Thursday, October 16, 2014

AccesAbility’s 6th Annual Walk-n-Roll-athon by Kimberly Stommes

AccesAbility’s 6th Annual Walk-n-Roll-athon

By: Kimberly Stommes

I had an opportunity recently to tour the AccessAbility facility and I was very impressed! What a great non-profit organization with great goal and mission. The mission of AcessAbility is to provide opportunities for self-sufficiency for people with barriers to employment and community inclusion. I learned that the outcomes of this organization yield growth for all consumers including positive self-esteem and self-worth reinforcement. I did not know that many community businesses turn to AccessAbility when looking for unique and flexible labor service solutions, and I had the opportunity first hand to witness some of the consumers hard at work!

 I really enjoyed touring the center and meeting some of the consumers. Additionally, I was extremely impressed with the work product I saw being produced, especially the new venture, Imagine Design, which provides employment and training in tasks ranging from printing and frame making, to assembly and distribution of inspirational items. The products I saw were simply beautiful.

 For the past 6 years, AccessAbility hosts a fundraiser titled Walk-n-Roll-athon. This event was an opportunity for the consumers to enjoy face-painting, snacks, a photo-booth, massages, a clown performance, and more! After enjoying the activities it was time to go on the 1.8 mile walk.

With a consumer before kicking off the Walk-and-Roll-athon

I was the Master of Ceremonies and spoke about my platform, Drive Out Diabetes. I educated the guests on the signs, symptoms, and ways to effectively lower the risk of developing diabetes.

Educating the guests about my platform, Drive Out Diabetes

Not only did I have a great time, I made new friends, and the individuals I had the opportunity to meet were simply inspirational!

Yours truly,

Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. Minnesota International


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Mrs. International Pageant in Jacksonville, FL ' Written by: Kimberly Stommes

Where to begin? The week spent at the Mrs. International pageant in Jacksonville, Florida was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Although I did not come home with a new sparkling crown, I left my heart and soul on that stage. I am so proud to know that I represented Minnesota the best that I was able!
I met so many amazing women from around the world. So many caring and giving women who are all employed, having families, representing their state or country, AND raising awareness for a cause that is near and dear to their hearts. I am so blessed to have had this opportunity.

I flew into Orlando with my husband, Jeremy, and we rented a car to embark on the journey to Jacksonville. Originally we were going to rent a motor home and drive down with all of my luggage (trust me, there was a LOT of it) and about three weeks prior to leaving my mother informed me that there were some great deals flying from Minnesota to Orlando, and boy was she right! So after having a little panic attack on the plane, Minnesota had arrived!

The Omni Hotel in Jacksonville was beautiful! The staff was so caring and the scenery was beautiful! I was so excited to enter my room to lovely flowers and cards from my sister queens, past MN queens, family and friends. Thank you all for making me feel so loved!

 Before pageant orientation began, I met with the very talented hair and makeup artist, Judy Wright. If there is anything that I can suggest that you absolutely NEED when competing at a national/international pageant, it is someone to do your hair and makeup for you. Not only is this a time saver, but it is a way to relax and let someone else help you to look as beautiful as you feel. Judy did just that for me and for that I am grateful!  You must contact her for your next event, as she has a heart of gold, is super sweet and caring, and really knew how to make me feel relaxed. She is also a LIFESAVER! A big problem this Minnesota gal had was trying to prevent my curls from going instantly flat and frizzy upon entering the Florida humidity, and thank goodness Judy was there to help!  

Orientation was the first moment I had to meet the wonderful ladies all vying for the Mrs. International 2014 title. Each contestant had the opportunity to introduce themselves and answer a question, telling the other contestants a little bit about themselves. All of the women were absolutely amazing! It was a wonderful beginning to a wonderful week!

