father could eat diabetic-friendly foods. My mother and I even made fancy sugar-free jello shooter cups for dessert! We did what we could do support my father and I not only lost 45 pounds, but I effectively reduced my risk of developing diabetes.

I have been actively promoting diabetes awareness and management for many years, and am always looking for innovative ways to continue. When a good friend of mine, Stephanie Thorson-Olesen, told me about the International Pageant system, and how their goal is to promote strong, intelligent women who exemplify traditional family values, as well as making a difference by getting involved in their communities, I knew this was my opportunity to do what I believe God sent me to this Earth to do; help others. I knew this was my opportunity to raise awareness and do my part to help find a cure for the 25 million Americans suffering from diabetes. I did not even have to think about what my platform was going to be- it was obvious that I would choose Stop the Shots, which is in partnership with the American Diabetes Association, MN Lions Diabetes Foundation, and the International Lions Clubs worldwide to raise awareness for diabetes prevention and management. Through these organizations I have accomplished a lot and made great strides towards helping to find a cure; however, the work is not done until we can effectively Stop the Shots.  


Did you know that every 17 seconds an individual is diagnosed with diabetes?

Did you know that by the year 2050, the American Diabetes Association estimates that 1 in 3 people will have diabetes? It is a growing epidemic; which is why I think it is very important that people understand diabetes and the complications associated with it, as well as how to prevent and manage diabetes. (Stay tuned for future blogs on this very important topic!)


Please visit the American Diabetes Website to find out more about this devastating disease and how you can get involved today!



Together we can make a difference; together we can Stop the Shots!


Yours truly,


Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. MN International 2014


Monday, March 17, 2014

"Meet your Mrs. Minnesota 2014" Kimberly Stommes

There are not enough words to describe how excited and blessed I am to have been named Mrs. Minnesota International 2014. I am living proof that if you dream a dream and work hard to chase it, it will come true.
To tell you a little about my background, I grew up in Sartell, MN and am currently residing in St. Cloud, MN. I married my high-school sweetheart, Jeremy, and we have a beautiful 5 year-old daughter, Ava Lynn.

I have always been dedicated to achieving the dreams and goals that I set for myself. At the young age of 16 I began my college career at St. Cloud State University where I double majored in Political Science and Sociology. Trying to save money for law school, at the age of 18 I became a licensed realtor. I took two years off after completing my undergraduate degrees to marry the man of my dreams and start a family.

In the fall of 2010 I was accepted into law school at the University of St. Thomas School of Law where I earned my Juris Doctorate degree in May of 2013. While in law school, I was working a part-time job, being a mother and a wife, a full-time student, a community volunteer, and I volunteered as a student attorney prosecuting misdemeanor crimes with the City of Minneapolis Attorney's Office. I was also a habeas corpus law clerk with the United States Attorney's Office. This past summer I sat for the MN Bar exam and was sworn into the MN Bar Association in October. Currently, I am a licensed attorney and employed as a legal advisor/law clerk to a Judge in MN's Seventh Judicial District.

I grew up being an avid volunteer in my community. I volunteered many years with the Country Manor Nursing Home, Habitat for Humanity, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

When I am not spending my time volunteering with the Lions Club or being an advocate for raising awareness for diabetes with the American Diabetes Association and the MN Lion Diabetes Foundation, I am spending time playing make-believe with my 5 year old daughter, cheering on my husband at his broomball games, or taking cake decorating classes with my mother. My family means everything to me and I am extremely blessed in many, many ways!    

I am confident that I will represent the wonderful people of Minnesota beautifully this year! I fully believe that you must be the change you want to see in the world, which is why I am beyond thrilled for this coming year and look forward to promoting my platform, Stop the Shots, which is about raising awareness for diabetes prevention and management.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Meet Miss Teen Minnesota 2014"


              Hi! My name is Rachel and I am 15 years old. I live in Savage, Minnesota and have since the age of two. I am so excited to represent Scott County and the state of Minnesota this summer. I have a wonderful, supportive family consisting of my mom, dad, and our kitties. My favorite cats name is Esther. We are very close and have a special relationship where we have little conversations together. I am so blessed to have such amazing friends and family that support my dreams. To them I am forever grateful. I am especially grateful to Pastor Jamey and The House Church for their love and support.


 I am a freshman in high school. I am home schooled and have been for the past 5 years. I attend a home school co-op on Thursday's called South Heights, where I take four coarses. I maintain a 4.0 GPA.  I am a lover of dance. I dance at Sondance Studio in Burnsville. I've danced there for seven years. I participate in ballet, tap, jazz, and pointe. I love painting, drawing, acting, and anything that’s artsy!



 Although I'm on hiatus I am apart of a theater company called Homeward Bound. We have the opportunity to go into schools, churches and our communities and do plays on bullying, purity, and personal safety. This company has helped shape me into the person I have become today! I look forward to returning this summer. I also love watercolor and acrylic painting. Volunteering is also something that is VERY important to me. I've been volunteering ever since I can remember. I believe you can never give back too much to your community.
Miss Teen Minnesota 2014
Rachel Flynn


Friday, March 14, 2014

"Meet your Miss Minnesota 2014"

Hello there! My name is Gabby Taylor and I am a 20 year old who resides in Stillwater, Minnesota. I absolutely love the city I live in; it is rich in history and located right on the river.  I am overjoyed to not only represent Stillwater, but also Minnesota at the Miss International Pageant this upcoming summer. The opportunities ahead are endless and I plan on embracing each and every one of them as they arise.


