Friday, May 22, 2015

" YouthCARE" written by Kate Howe



 
 
What a fun evening!  Tou Ger and Andrea Bennett Xiong invited Alexis, Nicole and myself to their 10th Annual Celebration of Urban Youth Dinner.  Tou Ger and Andrea are long-time, passionate volunteers of the organization.  It was very interesting to hear about Camp Sunrise, which brings together urban youth, 13-18 year olds from diverse cultural backgrounds to experience the outdoors, learn about the environment and build respect for themselves and others.  Tou Ger was once an adolescent attending the camp!  It is amazing to see him giving back to an organization that had a huge impact on his life.



 
The ladies and I are pictured here with former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and his wife, Megan.  R.T. is the Executive Director of Generation Next, a powerful coalition of civic, business and education leaders aiming to close the achievement and opportunity gaps in Minneapolis and St. Paul.



Generation Next leaders will use the cradle-to-career framework to help students achieve five key goals, or success benchmarks.  These goals are research-based competencies and key transition points that are necessary for students’ developmental progress.  My platform, Ignite the Imagination aligns with goal #2: 3rd Grade Reading Benchmarks - which means by the end of 3rd grade, each student meets key benchmarks for success in reading and reading comprehension. 



A special part of the evening was being able to talk to Andrea about being a Mrs. Minnesota Queen J.  Andrea was our 2013 Mrs. Minnesota International – definitely a beauty inside and out!  The Mrs. Sisterhood runs deep and strong, with a lot of support.  I am so honored to be a part of this group of women. 

 

The fun thing about being a “Mrs.” is that you always have a guaranteed date for events like these.  I am so lucky – Joe is definitely my biggest supporter. 

 

So Blessed!

Mrs. Minnesota International 2015

Kate Howe

 

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

" No More" by Alexis Adu-Bobi



          When you look at the picture above what do you see? You see a young woman happy and full of smiles. The woman you see on the left was not always happy. I grew up in Bronx New York in the projects. That is where my journey began. I grew up in a home where my father was physically abusive towards my mother, siblings and I. This period in my life was very difficult. I was a young child dealing with adult problems. Due to what I was dealing with at home I was a very quiet and withdrawn child. As the years continued my home life became increasingly worse.  My Mother somehow found the strength to leave and was able to divorce my father and put herself through nursing school. Once she was more financially stable we packed up and moved to Minnesota for a fresh start.

 

          Minnesota is where I was able to have a normal childhood. I was at a new school, made new friends and I was given the opportunity to try new things particularly. All was well for a while. Once in high school I began to experience some of the side effects of children who had been abused. I was angry all the time and I began to resent my mother for my childhood. I became depressed and I had constant anxiety. Sports became my outlet. I was a two-sport athlete in track and volleyball. I would avoid my issues by staying active all the time. I eventually graduated from high school and moved on to college.

 

          When I started college I thought things would be better. I was in a new school and new environment. I was still dealing with my depression and anxiety but I found ways to cope. It was there I met my college boyfriend. When we first met things were perfect, but as the relationship progressed he became controlling, jealous, and verbally aggressive.  Eventually he became physically and emotionally abusive. The man I thought I knew was a complete stranger. As time went on the abuse became worse and worse. I then began to realize this was not the life God had planned for me. I finally left my abuser and sought refuge at a women’s shelter. I ended up spending one month at the Alexandra House women’s shelter. I took that time to utilize the resources provided which was a great help in helping to pick up the pieces and find myself again. With the help of Alexandra House I am proud to say I moved to Duluth, MN to start a new life.

 
          God has given me a new sense of hope. He has pulled me out of the darkness and into the light. When I moved to Duluth I made a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to educate and raise awareness so that people would not have to endure what I have. I am proud to say I am an advocate for the “No More” campaign, which fights to prevent and end Domestic Violence and sexual assault against women and children. My goal as a survivor is to continue to provide resources for victims and empower our future generations to break the cycle of violence before it begins. I am living proof that there is life after abuse, and it is never too late to rewrite your story.

         
                                                                  
Alexis Adu-Bobi

Miss Minnesota International 2015

 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

"I thought arthritis was just for old people..." by Nicole Doyle




 

It was just another normal morning for my at-home mother.  As always, I woke her up bright and early yelling “Mama, UP time!” (I was just three years old).  My big brother Nate and I were playing and we didn’t have a care in the world.  Very quickly our lives were going to change, and none of us would have ever guessed it.

