Saturday, July 16, 2016

"Woman Up" by Morgan Bredde


 

One of my first appearances as Mrs. Minnesota was so empowering. Former Mrs. Minnesota, Kelly Jahner-Byrne, invited me to the Minnesota chapter of ‘E-Women Network’ to present about my platform and the Minnesota International Pageant. While I knew I would be providing information to over 50 business women and community leaders, I had no idea how much I would take back myself.


 

The speaker for this event was the inspirational Michelle Galarza. Michelle is an esteemed relationship expert. Not only dealing with romantic relationships, she provided so much insight on the relationship we have with ourselves and our decision making. She talked about how people make decisions out of scarcity and how those experiences set up our futures. Such an interesting discussion was heard in the comments from fellow attendees at my table, none of us truly realized how often our decisions had stemmed from a place of scarcity.

 

I enjoyed being able to speak about the values of the International Pageant system to women who shared those values. Many of them expressed further interest and even a couple women who contemplated competing themselves. When you surround yourself with people who share your vision and aspirations, it tends to motivate you to reach outside of your comfort zone because you have so much support along the way.





 

My favorite moment from the day was after sharing about my platform, nearly every single woman in attendance approached me and either took information, or extended their networks and support to me through business cards and offers of donations. Their donations and partnerships will directly benefit Crescent Cove, the Midwest’s first residential hospice for children. One lady in particular touched my heart. She had lost a child as an infant and for 30 years, she searched for joy in her career. While she continued to search, she knew there was something else God would bring to her, she just didn’t know when. She said she knew as I spoke that this was it. She had found a new way to utilize her talents to serve others and to honor her son’s memory.
 

That’s what life is truly all about: using your God-given talents to serve the world around you.

 

Thank you to Kelly for your continued support of the Mrs., Miss, and Teen Minnesota International Pageant. We are truly grateful for your dedication, and more personally, for your friendship.

 

Making the minutes count,

Morgan

Monday, July 11, 2016

"Turning Dreams into Plans" by Morgan Bredde



When asked what my goals would be during my reign, what my “plan” was, I would always get so hesitant. I have been a big dreamer my entire life, and through the example of my mother, I was equipped with the tools to make those dreams a reality. My main goal as Mrs. Minnesota is to spark an international conversation that will fuel the fire in each of us that will result in pediatric hospice homes around the world, especially here in the US where we are 30 years behind the rest of the Western world. I started as a young woman with a passion for Crescent Cove and it has developed into a spokesperson for numerous homes across the country and now as an advocate and partner for Children’s Hospice International. See? I move quickly.

 

 
People often ask if winning Mrs. International was in my action plan. I will confidently say no, it wasn’t. I am a firm believer in being the same woman with the crown as you are without it. As a longtime competitor, I know pageants are a game of chance. You prepare and work for a common goal, but at the end of the day one woman had the right set of judges on the right day and that’s it. While grateful that it has sometimes been me, I am also grateful that sometimes is hasn’t been me. I have learned more about how to accomplish things while jumping through loopholes and using your God-given talents more so than perhaps a title could have. Yes, I have been working hard and getting ready for Mrs. International, but I have also been working the same plan as Morgan and Mrs. Minnesota that I would--should it be “my time”.

 

 

Apart from my platform, I have a few other goals I have put on a “Mrs. Minnesota Bucket List”. A few items include: making 100 appearances and events by April 29th, 2017, helping to plan three ‘Go Red for Women’ fundraisers through my chapter of the American Heart Association while serving on the event committee, registering three women who fit different parts of my demographic (woman of color, young wife/mom, curvy/athletic) for the 2017 Mrs. Minnesota pageant, and most importantly: teaching the value of dreams to my two children. When I was growing up, my mother was earning her PhD. She endured nine surgeries all while being a single parent who always made us feel special. Looking back on this, as children we obviously didn’t understand the gravity of her accomplishments. As a mom now myself, I can’t tell you how proud I am of her, especially when some days I consider it a great feat if I get all of the beds made. She taught me not only how to dream, but what it takes to accomplish them. When I signed up for Mrs. Minnesota, I was terrified. I was so worried I would be judged harshly because of my age, I was worried that my body type wouldn’t be acceptable, that my over the top personality would be “too much”—everything. For years, being “me” was good enough, but now I was living my life with someone and for two small “someones” and I needed to be more than enough. My mother was able to pull me back to that root belief that all one needs in order to accomplish their dreams is the will to accomplish them. That is most important to me as a mom, and as a representative of other moms: to instill the belief in children that you can do ANYTHING.