 Wednesday was our day to tour the Jacksonville area! All of the contestants boarded a coach bus to head to our first stop of the day: St. Augustine. Upon arrival we immediately boarded a trolley and toured the city. I was so excited to see the architecture of the buildings and homes, as well as see the largest free-standing cross in the United States! During this ride, I also met some of my new pageant besties!  
 Pictured with two amazing women before our outing: Mrs. Atlantic States and Mrs. Philippines

 Meeting some truly beautiful ladies and developing life-lasting friendships…and something was funny!

 After touring the town we stopped at the St. Augustine Outlet Mall for a little shopping! How perfectly fitting for us ladies!  After shopping, we had an exclusive tour of the Jacksonville Jaguar stadium! We had a question and answer session with David Caldwell, the General Manager, toured the locker rooms, met a few players, took a few steps on the football field and had the opportunity to witness the preparation of the unveiling of the new GIANT score boards!  What a truly unique experience! 
 After an amazing day spent touring the town, we headed into our first rehearsal session. At rehearsals we learned the opening production number and practiced our introductions. Hearing the music and walking through the steps finally made it feel real to me. I was finally on the Mrs. International stage!

The following day was Thursday and it was the beginning of competition, starting with interviews. My interview was at 9:10 a.m. and although it sounds very early, I was excited to get a jump on my day and share my excitement and passions with the judges. My favorite part of competition is the interview component and I absolutely loved meeting these judges and sharing my passions with them. It was interesting to learn that none of these judges have had pageant affiliations or experience in the past, and that they were looking for someone committed to their platform! 5 minutes with each judge goes by faster than you can imagine, but I felt that I was able to convey everything I wanted to each judge and I was on cloud 9 leaving my interview. I would not have changed a thing, except maybe made the interviews a little bit longer, as 5 minutes is not enough time for a person to get to know another person…but we really cannot be in interview ALL day long.   
After interviews it was time for rehearsals. This time we worked on the preliminary competitions including evening gown and fitness. I loved the music that was selected for each scored event and every time they would start the music over to practice, I would get chills! My daughter and my mother and father arrived on this day as well. I was so excited to see them! 
Later in the evening we attended the International Go Red for Women Gala and Silent Auction. It was a black-tie affair and we had the opportunity to greet guests and judges as they entered the ballroom. I loved seeing the different gowns the ladies selected to represent their personalities! Same can be said for all of the wonderful silent auction items that the ladies donated. Everyone was so creative! 

 Photographed at the Gala with some of the most inspirational ladies I have ever met! Cheri Kennedy, pageant coach extraordinaire; Sarah Bazey, Mrs. International 2012; and Amy Gregorio, Mrs. International 2013!

 The woman I met during the International pageant week will be friends that I will stay in touch with for the rest of my life. The three of us are already planning a get together! Before I knew it, Friday had arrived! It was preliminary competition day and I was so excited I could hardly sleep! First we had rehearsals again…
 After rehearsals I had time to head back to the hotel to eat dinner with the contestants, and then spend some time with my husband before the preliminary competition began.  Judy touched up my hair and makeup and before I knew it, it was time to hit the stage!
 A little secret…I was also VERY excited to see the dressing rooms! It made everything feel a little more real, and of course I had to take a “selfie” in the dressing room!

 Preliminaries went very well for me. I was so proud of my performance and I definitely left my heart on that stage. I had so many people tell me after preliminaries that I was amazing, beautiful, graceful, and not to change a thing for the finale! All of these kind words came from complete strangers and even family members of other contestants. Those are the best types of compliments you can receive! I am so blessed and grateful that I represented Minnesota beautifully!