 

That “normal” morning was the same day my mom noticed my swollen, hot, and painful finger…and it was the day that forever changed my life.  My mom’s maternal instinct was telling her that something was really, really wrong.  She took me to my pediatrician who somewhat dismissed it, figuring I must have just bumped it or something while playing that morning.  We were told not to worry about it and were sent on our way.  However, my mom was convinced that there was something else going on.  

 

 We went to doctor after doctor, eventually ending up at an adult rheumatologist due to the fact that only about 250 pediatric rheumatologists exist in the entire United States (a rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in arthritis and other joint/tissue diseases).  As a three year old, I did not know what was going on—all I knew was that I did not like the doctors!  I did not want to be there and have them examining me; I just wanted to go back home and play with my brother.  I remember this day (with the adult rheumatologist) distinctly.  I remember her extending and bending and checking all of my joints.  The next thing I remember is entering a lab while holding my big purple stuffed bunny and squeezing tight.  I did not want to be poked and prodded by needles, but I had to.  

 

This blood test forever changed my life.  “I’m sorry to tell you this but your daughter has arthritis.”  What?  How could this be?  Isn’t arthritis for “old” people?  My daughter is only three years old!  I was sent to the one child rheumatologist in Minnesota (yes, there is only ONE in the entire state!).  We started an intense treatment plan to get this under control called methotrexate.  I was started on methotrexate after being diagnosed with JIA in my knees, jaw, fingers, and that one cute little toe that is still little now from damage. 

 

The treatment started. Since I was quite young, the methotrexate had to be administered in a liquid that my mom would mix into food or drink.  It was okay at the start but then I started to get sick.  A vicious cycle began.  I remember switching from liquid to pills and pills to liquid hoping it would help make a difference with the nausea.  My mom would put the liquid medication into everything and anything trying to hide the bitter taste.  From soda to milk and even applesauce—you name it!  I specifically remember losing my appetite if I were to drink any of the things she put it in to try and get the meds into my system. I used to love milk, but if I drink it now I get reminded of the sickness instantly. The same thing happens with most sodas—you name it and we’ve tried it!  I remember being a little spitfire sneaking upstairs claiming that I will only drink it “alone,” yet secretly I was pouring it down the sink to avoid being sick and missing school.  I loved school and I wanted to go! 

 

 At around 8 years old, we then tried pills; I remember trying to swallow 7 little orange pills, trying to keep them down.  I was old enough to know what these pills led to:  sickness, nausea, vomiting, me missing school and activities.  I remember vomiting after taking a few and my parents having to dig through the vomit-filled sink trying to find them…and me having to take it again and re-attempt holding them down.  Then afterward, getting sick and missing school.  This is very common for children afflicted with Juvenile Arthritis—sometimes the treatment for the disease is even more painful than the disease itself.

 

Teachers did not understand. They told my mom that I was falling behind.  I could not keep up.  I would have a flare-up and be stuck in bed for days.  My medication would cause nausea, which again would cause me to miss more school.  We tried adjusting it, taking it in the morning, taking it at night, on the weekend. Nothing worked and my teachers had a hard time understanding how one day I could appear perfectly fine and the next day be in bed for days at a time. 

 

 When I was 11, I made a very big decision in hopes that it would help.  My doctors taught me how to give myself a shot of the medicine.  It helped a little bit but due to the nausea, I still missed out on many things.  In middle school, I remember keeping a big bag of Skittles in my backpack and sucking on them through the day to try to distract myself from being nauseous so I could be at school and go to hockey practice!  I remember going to the school nurse often to snack on some saltines.  Luckily, my school nurse’s daughter also had arthritis.  This was the first time I had a school staff member understand me!  She knew what I was going through because her daughter went through the same thing as me!  She knew I loved school, she knew how a little break like laying down for an hour would help me recharge.  I realized I was not the only one affected with J.A.

 

 At the end of 7th grade year, I went into remission…but not for long.  By the end of summer, it had come back.  I told my doctor I just could not take methotrexate again.  So we tried another plan of attach.  It took months to get my insurance to approve Enbrel, which once again is a shot I self-administer.  It went well and really helped, and best of all I wasn’t nauseous!  I have been on it ever since and still take it today.

 

Once I entered high school, my arthritis still had its ups and downs.  Hockey tryouts began and I remember feeling so nervous wondering if would make the team.  Five exhausting days of tryouts later, after skating through with my aches and pains, I made it!  I was on my high school hockey team!  Little did I know how stressful this would end up.  Coaches don’t understand. If you don’t have a cast on, why are you missing practice? I would miss practice due to a flare-up and when I returned the following day, I’d get penalized (i.e. not playing as much during the game).  They did not understand what arthritis was, because I looked normal on the outside.  The same goes for lacrosse—I remember being at the trainer’s office everyday to get my ankle and knees taped as it helped me and gave me extra support.