 

I am constantly dreaming, and with it—planning. I know my bucket list will continue to grow (I have thought of about 5 more just typing this out!) I challenge you to write out your own goals and then to take it a step further and make a plan to achieve them. I can’t wait to see what I accomplish this year and I hope to be as much of an inspiration to you on your journey as my mother was on mine.

 

Making the minutes count,

 

Morgan

 

“She turned her ‘cant’s’ into ‘cans’ and her dreams into plans” – Kobi Yamada

Friday, June 24, 2016

"And Your Miss Minnesota 2016 is.." by Sabrina Astar


 

My heart was pounding, my mind was racing, and my palms were sweaty while holding Miss North Oaks (Ellen Dahlquists) hand. I have never in my life felt so excited and nervous all at once, thinking over and over again how amazing it would feel to have them call out your name.

“And your Miss Minnesota International 2016 is… Miss Hastings Sabrina Astar!”

 

The first thing I did was just smile as largely as I can and freeze in place, not sure where to look and feeling like I'm on cloud 9. Looking at many of those pictures now I can see how silly I really did look in that moment that I was experiencing pure happiness. As I tried to gain my composure, I look up to the judges and thank them for giving me this blessing. Alexis then walks towards me to crown me and I squat down and just think for a brief second “ You are a very lucky girl, show the world that you deserve this.”

 

While walking my first walk as Miss Minnesota International 2016 I thought about how amazing all of the women I competed with are. Miss Eagan, Miss Minneapolis, Miss North Oaks, Miss Koochiching County and Miss Hutchinson were all such lovely women to compete with. Winning the Amity award was one of the best things about the entire weekend. To think that all the women I was lucky enough to compete with thought of me as a friend was just icing on the cake of an incredible weekend. To all of the women I got the pleasure to know,  I loved learning about your platforms, they were so inspiring and I wish you all the best of luck with all that your future holds.

 

In my last blog I wrote about the importance of my platform “Invest in Today's Youth” with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and how so many lives have been effected by this outstanding organization. I feel beyond blessed to be able to speak about my platform throughout my reign and I cannot wait to bring Big Brothers Big Sisters to the International stage in just over a month.

 

Winning your first pageant is a very odd and amazing thing. I felt so excited to be the owner of this title and wanted to show everyone that although I am young and new to pageantry I can make an impact. Although I talk about luck, this is not what made me win. I had an “out of this world” crew behind the scenes. Cheri Kennedy and Adam Spiker helped me to look and feel as though I could accomplish anything. My mock interview judges gave me the tools to be prepared for one on one and on stage interviews. My parents and siblings supported me, as they always have, to keep reaching for my goals. Friends were there day and night keeping me emotionally stable. In life you will do amazing things, but the people that help you get there are the real reason your life is amazing.

 

Next stop is Miss International at the end of July in Jacksonville! I feel ready to compete and excited to share my story with even more outstanding women!

 

With love and blessings,

Miss Minnesota International 2016 Sabrina Astar

 

 

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"And the new Mrs. Minnesota International is…" by Morgan Bredde


And the new Mrs. Minnesota International is…


 

As I anxiously awaited hearing the new queen’s name, I was able to take a few minutes and reflect on the last few months of preparation. With only a short time to get ready for the state pageant, I had given every ounce of myself so that I could be the best version of me that I could be.