After preliminaries with New York, New Jersey, and Mrs. Northeast

  SATURDAY WAS PAGEANT FINALE DAY! YAY! It was such a surreal day for me. We spent most of the day in rehearsals. I really enjoyed rehearsals because it is always the time that I do a lot of soul searching and thinking. Rehearsals help me to relax, and think about how truly blessed I am. I am especially blessed to be Mrs. Minnesota, and I know many women who would love to be in my shoes. Rehearsals are a time for me to reflect on where I have been and where I want to be. Listening to the music and practicing on stage really puts me in a lovely place and reminds me to thank God for his continued blessings.
The pageant was wonderful. Even though I did not win the Mrs. International title, I still left winning. In my heart I know that I gave 150% in each event. I felt alive on stage and had so much energy. I felt that the months and months I spent preparing for this very week had paid off. I felt a sense of accomplishment and ease all week just being me and doing what I love. I represented Minnesota to the fullest, and I had the opportunity to share my passions and my platform, Drive Out Diabetes, with so many people!
There are so many people to thank for helping me to get to the International stage. First and foremost I absolutely have to thank my husband and my daughter. They have made sacrifices since January, when I decided I was going to enter my state pageant. They have done everything they can do to help me chase my dreams. Without them, I wouldn’t be your Mrs. Minnesota. Same can be said for my parents and grandparents- I love them with all of my heart and they have always been my biggest fans. Cheri Kennedy is simply amazing. She is not only my coach but my dearest friend and has taught me so much about who I am. Allison Stavrakis is my state director and she has been nothing short of amazing during this journey. Coming to nationals to support me was wonderful! Thank you to Sarah Moses with The Pageant Shop for helping me select the most beautiful gown! Thank you to Adam Spiker for helping me be the fittest me I could be! Judy Wright is one of the most talented women I have ever met in my life and I thank you for making me look as beautiful as I felt all week! Thank you to all of my mock-interview judges for helping me learn to convey exactly who I am in my interviews! Special thank you to Krista Wanous, Miss International 2012, and Sarah Bazey, Mrs. International 2012, for all of the tips, advice, talks, and wardrobe advice. Both of you are simply stunning inside and out, and I am so glad that God put you both in my path! Thank you to my sister queens, Rachel Flynn and Gabby Taylor, and their families who messaged me and called me every day! To all of the former Mrs. Minnesota’s, and my friends and family that reached out to me, or even just “liked” my photos on Facebook, thank you! You have no idea how much each comment and “like” touched my heart. If I have forgotten anyone, I sincerely apologize. 
  Pictured with two amazing and inspirational women: Cheri Kennedy and Allison Stavrakis
A special thank you to Mr. Minnesota- the man that makes me a Mrs! I would not have been able to chase this dream if not for you. You are my world and I am so lucky to have you! These past 9 years have been the BEST of my life and I am so excited for our future!

  Again, thank you to everyone! I had a wonderful experience on that Mrs. International stage and I am excited for bigger and better things yet to come this year!
Yours truly,

Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. Minnesota International 2014



First Day of School By: Kimberly Stommes

First Day of School
By: Kimberly Stommes
 Ava’s first day of Kindergarten September 2014
September 2, 2014, was a very hard day for me. It was my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten and although she was ready to take on the world, this mommy was not.
I’m the mother that drove her to school for the first two weeks and walked in, signed the visitor log, grabbed a badge, walked her to her class, helped her put her backpack away, helped her put her gym shoes on, and begged for a hug and kiss before holding her hand while she tried to escape my grip to walk into her classroom.
Would you believe there was a day that was a little harder? It was the first day I didn’t do those things. Just pulling up to the school to watch her jump out of the car and waive goodbye as she ran off to the front doors, was so emotional for me.
I think what made it the first day of Kindergarten so much harder for me is I was up all night the night before. Thinking. Remembering. Remember the first time I held her in my arms; the first time she was sick; first time she took a step; first time she rode her bike; first time she showed me her loose teeth. So many firsts that kept racing through my mind. Now a few days later, I have learned to smile and be happy when she is running into school. I am blessed to have her. Blessed that she is eager to learn. Blessed.
I have heard from friends that have older children that it doesn’t get any easier the older they get. The first day of school is always a tough day, no matter how old your child(ren) get(s).
To me, there is no greater gift than parenthood. My daughter is my world. Children really do fill a void you never new existed. Here’s to many more firsts!
Yours truly,
Kimberly Stommes
Mrs. Minnesota International 2014

First Day of Fall By: Kimberly Stommes

First Day of Fall

By: Kimberly Stommes

Happy first day of Fall! This is by far my most favorite season! There is something about the cool breeze, the leaves changing colors, and many cups of hot chocolate, that remind me how lucky I am to live in Minnesota! And it helps that some of my favorite holidays are in the Fall season as well!


