Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Shriners Hospital – For the Love of a Child by Kate Howe



 
I was extremely honored to help emcee at a recent event supporting Shriners Hospital & Womens General Auxiliary of Twin Cities.  They have been providing high-quality medical care for children in a family-centered environment since 1923.  They focus on treating children with muscle, bone and joint conditions, cleft lip and palate, and specialized plastic surgery needs in an environment designed to put children at ease. 

 

The event was very kid focused with face painting, clowns, crafts and games.  So many of the little girls there came up to me wanting pictures!  Their moms were telling them I was a real princess J.  One little girl and her mom even followed me to my car when I was leaving to get a picture – so precious.

 

I am pictured here with the Women from the General Auxiliary.  They were very appreciative of my support for their organization.  I was even invited to attend their prom for the young girls at the hospital.  I can’t wait to attend!

Mrs. Minnesota International 2015

Kate Howe

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

AFAA Food Allergy Awareness Walk at the MOA by Lillie Imm


 

Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota

 


Recently I had the privilege of volunteering at the AFAA Food Allergy Awareness Walk at the Mall of America.  I was honored to sing the National Anthem for the event.  I had a lot of fun meeting other volunteers and walkers and hearing about the challenges of having food allergies.  I did a little research online and learned that 15 million Americans have food allergies.  The number is on the rise, but researchers do not know why.  Food allergies are potentially life threatening depending on the type and severity.  So, I have decided to think twice before bringing the standard treats for a large group!


From the AFAA website:
 
Taking the Fear out of Food Allergies.
 
 
The Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota (AFAA) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate, advocate, and to support those with food allergies.
 
 
For more information or to get involved with this wonderful organization please go to the AFAA website: http://www.minnesotafoodallergy.org/
 
 
Have a great day!
 


Lillie Imm, Miss Pre-teen Minnesota International 2015

 

My Lucky Charm! By Kate Howe

Somewhere along the road I picked up a lucky charm…I have an entertaining husband, two energetic sons, an engaging career and a passion for children literacy.  Having the opportunity to be Mrs. Minnesota International 2015 has put frosting on my cake.  Through this experience, I have been exposed to many amazing women who have not only been incredible wives, mothers and career women, but they have also touched and inspired many lives through their platforms.

I started life in a very small town with about 300 people.  We had a gas station, post office and…well that’s about it.  The beautiful thing about a small town is that it creates strong family values because there really isn’t anything else to do. J  Growing up the youngest with three older brothers I learned early on how to be tough, strong minded and speak my mind.  My family eventually moved to a larger city and I ultimately found my own ‘sisters’ through my high school danceteam where I created memories and state championships that will last a lifetime.  Playing junior Olympic fast pitch softball and competing in national dance competitions, I developed a love for a busy, intense schedule.  If I could change one thing about life, it would be for us to never sleep – think of how much we could get done! J
Not being able to leave my close family after high school (I get so home sick!) I traveled a short distance north to St. Cloud State University to get my degree in finance in three years.  Afterwards, I attended grad school at the University of Saint Thomas while working full-time which created a hands-on learning environment for me to play in.  I absolutely love my career in Finance.  It is challenging, rewarding and always changing.  After my corporate life is over, I plan to teach college level finance and business courses – never giving homework of course ;)
I married my very handsome goof ball in 2006 whom I met through my brothers…which was very awkward at first!  Our first date was to a Miss Minnesota pageant – he learned early on what he was in for ;)  One of the first times I was with Joe, he picked me up and starting jumping up and down yelling we won the World Series – I wasn’t sure what to think!  Soon, I discovered that is his personality.  After we both finished grad school, we were blessed with Dominic who is now three and Lincoln who is one.  Don’t tell Lincoln, but I secretly wished he was a girl.  I even bought some very adorable pink outfits…maybe there will be three in my future ;)  Being a parent has definitely changed my life.  You live life with a completely different perspective.  Nothing is about you anymore.  Your feelings, your aspirations, your sleep! all revolve around these little people.  If I can raise my boys to be men who are passionate and can impact this world in a positive way, then I believe I have done my job as a mother.
When I was in my teens, my father passed away.  As painful as that experience was it taught me a very valuable lesson: every single day is a gift and you only get one chance to make a difference.  One of my father’s favorite quotes was: “It is not what you get away with in life, but rather what you leave behind.”  Since that day in May, I knew I needed to make an impact.  Over ten years ago, I began reading to children at an inner city school.  That is where I met my book buddy Lauren and fell in love!  She was so sweet, so smart and so innocent, but like many of the children in that elementary school, they came from very humble families where the home life was not stable or encouraging.  Over the course of a year, I actually taught Lauren how to read!  I knew at that moment, this was going to my impact…I knew I could make a difference. 