 
 
 
 
Let me start by saying that my support system is unbeatable. From my husband driving the distance of 2 cross country trips and back just so I could make all of my appointments while he watched our newborn and one year-old sons, to my mother still playing the role of pageant mom effortlessly, to Cheri Kennedy, Adam Spiker, and Suzy Bootz preparing me mentally, physically, and emotionally for one of the biggest challenges of my life. I was dressed head to toe in confidence by the expertise of Sarah Moses of The Pageant Shop and even at the last minute when I needed to buy a new gown (yes, Adam Spiker Fitness is truly that good!), she never hesitated to make sure that I was ready for the stage. By far, the most incredible part of this journey was carrying the spirit of my families who have lost children or are currently losing their children. Through my platform and partnership with Crescent Cove—I knew that my God-given talents, passion and should I hear my name, title would be used for the ultimate purpose.

 

MRS. WOODBURY INTERNATIONAL, MORGAN BREDDE!

 

I collapsed. So much hard work had paid off, doubt had been erased, and dreams come true. I looked at my husband and could barely stand as the excitement of my accomplishment truly hit me. This year was about so much more than myself, and this title was so much more than a crown. Pediatric palliative care is one of—if not THE biggest blessing that could be offered to a family who is living a nightmare while actively losing their child. I carry the story of MILLIONS on my head and across my heart, and every time I place that crown upon my head, they are thought of, spoken of, and loved.




Being the youngest contestant in the pageant, and now the youngest Mrs. Minnesota, I often worried about my age to the point where I wondered if I should even compete. But once and for all, I would like to put this to rest. Dreams don’t come with an age requirement, nor limit. They don’t expire, nor do they only appear as time goes on. Your tenacity, will, passion, and hard work will outrank any superficial demographic about you. If anyone believed otherwise, allow me to serve as a reminder that you are wrong. I hope next year, that we will see women of all walks of life gracing the stage. Being Mrs. Minnesota means I represent all married women. Young, more experienced. Tall, short. Working, or staying at home with their children. I am forever thankful to the judges who believed that out of a group of such upstanding women, that I could stand as a representation for each of them and for our small, but powerful state of Minnesota.

 

So watch out, Jacksonville. Mrs. Minnesota is coming for you and she’s ready.

 

Promising the moon,

Morgan Bredde

Mrs. Minnesota International 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"On the evening of April 30th " by Kelly Brown



On the evening of April 30th, a beautiful, sparkly crown was carefully placed on top of my head. My eyes stared out into the crowd, finding my mother who thankfully got seats close enough for me to vividly see her smile as it almost reached her eyes. The weirdest thing was that it was almost as if my hearing had been impaired. All sounds became a muffle that was drowned out my racing heart as well as my bazillion thoughts! At this moment, I knew my life had taken a turn. This turn in the road would be one that would guide me out of my comfort zone; one that would push me to raise the bar a little more each and every day. I had achieved my goal for that night: becoming Miss Teen MN International 2016.


Flashing back to pageant weekend, the first thing that comes to my mind isn't the chaos, the last-minute preparation, or who was wearing what. The first thing, or should I say people, that I think of are those who shared this great experience with me. Coming into this industry has destroyed the negative stereotypes for me. It taught me that there will always be some bad apples in the bunch, just like there are in any category of anything. However, because of my experience here, I have never met such ambitious, impeccable, and passionate women. 

 

While we're talking about passion, I should get into how fun and great it was to hear about all of these ladies’ platforms. One’s platform is not something that is drawn out of a hat, but rather something that one is deeply passionate about; something close to the home, because home is where the heart is at. 

 

To begin talking about this weekend would take me so long. Overall, I am immensely grateful to have competed and been dealt such a great experience. The year has only just begun, and I am exhilarated to see what the future holds for my beautiful sister queens and me. 

