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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Merrimack Valley Mom Bloggers

As I come off of a week of spending time with some of the most amazing women in the world, I got to meet another group of equally amazing women. Today I met with all the Mommy Bloggers I will working with for the Merrimack Valley Mom Blog. I'm so excited about this opportunity as we are all very different, but we have the common bond of being moms. Each of us will bring to the blog something unique and new, and I cannot wait to start reading the posts in August. I know that not only will I be able to share what I have learned becoming a new mom and as Mrs. Massachusetts, but I'll be learning new things from these amazing ladies as well.

To learn more about each one of us, please visit http:/ Keep an eye out for out blog posts! Also, don't be shy, feel free to share ideas on what you would like to see written about.

Visiting Children's Hospital

The day after I returned from the Mrs. International Pageant, I had the great opportunity to visit Children's Hospital. My first visit was coordinated by Dr. Edward Neilan to meet with one of his patients, Derick Penney, who is taking part in a study for medicines for his condition of Cockayne Syndrome. Derick is a 6 years old boy with such a great little personality. I was able to sit with him while he was having blood drawn for testing to go along with this study he is part of. While he was going through this process, he held my hand, and even turned around and gave me a kiss on the cheek. After he was done, he took me by the hand and walked me to the playroom to get some trucks and play food. We then came back and got to spend time playing and also speaking with his parents. Derick and his family are here from Arizona, and he has a 5 year old little brother back home. They were telling me about the retreat that they had attended recently and met other families that have children with Cockayne Syndrome. I was so happy to hear that there is such a strong support group for families affected by this syndrome as many of us have never heard of it. When it was time to leave, Derick gave me a huge hug and then ran over to my husband Rob and gave him a hug as well. This boy give so much love, and I feel so blessed to meet him and his family. I know that I will see him the next time he is in Boston for another treatment and I can't wait for that day. To learn more about Derick, please visit: To learn more about Cockayne Syndrome, please visit:

My next visit of the day was to see my beautiful friend Bella Tucker. I was so excited to see her bright smile when she saw me in the doorway and reach out her arms to hug me. Bella's favorite animals are monkeys, and I found one that I thought she would enjoy. The squeel she let out said it all, and she named him Brownie. We watched some Disney TV together, talked about her physical therapy, and also talked about our shoe shopping date someday soon. Bella will soon be transferring to Spaulding Rehab before traveling down to Philadelphia to get fitted for prosthetics and be trained to use them. I have said it before and I will say it again, Bella is the strongest person I know. This little girl exemplifies so much strength, courage, and determination. We all have so much to learn from her. Her attitude is all about "I Can!" and "I Will!".

I love both these children and feel so lucky that they have been brought into my life. I can't wait to see you both really soon! Thank you to Dr. Edward Neilan for introducing me to Derick and for helping me to get educated on Cockayne Syndrome. I do hope that with the power of the title of Mrs. Massachusetts International, I will be able to bring some awareness to this syndrome.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mrs. International - My Thoughts!

Althought I did not come home with the title of Mrs. International, I am still so blessed to have had the experience. The ladies that I have met are some of the most amazing people with hearts of gold. I learned about platforms which include Make A Wish Foundation, Kidney Disease, Organ Donation, Domestic Violence, March of Dimes, Mentoring Young Girls, We Get To Foundation, Alzheimers, and that is only a few of them. Each woman has a story and when you get a chance to know them and their story, you have a deep admiration for a program like the Mrs. International Pageant that brought us together, and as a unity we make a difference in our communities and other people's lives.