 

Monday, April 6, 2015

" I am so excited to be your Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota " by Lillie Imm


I am so excited to be your Miss Pre-teen Minnesota!  I am looking forward to a fun year!  I had such a wonderful experience the entire pageant weekend!  Everyone made me feel like part of the International ‘family’.  Being voted to receive the ‘Amity Award’ by the other contestants was really special for me.
 
 
 


I am ten years old and live with my parents and two little brothers.  I am in fifth grade at Liberty Classical Academy and my favorite subjects are History and Latin. I have received several academic achievement awards, I love to learn.  My hobbies include singing, dancing, sewing, rollerblading, and guitar.  I have been fortunate to work as a model, actress and performer and have been saving for my future by putting all my income in a Roth IRA for years!  I have been performing onstage since I was two years old.  I would be in a production every day if I could, I love it! 

 

 

I love to volunteer and have had many wonderful opportunities.  The cause closest to my heart is the Alzheimer’s association.  When I was younger, my great grandma Lilly had Alzheimer’s disease.  We had a lot fun spending time together.  We would sing songs, dance,   and eat our favorite food together, chocolate!  She taught me that those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease ‘live in the moment’, but I believe the feeling of happiness lasts.  That is why I have been volunteering with those affected by Alzheimer’s for the past 3 years.  I visit, play games, toss balloons, paint nails, sing songs and share hugs.  I must be one of the most hugged kids around and I love it! I also love how my friends sing and clap along with my songs.  Music makes them happy, just like it does for me! 



I am honored to represent the Minnesota International Pageant as Miss Pre-teen Minnesota.  I am grateful for the amazing opportunities I have been given and for the opportunities that lay ahead for me over the upcoming year.  I am excited to be part of such a welcoming sisterhood, even to the littlest members!  I look forward to bringing awareness to my platform Musical Memories for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  I am thankful for the support of the Minnesota International Pageant.  I am happy to make appearances and help out with events throughout our great state and beyond.  I look forward to meeting the new Pre-teen City / County ambassadors soon!
 
           

Lillie Imm, Miss Pre-teen Minnesota International 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meet Miss Minnesota 2015! By Alexis Adu-Bobi


 
          Wow! I am still in shock! There are no words to describe how blessed and honored I am to be your Miss Minnesota International 2015. I am excited to be representing the beautiful city of Duluth and the state of Minnesota this summer. I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity and I intend to enjoy and embrace every single moment of it!

 

A little bit about myself, my name is Alexis Adu-Bobi and I am currently a senior at the University of Minnesota Duluth majoring in Biology with a Chemistry minor in hopes of becoming a Nurse Anesthetist. I have lived in Duluth for the past 4 years and it is a beautiful city full of amazing history and surrounded by Lake Superior. If you love to experience the outdoors then Duluth is the place to be! J

 

As I take time to reflect I am truly amazed at how much God has truly done for me. What we experience throughout life is what truly shapes us and makes us who we are today. My life has been one wild ride and God has been there blessing me, protecting me, and guiding me. I am thankful for amazing support from friends and family. Without them to make me laugh, and lift me up in times of need I wouldn’t the person that I am.

 

I believe everything in life happens for a reason. I am blessed to be apart of the International pageant family.  I am excited to for this year to be able to promote my platform No More which is about ending and preventing Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault against women and children. I am looking forward to sharing this amazing journey with you all! Here is to a wonderful year full of memories!

 

Miss Minnesota International 2015

Alexis Adu-Bobi

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

" Meet your new Miss Teen Minnesota 2015" Nicole Doyle


 
 
Wow, I am still in complete Shock after having my name called as you new Miss Teen Minnesota International 2015! This is such a blessing; I feel so very honored to hold this title and be a representative for such an amazing system.  I know it is hard to get to know a girl without meeting her in person, but I want to do my best to let you get to know me!