 
Miss Teen Minnesota 2016
Kelly Brown


Monday, June 13, 2016

" “Start something big, become a mentor.” by Sabrina Astar





On October 29th 2012 my life was forever changed. I was only 15 years old when my big brother had passed away. Jordan was an inspiration in my life. He was the reason I attempted show choir in high school, the driving force behind my desire to try many different activities and always was helping me believe that I could be anyone I wanted to be. Jordan was the absolute best big brother any girl could ask for. It has taken me a lot of time to be comfortable talking about his death, but now I am finally at a point in my life where I know I can take this awful situation and turn it into something positive, by helping someone else lacking that type of support system. This is what eventually brought me to Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

 

            It was about 3 months after Jordan’s passing that a light bulb clicked in my mind. “Jordan was such an amazing big brother to me, I need to do that exact same thing for someone else.” After months of researching the perfect organization to get involved with, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Twin Cities popped up on my computer screen. The fact that I could be a “Big Sister” to someone else the same way my big brother was for me was an answer to my prayers. As you can probably imagine I applied right away and well, the rest is history.

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters in a non-profit organization that has been around for more than 100 years and is the largest child mentoring organization in the United States. BBBB, as we call it, is also an international organization as well. Big Brothers Big Sisters International was founded in 1998 and now serves children in 12 different countries including Israel, Russia, and Bulgaria. This organization continues to grow every year and I believe it is because of their focus on children as individuals and not children as a whole.

 

            Big Brothers Big Sisters using one on one mentoring where adult volunteers “Bigs” are matched with children “Littles”. One on one mentoring really creates a close bond between the “Little” and “Big” which in turn leaves a life changing impact on the child involved. Personally I have been matched with my “little” for a year now and have loved every minute of it. Not only do I see rewarding changes in her, but she has really help me realize what is truly important in life and that is to make connections with people everyday single day.


            Mentoring has become such a huge part of my life and I feel completely blessed that I get the opportunity to promote Big Brothers Big Sisters this year as Miss Minnesota International. Everyday of your life you get to decide how you want to spend your time, I choose to spend my time with my “little” and I never have regretted it. “Start something big, become a mentor.” 

Miss Minnesota 2016
Sabrina Astar

" See the person, NOT the disability" by Kelly Brown



One’s platform is not something that can be chosen out a hat. One’s platform is chosen carefully by each individual so that advocacy can be guaranteed! My platform “See the person, NOT the disability” is one that I hold very dear to my heart. It helps protect the rights of those with disabilities and support their inclusion and participation in our community. I believe that EVERY person deserves the chance to reach their full potential. 


The reason that this platform is one that I am so passionate about it because I grew up with two older brothers who were both born with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays. My oldest brother Tony is higher functioning, but Viny has trouble communicating with others, even after many speech classes. I have been a personal witness of the stares and the laughter that my brothers encounter every single day of their lives. Their disabilities are what they HAVE, but NOT who they are. 

 

 

The organization that I have chosen to partner with is the Arc organization which helps bring individuality, community, equity, and many other things to these individuals. The Arc believes that all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are defined by their own strengths, abilities and inherent value, not by their disability! It is my goal to advocate with this organization throughout my reign and help people realize that disability does not mean inability. 

 
Miss Teen Minnesota 2016
Kelly Brown

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why Hospice? By Morgan Bredde





With all the components for Mrs. Minnesota, selecting my platform was the easiest. Entitled ‘No Matter the Minutes: Hospice Care for Children’—I am committing this year and however long it takes to provide every family with a safe-haven for their children when they’re at the end of their lives. This is an incredibly sad topic, but we cannot continue to let our fear of speaking about it inhibit the lives directly impacted by this.

 

Why Hospice Care?

 

Maryah Therese Emerson-Tift was a once-in-a-lifetime friend. Nicknamed "The Champ", she valiantly and gracefully fought Ewing's Sarcoma until she was 16 years, 8 days and 35 minutes old. She was a beautiful, talented dancer, beloved sister, cherished daughter and unforgettable friend. 
I thank God for every minute I was able to spend with her-- I am forever changed and motivated by her memory. It is because of her that I take on the mission to ensure that every moment of life is celebrated for a child with a shortened life expectancy.
Maryah passed away in a hospice home for adults, while surrounded in a peaceful environment, both the facility and staff were not equipped to handle the special considerations and needs of child-based end-of-life care.