My birthday is in October, my daughter’s birthday is in October, and my husband’s birthday is in November. In my household, birthdays are a BIG celebration! Fall reminds me that summer went by too fast but also that the holidays are right around the corner!

 I also love that this is the perfect time of the year to rock my favorite brown boots and comfy cardigans! I also love taking my family photos in the fall and searching with my daughter for that perfect pumpkin! I love decorating my house for Halloween and listening to my husband complain that I have too many decorations! I love trick-or-treating with my daughter and picking apples at my in-law’s farm!


 My daughter, Ava, picking apples when she was 1 year old!

Have you tried pumpkin Oreos or Pumpkin Spice lattes? How about cuddling up listening to the rain and drinking a hot apple cider? Jumping in large piles of leaves? Running in the early morning fog? Have you ever made hot apple dumplings or apple butter? Tell me you have seen the MANY re-runs of Hocus Pocus? (PS: Did you hear they are creating a sequel?!)

 My daughter, Ava, playing in the leaves!

Okay, I’ll admit it: I AM OBSESSED WITH FALL, and I would love to hear why you are obsessed with fall too!


 Yours truly,

Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. Minnesota International 2014

Camp Friendship

Camp Friendship
Written by: Kimberly Stommes
I recently had the privilege of being a guest at a lemonade social held at Camp Friendship. This event was a special end-of-camp event featuring a dance, brownies, lemonade, and fun activities for the campers!

 Campers enjoying the end-of-camp dance at Camp Friendship
Camp Courage, Camp Friendship, Camp Eden Wood, Camp Courage, and Camp New Hope are five camps under the True Friends non-profit organization. These camps are all specialized to serve children and adults with disabilities. They believe that it is important to create a world where experiences and adventures are open to individuals of all abilities.
I got the opportunity to see firsthand, the beauty of the Camp Friendship campus, which is located in Annandale, MN. Camp Friendship has so much to offer, including many opportunities for the campers to have fun on Clearwater Lake with the boats, kayaks, and more!
I had a wonderful time helping with the lemonade social and I met many new friends! I had one young lady in particular who was so happy to see me and introduced me to her “daughter.” She said she had never felt so special. Events like this make me really appreciate being your Mrs. Minnesota International 2014 so I can touch the lives of others.
 My new friend and her “daughter”

Yours truly,
Kimberly Stommes
Mrs. MN International 2014

National Chicago Bridal Market by Rachel Flynn

                                    National Chicago Bridal Market

  This last summer I was invited by Johnathan Kayne to model for him in September at the National Bridal Market in Chicago.  I modeled for him last year at the market and had the time of my life.  So naturally, I was very excited to be invited back.  The National Bridal Market is held at the Chicago Merchandise Mart.  This building is so large that it has its own zip code!

  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Johnathan Kayne, he was on the second season of “Project Runway All Stars”.  He is one of my favorite designers because he is so down to earth and creates many beautiful gowns.  He designs pageant and prom dresses. Johnathan has recently started designing dresses for country music stars in Tennessee.  He is also very well known for his shoes.  I know that pretty much every pageant girl owns a pair of his fabulous shoes.


  I modeled for Johnathan for 3 ½ days.  Johnathan’s two longtime friends Peach Carr (another designer on Project Runway All Stars) and Teresa came to Chicago to help him out.  I had met Peach and Teresa last year at the market. So I was very happy they were there again this year.  There was another lady who also modeled for Johnathan named LaReish.  Rei and I quickly became close friends the first day.  I cannot wait to see the amazing things that Rei is going to accomplish in the fashion industry. 