 

I have a very busy schedule. Starting at age 10, I have gone to physical therapy twice a week each week. This and other doctor appointments made me miss a lot of school and sports. However I had to go because it helped to control the pain. When I was about 9 years old, I had a full 16 ounces drained out of my knee.  I remember my doctor had the nurses put a big book in front of my face to avoid me seeing the massive needle.

 

Throughout my life I have been a very picky eater due to my jaw pain being too terrible. I think I lived on noodles bread and butter for a while.  I could not eat chewy things or chew gum because of the pain.

 

 I have learned to live with this disease.  Believe it or not, I have actually turned the fact that I am affected daily from Juvenile Arthritis into a positive. I am living proof you can overcome JA as a 18-year-old who played both hockey and lacrosse for Lakeville South High School!  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!

 

Nicole Elizabeth Doyle

Miss Teen Minnesota International 2015

" Children’s Surgeries International" by Kate Howe


 

 


Children’s Surgery International is a non-profit organization which serves underprivileged children around the world by providing free surgical services in a safe, compassionate, and culturally sensitive manner.  Many of these children have no other access to medical, let alone surgical services. 

CSI also provides professional training, education and support to surgeons, nurses and other caregivers in the local communities.  Their goal is to provide the locations they visit with the proper skills and resources so they can perform the procedures locally and eventually no longer require their services.

 

I had the honor of attending the 11th Annual Gala at the Millennium Hotel downtown Minneapolis.  The event raised more than $160,000 for the children they serve.  This organization is truly making a huge difference in the lives of the children they reach.  The stories brought tears to my eyes over and over again throughout the evening.  To be around such skilled surgeons, compassionate nurses and dedicated volunteers was truly inspiring. 

 

Joe and I sat next to Miss Sauerkraut 1973 and her family!!  Pageant sisterhood runs strong J.  Her family is what I dream about my family becoming in 25 years.  Her entire family is strongly involved in CSI and has dedicated a large part of their lives to this amazing organization.

 
 
 

The event brought in local celebrities like former Minnesota Viking Esera Tuaolo and KSTP anchor Chris Egert.  The funniest part of the evening was trying to leave the hotel.  There was a high school volleyball tournament staying at the hotel and I was completely swarmed by high school girls wanting pictures – so fun!

 

Loving being Mrs. Minnesota!!

Mrs. Minnesota International 2015

Kate Howe

Thursday, April 30, 2015

" My Platform: Ignite the Imagination" by Kate Howe


 

 

Have you ever seen a child’s face light up when they are excited about something?  It’s pure and genuine.  Imagine that “something” is an item that most of us take for granted.  Something that is so simple, yet so powerful. 

A new book.

Opening the cover is like opening the door to a new world.  It’s full of possibility and wonder.  It removes you from where you are sitting and takes you on untold adventures.  It sparks the imagination and ignites a flame that will burn brightly throughout a lifetime.

But, for children living in poverty, books are scarce.  In some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the United States, there is only one book available to every 300 children.  This lack of access becomes the foundation of illiteracy – of which grows poor education, employment and health.  This makes the dream of pulling out of poverty an impossible feat.  Instead, what breeds is a likelihood of criminal and anti-social behavior that affects all of us.

As an ambassador and advisory board member for First Book, I will continue to provide hundreds of brand new books to children in low income areas and educate parents on the lasting effects of early childhood literacy.



First Book is an international non-profit organization that addresses one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books.  At First Book, we have distributed over 125 million free and low cost books in thousands of communities that include soup kitchens and homeless shelters. 


The groundbreaking “30 Million Word Gap by age 3” study brought to attention the unprecedented findings that indicated the extraordinary disparities between the number of words spoken in the home and the lasting effects on a child’s performance throughout their entire life.  The results of the study dramatically outline the reality that homelife holds the key to early childhood success.  With the development of my smart phone app, I have been able to educate parents on the importance of early literacy through age specific milestones, activities and recommended readings. 

 

Mascots are one of the most effective advertising tools.  For years, mascots have been able to help children learn about even the most serious subjects, like forest fires (Smokey the Bear), because kids relate to simple characters.  Through the launch of my “Read with Reada the Frog” campaign, I have been able to build excitement and brand my platform with the children and parents I reach.  Reada is cute, friendly and appeals to my target market.  She is fantastic in helping carry out my two missions.

Mrs. Minnesota International 2015

Kate Howe

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