Friday, October 29, 2010

Beyond the 11th Bike Ride

September 11 I was a volunteer at the Bike Ride for Beyond the 11th. I will never forget where I was on the morning of September 11 2001 and how the day progressed with the tragedies that took place in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. Our country was paralyzed by the events that took place and we were all changed forever. In August I was in my car driving to work when I heard an interview on Kiss 108 with one of the founders of Beyond the 1th. I was so intrigued and immediately sent an e-mail when I was able to get to it to be a part of the event in whatever way I could.
Beyond the 11th is an organization that was founded by Patti Quigley and Susan Retik. Both women lost their husbands in the September 11 attacks, and they were both pregnant during this time and had to move on with the rest of their lives and their families without their husbands. What started out the biggest loss of their lives has turned into helping women across the world who have experienced a similar loss to them. They collaborated in 2003 to start Beyond the 11th to help the widows of Afghanistan. In 2006 both women travelled to Afghanistan to meet with these women and their journey was filmed for the documentary Beyond Belief. They continue to raise awareness and funds through this incredible organization built on strength and honor. The funds raised go toward educating these women to be able to generate their own income and to provide for themselves and their families. Recently Susan was awarded the Citizens Medal by President Obama for commitment to empowering women touched by personal tragedy.

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Susan and her family and was so touched by all the support form friends, volunteers, and organizations that support this cause. In the morning I came to help with setup and registration. I had the opportunity to listen to Susan welcome the riders and talk about what this day means to her in the memory of her husband David. She shared the time speaking with her current husband and children. Susan, her husband, her son, and the rest of the bikers were off on a 36 mile bike ride. Susan's mother-in-law was talking with me and asking me how I got involved. She asked if I could come back with my little girl as she loved children. I did go home and came back with my husband and daughter, and we felt so welcomed by a group of people we had never met prior to this day. The bikers came in one by one, and everyone cheered them on as each pulled up to the house again. We also had the opportunity to speak with some exchange students here from Afghanistan and learned about their culture and families and how they were finding their time her in the United States. It was an amazing oppoerunity and I am so excited to further get involved with Beyond the 11th.

To learn more about this incredible organization and how you can be a part of it or how to purchase a DVD of Beyond Belief, please visit:

Sun Rise Assisted Living Car Show

On August 28, I was asked by Miss Massachusetts Junior National Teenager, Christina Polanco, to come back to the Sunrise Assisted Living Center for their annual car show. It was wonderful to see Christina again, and we had a great time meeting with residents and their families. Christina was selling raffle tickets while I walked around with my daughter and husband as well as Mrs. Massachusetts United States, Jennifer Korzeb, talking to all who came to visit and spending time with the residents. We were able to admire the cars with them and knowing that all funds raised were going toward benefitting the center as well as Alzheimers. A beautiful day, awesome cars, many great people, all for a good cause, what more could you ask for?

New England Coed Pageant

The weekend of August 22 I had the opportunity to take part in the New England Coed Pageant as an optional competition judge. I spent the day on Friday judging talent, photogenic, speech, and actress competitions for all age groups of children up to the Miss Division. The talents were amazing and the articulation during the speeches was so impressive. The weekend was a great experience for me because while I judged these areas of competition, my husband Rob had the opportunity to judge the remainder of the pageant which included interview and gown, sportswear, and gown competitions. He was equally as impressed with everyone during the interview and speaking portions of the pageant. Being a part of this pageant showed us that there is a bright future to our youth with the involvement they have in the community as well as their goals in life. Judging also gave Rob a deeper insight to the areas of competition and to see what I have taken part in during competition. Congratulations to Tami Charles for putting together such a great event and good luck to her and all her titleholders a the National Coed Pageant November 22 - 27, 2010 in Florida!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Meeting Danielle

While at the Miss New England Coed Pageant, I had the opportunity to invite two very special guests to join me. Danielle Munoz is an eight year old girl with Cockayne Syndrome, and both she and her mom Lydia came to watch the preliminary evening gown competition with us. Danielle and her mom are here in Boston visiting Children's Hospital from Texas to participte in a medical/genetic study for children with Cockayne Syndrome. Danielle was chosen as she met all the criteria necessary to partipate in this study. As you will recall in an earlier post after the Mrs. International Pageant, I was able to meet a boy named Derick from Arizona who was in Boston participating in the same program. After Derick and his parents went back home, his mom told me about Danielle and asked if I would be able to meet up with her when she came to visit Boston. I said of course, but I did have a conflict with being part of the New England Coed Pageant. I then figured that I could do both and invite Danielle with her mom when I was free from my duties, and it all worked out perfectly. Along for the ride came my other friends Brooke Bibeault, Miss Massachusetts Teen USA, Tamara Sacharczyk, Miss Massachusetts Teen World, Jennifer Hard, Classic Ms. Massachusetts, and of course my daughter Sierra. Both the girls had so much fun watching the pageant, and after it was over, we traveled over to the Natick Mall to have lunch at the American Girl Store. During conversation we found out that the Danielle's Birthday had been the week before, so we asked our waitress if we could have a little celebration for her. Out came a bowl of ice cream for Danielle with a few candles and everyone sang Happy Birthday to her. When lunch was over, we walked through the store and took some pictures of the girls and all of us to remember this visit. I then drove Danielle and Lydia back to Boston and it was so hard to say good-bye as Danielle is such a love. It was so nice to see her interact with Sierra and even at one point they were holding hands in the car, which would have been a sweet picture had Sierra not been fresh and pulled her hand away and giggle. I also loved how when we all came back to my hotel room before lunch, Danielle absolutely loved playing with my dog Lola. She has so much joy and love to give, and it was truly a privilege to have met her. I want to thank Dre, Derick's mom for telling me about Danielle, and also Dr. Neilan from Children's Hospital who gave me the opportunity to meet both of these fabulous children. I hope that this is not the last time, and wish for a friendship that goes on for a long time. I am looking forward to keeping up on both Danielle and Derick through their parents, and hopefully see them soon again on another trip to Boston!