 

 

In Minnesota alone, there are 9,000 families dealing with this heartbreaking reality. "Where can we spend time as a family while my child is dying?". Currently, for families not living in California or Arizona, there are only three options:
A) Hospital: children most often times do not have the freedom or the ability to leave campus to venture outside, nor is there enough room for families to stay together. (See "Designed to Complete. Not Compete. chart below)
B) Home: parents and siblings alike remain in a home where the memories of the child are often overshadowed with memories of their passing. Parents also must play the role of "caregiver" in addition to "parent"
CHospice Home: while this facility is geared toward assisting with and providing end-of-life care, these homes are not equipped to handle the emotional needs of a child. These homes are centered around providing a peaceful environment to whomever is staying within their walls. Like the hospitals, hospice homes do not have the space for the family to spend unlimited time together.

What if There Was Another Option?

In the United States, there are only TWO residential hospices for children: 
George Mark Children's House in California, and Ryan House in Arizona, with six other homes in the development stages across the country, including my partners Crescent Cove and Ladybug House. Families are able to access pediatric palliative care (care of patients who are not responding to curative treatment. This enhances quality of life for children with life-limiting conditions), respite care all the while in a child-friendly environment. These homes have space for families to stay and enjoy time together through fun activities and peaceful spaces. There is a focus on allowing parents to "just be parents" and most of all, children can simply be children. With over 20 million children in immediate need of palliative care, each one of those children should be able to spend their life living-- no matter how short their life expectancy is.

That is where we come in. Through 'No Matter the Minutes', it is my mission while partnered with my international pediatric hospice coalition, to increase awareness, support, and secure funding to sustain and establish these homes. While the tragedy of losing a child too soon is unbearable, we will be able to uplift more families through their grieving process, all the while helping to ease the financial burden.

Please help me on my journey to uplift countless families across the world cherish sacred time with their children by providing pediatric palliative care, respite and hospice. Together, we can change the world.

 

Promising the moon,

Morgan Bredde

Mrs. Minnesota International 2016

 

Click here to read my guest blog with Crescent Cove!

 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 

 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

" Meet Miss Minnesota 2016"


 




 

I am so proud and honored to have been crowned Miss Minnesota International for 2016. My journey to Miss Minnesota was very unique and I feel so blessed that I get to share with all of you how I got to where I am today.

 

            I want to start off by sharing my home life with all of you! My father was a corporate executive for much of my 4 older siblings lives which, in turn, caused our family to move frequently while I was very young. Our family has lived in Seattle, Baltimore, Green Bay, and Chicago. just to name a few locations. I myself was actually born in Louisville, Kentucky in the year 1997. When my parents decided to custom build a house of their dreams they finally said “This is it! We are staying here for a while!” It has been almost 10 years since that day and I am thankful that I get to call Minnesota my home. Why do I love Minnesota so much you may ask? I love how in the morning you can be finishing up a Glam Doll Donut while drinking a SpyGirl from Spyhouse coffee and just a short while later be hiking the trails of Minnehaha Park. The diversity of our state is what makes it such a wonderful place to grow up.

 

            My hometown of Hastings is just about 30 minutes away from Saint Paul, our states capital. This is the place where I really found out who I am and the what kind of persons I want to be. Throughout high school I did a variety of activities; Volleyball, Younglife, show choir, theater, Student Council, Class Officers, Link Crew, Youth Ambassadors and Peer Tutoring were among my favorites. Links below are to see me in action participating in some of these extracurricular activities.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn0_TZ1oTYo ( Go to 10:50, Look for the tall sassy girl in the middle)

 


 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJOhmtXP_pA ( Go to 44:50, Look for Sharpay)

 




            Many people would ask me why I did so much at such a young age and truthfully it was because I loved everything. I loved being a performer just as much as I loved being a middle blocker. I think that being so involved really has made me such a well-rounded person today. When pageants came into the picture I was more than excited to give it my all.