 

I am a true Minnesotan girl at heart! I have played both Hockey and Lacrosse for my high school. I love weekend trips up to my family’s cabin on Tame Fish Lake. While at the lake I enjoy boating, jet skiing, sun bathing, wakeboarding, and with out doubt fishing with my big brother Nate! A passion of mine is horses; I believe they are very therapeutic. There is nothing like coming home from a long day and going out on a trail ride to unwind. My horse is very spunky and just a goofball like me, so I found his name “Sir Justin Blackburn” to fit him well!

 

“Kids Get Arthritis too!” this is My platform, which is near, and dear to my heart. I was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis when I was just 3 years old.  My family was clueless; we did not know that kids could get Arthritis! This may have started out as a negative, but I have turned it into a positive! For the past 10 years, I have been proud to promote awareness and education, as well as challenge and inspire others through the Juvenile Arthritis Foundation as a spokesperson, an advocate, and also a patient dealing with the disabling disease of JA. I have learned to not just survive, but to truly THRIVE.  Remember, kids get arthritis too!

 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

"My Farewell: The Ending of a Perfect Year" Written by: Kimberly Stommes


 

This past year will always be one in which I look back on with a happy and satisfied heart. Hearing my name called as your Mrs. Minnesota International 2014 is a moment I will never forget. It was a moment that stood still in time, and yet opened a million doors at the same time. I was blessed to have been given a whole year to accomplish the goals that I had set before I even won the title. Spending a year making a difference in the lives of others and raising awareness for diabetes prevention and management was just a small sliver of my goals. I grew this year and became a greater advocate than I thought possible. The places I went and the people that I met touched my heart in ways that will stay with me forever.

 

I made over 45 appearances this year throughout Minnesota and 3 other states, while also balancing being a mother, a wife, President of the Sauk Rapids Riverside Lions Club, and working as an attorney who opened my own law firm this year. Only some of the highlights of my year include meeting Joe Mauer, volunteering with Project Bear Hugs and Camp Friendship, attending the state fair, bowling with the Highland Friendship Club, being the Master of Ceremonies at AccessAbility’s Rock-N-Roll-A-Thon, walking in fashion shows, donating school supplies, helping with health fairs and diabetic testing, volunteering at the American Diabetes Association’s Tour De Cure, donating school supplies, participating in the polar plunge for Special Olympics, touring the U of MN Diabetes Research center, and speaking about diabetes with numerous schools, senior homes, and International Lions Clubs. I had an absolute blast at each and every appearance, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing approximately 50 blogs this past year, allowing each and every one of you to come with me on my journey!

 

There are so many people to thank for helping me get to where I am and for making this journey a memorable one. My husband, Jeremy, has been an unconditional source of love, support, and encouragement. He made many sacrifices to make sure that Mrs. Minnesota was put first. I also took my daughter with to as many appearances as I could. It warms my heart when she tells me that she cannot decide which appearances she loved most; riding in the parades with me and my sister queen, Rachel Flynn, or packing meals with Feed My Starving Children. She sacrificed by sharing me this past year with everyone else because she understands how important it is to give what you can to others, even when that meant I could not always tuck her in bed at night.

 
 

Mr. and Mrs. Minnesota International 2014

 

I am forever thankful to the team that made this year possible for me. First and foremost, thank you to Cheri Kennedy. Cheri is more than a pageant coach, she became my good friend. She believed in me from the first moment we met and reminded of me who I am and who I want to be, and made my dream come true. She doesn’t coach people to be “fake: or what the judges are looking for, instead, she coaches women to learn who you are and to know how you can be the best titleholder you can be- and how to effectively convey that to the judges!

 


With the one and only, Cheri Kennedy

 
Thank you Donnell Rank for the many laughs and helping to improve me interview skills! Thank you to my mock-interview judges; Penny Wells and James Peterson for working their magic with my hair and makeup; Adam Spiker with SpikerFitness for making me feel and look my absolute best; Bessie’s Boutique and Sarah Moses for exceptional wardrobe and a perfect eye; Paula Preston for amazing photos and friendship; Charity Bess, Sarah Wall Beckman, Krista Wanous and Sarah Bazey for taking me under your wings and teaching me true sisterhood; Mr. and Mrs. Stavrakis for your dedication to me and this pageant all year long. Laura Werk/Lotsa Design Graphic Services for the amazing state, national, and out-going queen program book pages; Judy Wright for AMAZING hair and makeup at nationals; International Lions Clubs across the state for allowing me to speak to your clubs and raise awareness for Diabetes; thank you to last year’s pageant judges for seeing me for who I am and for changing my life forever; and thank you to my parents, siblings, and grandparents for your unconditional love and support.