Throughout life there are many events as well as people that shape us into the human beings we were intended to be. For myself I owe thanks to God, my family as well as the disappointments I’ve faced. My lord and savior has guided me with grace my entire life, and I owe all of my glory to him! Family is everything; my parents and siblings have been there through thick and thin, good and bad. I am grateful to have such wonderful role models in my life, without them I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today. I am a proud auntie of two nieces and one nephew(hopefully more down the road!) I must also give thanks to my furry family member, Cooper Theodore Taylor, he certainly can make the gloomiest of days wonderful.


With every disappointment and trial I’ve faced I have come out more motivated and inspired than ever. Disappointments are part of life, however thankfully if you learn from them, they lead you to successful moments later on. I am a passionate, caring, and driven individual. It is my hope that as Miss Minnesota International 2014 I can raise awareness for my platform “Accidents Hurt, Safety Doesn’t” as well as the Go Red for Women Movement. The International pageant system is one of a kind, and I could not feel more blessed to be a part of the sisterhood. Here’s to the great times ahead!

Gabby Taylor-Miss Minnesota International 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Strategies for the Miss Teen Minnesota International 2014 Pageant" by Megan Muehlberg

Here are some great guidelines for the Miss Teen Minnesota International Pageant as well as a packing list to help simplify getting ready for pageant weekend.  Not all items on the packing list are necessary; please feel free to pick and choose which items you may need.

Strategies for the Miss Teen Minnesota International 2014 Pageant

1.       Wear your city/county banner upon arrival to the hotel and at all times pageant weekend.  If you have a city/county crown, you will not be wearing it during this pageant weekend.

2.       Look and dress the part of Miss Teen Minnesota International 2014 at all times.

3.       Listen and be polite to both pageant and hotel staff.

4.       Please tell family and friends their actions will reflect directly on you as a contestant.  No inappropriate language or actions.

5.       Make sure to check your list before leaving home, you don’t want to forget anything.

6.       Decide what you are wearing for each part of pageant weekend beforehand to reduce stress.  Once you do this, pack each outfit in a garment bag (these can be found at a dollar store) and label them for each outfit.  Keep all clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc. organized and in the garment bag to make finding specific items easier.  Also keep any undergarments in this garment bag so you don’t forget these.

7.       Please eat at meal times and drink plenty of water.  You may want to purchase protein bars, veggies or other snacks to bring with you in your bag.

8.       Get plenty of sleep!  Save your energy so you can twinkle and shine during rehearsals, in the interview, and on stage.

9.       Rest your feet whenever you have the chance.  Make sure to bring Blister Blocker with you and put it on your feet before you get the blister.

10.   Bring a sweater or jacket for rehearsals.  The theater may get chilly.

11.   Bring your cameras!  Have your mom, dad or friend take pictures of you with your new friends as well as take candid’s yourself.

12.   Bring your smiles!  Nothing looks like confidence than a great smile.

13.   Make lots of friends and have fun!  Some of the friends I have made over the past six years are among my best friends. 

14.   Most importantly, have fun!  The weekend will go by very fast.

Packing List for Pageant Weekend

·         City or County Banner:  Please wear at all times.

·         Arrival Outfit:  This is where you will first meet each other and the pageant staff.

·         Orientation Outfit:  Business suit or dress

·         Rehearsals Outfit:  Outfit of choice.  No jeans.  Bring sweater because theatre may get chilly.  You can have your cell phone with you but don’t have it on while the staff is talking.

·         Coronation Party Outfit:  Cocktail Dress or Interview Suit.

·         All Competition Wardrobe: Fun Fashion, Aerobic Outfit, Evening Gown, Personal Interview Suit, and Onstage Interview Suit

·         General Clothing:  Nightgown/robe, Slips, Undergarments, Nylons, Shoes, and Accessories.

·         Eyeglasses/contacts (if needed), Eye Drops, Visine

·         Brushes and Combs, Shampoo and Conditioner, Hairspray, Hot Rollers, Curling Irons, Blow Dryer

·         Dental Floss, Toothbrush, Toothpaste

·         Skin Care Items, Hand and Body Lotions, Self-tanner (this is an important item in case your spray tan rubs off), Perfume, Deodorant, Razor Blades

·         Cosmetics and Make-up Tools, Eyelashes, Lash Glue

·         Personal Hygiene Items

·         Nail Glue, Nail Polish, Nail Polish Remover

·         First Aid Kit: Band-aids, Medications, Advil, etc.

·         Portable Steamer, Static guard Spray, Lint Roller

·         Bobby Pins, Safety Pins, Rubber Bands, Thread and Needle, Scissors, Tape

·         Body Adhesive and Sticky Tape

·         Extra Padding for Dresses or Aerobic Wear, Panty Liners for Aerobic Wear

·         All Jewelry for weekend’s outfits.  Keep your jewelry in baggies with your outfits.

·         Camera and Charger

·         Cell Phone and charger

·         Favorite Pillow or Blanket

·         Candles

·         Music for relaxation: CD’s Head Set, Ipod, etc.

·         Spending Money

·         Special Photos to make room cozy

·         Platform Information for Reviewing

·         Mirror for Dressing Room

·         Thong pads for Aerobic wear