For more information on Cockayne Syndrome, please visit:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dr. Faustman's Diabetes Trial

Last week on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, I took part in a trial for finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes at The Faustman Lab at Mass General Hospital. I was contacted by a friend of one of my best friends via e-mail looking for someone to be a control in this study for diabetes for a nine year old boy named Jerry. Jerry was traveling to Boston with his mother Cristina, and not having any friends or family from this area, they reached out to people in their state who had ties to the Boston area. I immediately responded that I could make myself available to take part and help out, as Diabetes is something that affects my family with my husband being diagnosed in 2008. It was so nice to meet Jerry and his mom and to learn his story of his diagnosis at the age of two. As with any family, when there is a diagnosis of any disease, we do our research to educate on how we can try to conquer it. Cristina did just that, and after years of being told there is no cure, she stumbled across Dr. Faustman's trial and decided to take part with Jerry in hopes of one day having a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Jerry has been doing a great job learning to manage his Diabetes with in eating right, getting his daily insulin shots whenever required, and staying active as any little kid should. Jerry is now back in Washington and getting ready to start school on September 1. Although we live miles apart, his family and I will stay in touch and we will also continue to support this study as we hope that it will make a difference in Jerry's and Rob's lives and countless others who are Type 1 Diabetic.
Meeting Dr. Faustman was such an honor and bonus to participating in this trial. She was so fun to talk to and hear her story on doing this research. I loved to hear how people come from all over the world to participate in this trial, and she and her lab have actually gotten a geography lesson on several occassions with people coming from areas they have never heard of. I applaud her for having such enthusiasm and for taking the time to meet with us and especially to meet with Jerry and giving him and his family for a cure someday!

Phase I tested has been completed and it has been FDA approved that the vaccination being used is safe for individuals with Type 1 Diabetes. Phase II will begin once funding has been raised.

For more information on this trial and how you can donate to help Phase II get underway, please visit the website at: If you or anyone you know has Type 1 Diabetes, I encourage you to become a part of this trial. For more information on Type 1 Diabetes, please visit

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

7th Annual Bike Run & Raffle for Homes For Our Troops

On Sunday, August 1, I volunteered at a bike run that was organized to raise funds for an incredible cause called Homes For Our Troops. This organization raises funds to build homes for our military people coming home with serious disabilities and injuries. Homes For Our Troops is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2004, and has been serving our troops who have sustained their disabilities and injuries since September 11, 2001. For more information on this organization and how you can become involved, please visit their website at:

The bike ride started at the Texas Roadhouse in Nashua, NH and ended at the Harley Davidson Dealership in Manchester, NH. I worked the registration table in Nashua, and met so many great people, many who were veterans themselves. It is estimated that about 800 bikers took part in this ride. It was so much fun to welcome the riders to Manchester where they were able to enjoy a great barbecue provided by Texas Roadhouse.

Another person that I met and felt so inspired by was Michael Guglielmo, who's son, Giovanni, underwent a bone marrow transplant that saved his life. Giovanni's father has not stopped there after his son's life was saved, but he has run bone marrow drives anywhere he can, and in fact, this was #503 for him. It is incredible when you hear of a miracle story and that the story of success is promoted to help save other lives. I of course signed up for the registry with filling out paperwork and taking 10 sipes with a cotton swab on each cheek that was put into an envelope. You never know when you may get that call to help save a life, and I know that I would want that hope if it was my child. To learn more about how you can be a bone marrow donor and also read about Giovanni's story, please visit

I want to thank Jennifer Mallios, Mrs. New Hampshire International for attending this event with me, as well as my husband and daughter. It was great to share such a great cause with you all.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Helping a research study to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes

Next week, starting on Monday, I will be helping out a 9 1/2 year old boy by the name of Jerry from Washington State with his battle with Type 1 Diabetes. Jerry was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes right after his second birthday. There was never any history of diabetes in Jerry's family prior to his diagnosis. After years of research and trying to find answers and a cure, Jerry's family came across Dr. Faustman, Director of Mass General Hospital's Immunobiology Laboratory, who was conducting a clinical trial to test for a potential cure for Type 1 Diabetes. The Phase 1 trial began in 2008, and in June of 2010, Phase 1 was completed. The safety data was submitted to the Food and Drug Administration and now plans for Phase II are underway.

Donations of blood are taken between a diabetic and that of a non-diabetic control. The samples for this study are processed blindly and together with the control sample. The control donor must be of no relation and a non-diabetic without any autoimmune diseases.

I am happy to help toward this incredible research as Diabetes has entered into my life with my husband Rob being diagnosed in 2008 as a pre-diabetic and later as a Type 1 Diabetic. With diabetes running in his family, there is a chance that our daughter could become a diabetic, and it is up to us as parents and a family to do everything we can to help prevent and teach. Jerry and his family are very lucky that he at a young age took control to learn the right things to do with his diagnosis and has faced it head on. His participating in this research study will help not only him, but so many others. I am blessed to meet him and his family next week and to do what I can to help not only my family but others as well.

I look forward to letting you know more next week as this process of three days of blood donations starts on Monday. To learn more about Dr. Faustman and her research, please visit her page: and