  The trip to Chicago was a trip I will never forget.  I feel very humbled to walk in the circles that I walk in.  It is really incredible that I get a chance to learn from the people I would like to be like some day.  A huge thank you to Johnathan for letting me model for him again this year.  Also thank you to my parents for driving me eight hours there and back.  You both make my world go round.

The Johnny Appleseed Festival

                                    The Johnny Appleseed Festival
                 by Rachel Flynn
 This Saturday, Oct. 4th, I was invited to the Johnny Appleseed Festival in Lake City.  Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year.  I just love apple orchards, carving pumpkins, and pretty much all the seasonal coffee drinks and foods.  I also really love fall festivals.  I was very excited that I was invited and went with my whole family.

                 Usually, I am not a huge fan of long car trips.  But the car trip was breath taking with all the leaves changing color and historical towns along the way.  It also probably didn’t hurt to have started off the trip with a salted caramel mocha from Starbucks.  We drove along Lake Pepin which is a wide opening in the Mississippi River.  The weather was pretty great for the fall festival.


                When we finally arrived in Lake City, we went straight to the Johnny Appleseed Festival.  I was amazed that the festival had pretty much something for everyone!  Some of the activities they had for the kids included inflatable rides, a petting zoo, and a kid’s tractor ride.  They also had food vendors, a farmers market, and live music.  I had fun talking to the kids and their families and even posing for a couple pictures.  My family and I really enjoyed the festival and the fall weather.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"2014 Miss Preteen Minnesota International here," by Lainey Oliphant

2014 Miss Preteen Minnesota International here, Lainey Oliphant, reporting (I really wanted to say "LIVE") on the Unified Community Services event, that was held on August 16th at the Park Place Club House in Plymouth! Yes, someday I want to be an On-camera Meteorologist and I love to report on things! :)

I was SO excited to be asked to help at the event, which was a Mary Kay and silent auction fundraiser for the GirlsROCK and REALtalk youth programs, as well as the Feeding Families programs. I was surrounded by other beautiful women supporting the cause and had a great time meeting other visiting royalty titleholders!

They had some really cool auction items that Twins and Lynx sport's fans would have loved and great food!

Thank you to the International system for the opportunity to receive the invite!

Lainey Oliphant

"2nd annual Mary Kay and Silent Auction Fundraiser " by Rachel Flynn


                                     I was invited to attend the 2nd annual Mary Kay and Silent Auction Fundraiser by Tiffany Shaw.  The event took place at the Park Place Club House in Plymouth.  Tiffany had a wonderful silent auction for the guests to bid on and win cool prizes.  Tiffany also put together a very impacting video to share with us about her organization Unified Community Services.  This organization is focused on providing quality community involvement with the highest levels of community engagement.  They work directly with our youth and families.  Unified Community Services, is formerly known as the Miss Black Minnesota Program.  Past International queens have also worked with the Unified Community Services organization.  I am honored to continue this tradition.



                      I was so excited to find out my sister queen Kimberly Stommes and Catherine Stanley (Miss MN Teen USA) were also helping at the event!  I hadn't seen the both of  them since before I went to nationals.  So it was very fun catching up with them and hearing about their trips to nationals.  We all had a wonderful time at the  fundraiser. Thank you so much to Tiffany Shaw for inviting me!


" Children's Cancer Research Fund" By Lainey Oliphant

I had a great day supporting the Valleyfair Cares, Raise Hope and Money event for the Children's Cancer Research fund, at Valleyfair on August 12th this year!
 I encouraged others to come on the discounted ticket days and said many prayers for the kids that do have this horrible disease. My favorite ride was the wave! It looked pretty tall and my Godmother and I, got SOAKED in the end..I loved it!

Miss Preteen Minnesota International 2014

Lainey Oliphant