 

The Miss Minnesota Pageant was the first pageant I had ever competed in and I am beyond blessed to have taken home the crown. It was not luck that got me to where I am today, it was hard-work, focus, and determination. I am very excited to represent Minnesota proudly at the Miss International Pageant in July and I know that my past experiences will help me to be the perfect candidate to take home the International title.

           

 Your Miss Minnesota International 2016
Sabrina Astar

           

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

" About Me" Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota 2016



Photo by Paula Preston

Hi everyone! I’m Ava Ernst and very excited to be your new Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota International 2016! I love animals, downhill skiing, being a member of the North Suburban Makos swim team, and all things Star Wars! I am an only child and live with my mom, dad, and pets in the northern suburbs of St. Paul.  Speaking of my mom, she was Mrs. Minnesota International 2003! In fact, she crowned her successor when she was pregnant with me!


My platform is “Don’t Shop… ADOPT!” and I am dedicated to helping rescue animals find homes. In my family, we have rescued many pets, such as our now 15-year-old black lab Bear who we got from the Animal Humane Society at the age of 13 after his owner died. We also rescued our 3-legged cat named Tippy who sadly passed away last spring. My mom helped my grandparents find a rescue English bulldog named Sweetie who is just a sweetheart. She was a breeder dog from a horrible puppy mill but now she is pampered and loved every day instead of being locked up in a cramped, tiny cage. As you can probably tell, this is a cause I feel very strongly about!   


 
Photo by Crowning Images
 
 
I am a huge Star Wars fan and have loved the movies for as long as I can remember.  My mom still had her Star Wars toys from when she was a little girl but she gave them to me which was pretty cool. My family and I waited three hours in line just to get good seats on opening day of “Star Wars - The Force Awakens!” I love the lead character Rey because she proves that average girls can be heroes no matter what background they come from. 

 
 

Competitive swimming is a big part of my life. I am a member of the Makos swim team. The team is so organized and the drills make me feel more confident when I compete in swim meets.  As much as I love swimming, downhill skiing is my very favorite sport in the world. For the past three years, I have skied with the Otto Hollaus Ski Club each Sunday. We go to various local ski hills and have terrific instructors. This past January, my family and I took a ski trip to Whistler, British Columbia which was where the 2010 Winter Olympics took place.  Last year, we skied in Crested Butte, CO which was a great trip.  I hope we go somewhere fun next winter! 

 

I am also on basketball and volleyball teams in the summer, and play golf and tennis in the summer and also go to horse camp.  I used to play soccer but am hoping to take riding lessons instead. 

 Music is my passion. I have played guitar since the age of 7 and I love to sit around the campfire at our cabin and play along with my mom and grandpa! My guitar instructor Todd is so fun and I have even played (and sang!) in front of my whole school for a talent show. I recently started taking voice lessons with recording artist Keri Noble and I am learning so much from her. 

Photo by Crowning Images


My family is so kind to me and I am so lucky to have such loving parents. My mom always volunteers to take time out of her day to help out at any track meets of mine or bring me to my swim practices. And my dad smokes such delicious meat (he loves to watch cooking shows) and loves to take me fishing!  My parents helped and supported me all the way in this pageant and I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for their support. I love my family and the neighborhood I live in. My grandparents live just one mile from us and my aunt and uncle live three miles from us—we have a big family dinner every Tuesday night and I love having my family so close. 

 

I am so excited for this year!  Next week I will be making my second appearance at the Psycho Suzis’ Puppy Pageant which will be a blast. Thank you so much for reading and make sure to read my next blog coming soon!  Have an awesome day!

 

Ava Ernst

Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota International 2016