 

 
 
With the amazingly talented Judy Wright

Special thank you to my number one fan, my Mom. Mom, you are my inspiration and I would not be where I am today without you! Thank you for being the best pageant mom ever, even to a 27 year old! Thanks for coming all the way to Florida to be in my cheering section! Thanks for watching Ava when she couldn’t come with to appearances, for coming with on several pageant-wardrobe shopping trips, helping me get to appearances, or coming with. I don’t know what I would do without you. I love you! 

 

To my sister queens: I am so honored to have spent this year with you. You all are so special to me and I will carry our memories in my heart forever.

 

If I missed you, please know that it was not intentional and I am so grateful to all of the people that have supported me this past year!

 

To the contestants: This year was filled with many precious moments that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I can tell you that whether your name is called as the new Mrs. Minnesota International 2015 or not, know that you are truly beautiful inside and out for being inspiring woman in your communities, making a difference in the lives of others. If it is not your name called, I encourage you to try again because I can promise you that I learned more about myself in the years that I did not capture a title, than in the years I did.

 

Congratulations to the newly crowed Mrs. Minnesota International 2015! You are in for the ride of a lifetime! Seize every opportunity, breathe in every moment, stay humble, and go forward and change lives!  

 

Thank you God! I have been beyond blessed to be part of the sisterhood and legacy, to have been given the opportunity to wear this crown and banner, and to have experienced the magic!

 

 
 

This is not goodbye; you will continue to see me doing great things.

 

 Who will be next to join the sisterhood?

 

 

Yours truly,

 

Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. Minnesota International 2014

 

 

 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

"Pre-Pageant Party" Written by: Kimberly Stommes




 2014 Minnesota International Queens at the Pre-Pageant Party

 
I absolutely love that this pageant system does a pre-pageant party and allows the contestants and titleholders many opportunities to get together prior to pageant weekend . This really allows the girls and women to get to know one another prior to pageant weekend, and learn about their respective platforms. I had such a wonderful evening!

 


 With some of the Mrs contestants that attended the pre-pageant party

 

It was also so much fun catching up with former titleholders and contestants! The beautiful thing about the International pageant system is truly the sisterhood. From the moment my name was announced as the new Mrs. Minnesota International 2014, I was welcomed with hugs, contact information, and gifts from former Mrs. Minnesota’s. It was my most favorite memory from my reign.

 


 

With Donnell Rank, Mrs. Minnesota International 2007. She has been so welcoming to me and even assisted me in preparation for Nationals. She is simply inspirational and a doll!

 

We also had a silent auction with the proceeds going to the “Queens Funds,” which is a fund to be split by the newly crowned queens for their national expenses. The contestants brought wonderful items and they were all big hits!

 

Speaking of the Queens Fund, make sure you take the time to vote for Prople’s Choice. Proceeds from this also go to this fund to assist the new 2015 queens with their expenses for nationals. To vote, copy and paste the links below:

 




 

 

Yours truly,

 
Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. Minnesota International 2014

 


Monday, March 2, 2015

A Girl's Best Friend by Gabby Taylor


"A dog is the only thing that loves you more than he loves himself"


Over the past years I have been blessed with the absolute best friend a girl could ever ask for. A friend who is always there for me, ways listens and one who genuinely cares for my well-being. You might ask who? The answer would be Cooper my three year old teddy bear dog.

 


Christmas Day three years ago on a bright and sunny morning the whole family piled into our car for a surprise. We were told that we were headed to Rochester, Minnesota to pick up wreaths and have hot apple cider. Bella and I should've known better. When we arrived, the jig was up. There was one special puppy waiting just for us. I had the chance to hold this little fluff ball. He was incredibly soft and his coat was brown and white. This puppy was the only one remaining from his entire litter. He fell right asleep in my arms he first time I held him. We were all so anxious and excited to take him to his new home!

 


Once as brought him home, the great name debate began. His original name was Bandit, however after discussing names we all decided that we wanted to name him Charlie. That lasted a total of ten minutes. We then came to an agreement that our puppies name would be Chester. Shortly after, you guessed it, we changed his name again. I'm not entirely sure as to how we came up with the name Cooper for our little guy, but that is what has been called ever since and I couldn't imagine him with any other name.

 

Cooper came into my life at a time where I needed companionship the most.

This was a time where I had some pretty severe medical challenges. Often times after week long hospitalizations, Cooper would be able to put a smile on my face. Dogs are so intuitive, Cooper always knows exactly what kind of company I am seeking, and never fails me. Going on walks, taking naps, watching Netflix, eating dinner, the list could go on for ages, no matter what I am doing he is always right there by my side. I can't imagine he day where he isn't around.

 


There are numerous days dedicated towards pet appreciation. However, I believe that "I love my pet day" should be everyday. Especially since their love for us is unwavering. Do me a favor today and show your pet some love.

I know I will!

 

Until next time,

Gabby Taylor

Miss Minnesota International 2014

Mexico by Gabby Taylor


Minnesota winters can be harsh; with brisk air, strong winds, snow and gloomy skies. Thankfully, I recently had the chance to spend a week away in much more favorable weather! It took a lot of preparation to get ready for this trip. Since I have never been out of the country before, I had to get a passport. I had a little too much fun shopping for swimsuits and sundresses for my trip to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

I woke up bright and early on the morning of our flight, I felt like kid waking up to go to Disney Land. Our flight took off at 9am, and it was a freezing cold morning. The flight took about three and a half hours total, but it definitely felt much longer as I was growing more and more excited every minute. It was amazing to see the cold snow covered ground as we took off, and then the bright blue ocean and lush greenery when our plane landed. It is crazy to think that in just a few hours you can travel to a different country!
Immediately when I got off the plane I could tell I wasn’t in Minnesota anymore. The warm humid air was a refreshing change to the winter weather I had just experienced hours earlier that morning. We flew into the Cancun airport and from there had an hour drive to get to Playa Del Carmen. It was fun to see all of the resorts and people on the drive down to our condo. I was eager to get unpacked once arriving at The Elements condominiums. Our first night was a fun opportunity to walk down Fifth Ave and really take it all in. We had dinner at a restaurant called Ula Gula, mostly all restaurants in Playa are outdoor open concepts and Ula Gula was no exception to this. I had the chicken fettuccini alfredo pasta, it was the most delicious pasta I have ever had. After having dinner, we continued to walk around and soak in all the live music and people. For a Tuesday evening, it felt so alive and very similar to a NYC the city that never sleeps atmosphere.  
 
For the days to come we had a routine establish itself. This consisted of waking up having breakfast, then heading straight for the beach. It was so nice to just lay out in the sun and not have a worry in the world. At about lunch time we would either go and eat in our condos, or head right next door to the Cannibal Royale. This restaurant had the most delicious fresh fish tacos, octopus, guacamole as well as refreshing drinks and music. After lunch was done, we would take a walk along the beach as a group. We would also take our portable speaker with us and have a dance party along the way. It was a fun way to get our daily exercise in, and I must say that my legs were sore after each and every day as the beach walk consisted of about 3 miles total. Add in dancing, and trudging through the heavy sand and you have a recipe for a wonderful workout!
 
 
Towards the end of our trip we went to the Coco Bongo Disco. This starts at 10pm and goes until 4am in the morning! When we walked into Coco Bongo I realized just how much preparation goes into each night they put on performances. The evening was full of music, dancing, acrobatics, and celebrity impersonations. I was amazed with how talented all of the performers were, I could tell years and years of practice went into them perfecting their craft. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me personally. Another fun thing that I had the chance to do was a catamaran excursion that took us to Isla Mujeres. We had the chance to snorkel; this was my first time ever snorkeling so I was definitely a little nervous but still excited. After getting all of the equipment on I had to jump off the boat and get started. I was able to see sting rays near the bottom of the ocean, scuba divers down near the reefs and of course many schools of fish! At our next stop during the catamaran tour I held a shark. I was amazed at how rough the shark’s skin felt, I was under the impression that the shark would have slippery skin but it was just the opposite. Similar to the snorkeling, holding the shark was a first for me (and may be a last as well)!
All in all this vacation was a complete blast. I look forward to the next time I can come back to Playa Del Carmen. I will always remember the food, the people, the beaches, the weather and all of the fun memories that were made. It is safe to say that I have been bit by the travel bug; I am already excited to get more use out of my passport. I’m not sure where I will head next but I am sure that wherever I go, I will immerse myself in the culture and enjoy every minute. Time flies when you’re having fun.
 
Until next time,
Gabby Taylor
Miss Minnesota International 2014