The week was amazing which began with orientation and being able to finally meet after months of preparation. The very next day we got to tour the city of Chicago and visiting many landmarks including Michigan Avenue, The Bean, Navy Pier, and many other stops along the way. The thing I enjoyed most about Chicago was the amazing skyline and the combination of architecture of the old and the new, including the new Trump Building which is an amazing structure in itself. Following the tour, we started our rehearsals. Our opening number was to the song "Tonight Is Going To Be A Good Night". I have to say that this was the most intimidating process of the whole week as I am not a dancer at all. However, after several run throughs with our choreographer, Lauren, I felt more and more comfortable. The production crew was simply amazing with all of their support and encouragement. They put together an amazingly professional opening number and general production of the entire preliminary and final shows. A special thank you goes out to Scott Seidl, Rebecca Shubart, Kyle Henry, and Laine Berry for being such a huge part of our success on stage and for making us shine and feel like stars.
Interviews came on Thursday, and I was so happy to be part of the first group and have my interview first thing in the morning. I was so excited to be able to share my platform and the reasons why I have chosen to champion Breast Cancer Awareness and the Importance of Early Detection. For me it is a the personal story of losing my mom due to her not having a mammogram to detect her breast cancer at an early stage. Sharing her story allows me to put a face to the disease and share something so personal to show people the effects non-early detection can have on a patient and their family. I will always advocate for awareness, detection, prevention, and celebration of life. Self breast exams are a must for women of all ages along with mammograms after the age of 40 or earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer. Eating healthy and maintaining an exercise program is so important too. In the United States, we have 2.5 million breast cancer survivors, but there are still 1 in 35 women diagnosed with this disease that lose their battle with breast cancer. Spreading the world about awareness will hopefully help many women reach that 98% suvivral rate through early detection.

After interviews were completed, I was so excited to welcome my family to Chicago. It had been a few days since seeing them, and as most new moms know, our children change on a daily basis, and Sierra's hair was longer and she seemed to have grown a little bit too. It was so good to hug her and see her smile as well as to see my husband Rob. Later in the afternoon it was off to more rehearsals. On Friday the husbands got the chance to meet with Eddie Peterson who is one of the most amazing and inspirational speakers. I still love his story of "You don't know my life!". Folowing the husband's meeting, they came to the North Shore Convention Center to join us for rehearsals of the evening gown competition. The Mrs. International Pageant is the only married women's pageant that showcases a married couple as a couple. I was so proud of Rob walking the stage with me. Preliminary night began with our opening number and we all looked stunning in our purple Sherri Hill dresses. We then changed and started the fitness wear competition followed by the evening gown. I loved my gown so much as it was a gown that my mother had gotten me years ago in hopes of wearing it someday when I got married and competed in a Mrs. pageant. I certainly had my mother on stage with me wearing this dress, and was thankful that at the end of the walk, Rob was with me to hug me as I did have emotions run through me of missing her so much. Rob did an outstanding job on stage and I was so proud to showcase us as a couple. Saturday brought us back to rehearsals, but this time practicing for the finals show preparing us for top 10. I was able to share my platform on stage and was so proud to speak about my mother and platform with confidence and love. The finals show was wonderful, and although I didn't make the top 10, I completed what I set out to do. I was able to make new friends, share my platform and personal relation to it, and have the time of my life. I want to congratulate Shannon Devine, Mrs. International 2010. She will do an amazing job representing the wonderful arena of adoption having her own personal story with Haley Grace, also known as Miss Magic. I wish Shannon a year like no other, and I hope that her travels bring her to Massachusetts so that we can meet again.

I want to personally thank Mary Richardson for guiding me through this journey and being the best director a girl could have. You are a woman who has taught me so much about class, hard work, and believing in yourself. Being Mrs. Massachusetts International 2010 has changed my life for the better. I have been able to share this year with my daughter and husband, and I know that the experiences brought with it will help shape Sierra's life in a positive way for years to come. I cannot say thank you enough, and I can only hope to have made you proud.

To the Class of 2010, you are the most amazing and inspirational women ever! I love you all and miss you so much! I have been asked by many to coordinate a reunion, and there is nothing I would love more. Please be sure to let me know your thoughts of anything you would like to do and we can share them to get a general consensus on what is best for us as far as time and place. I can't wait to see you all again one day, but till then, I look forward to following your journeys in life. Thank you for being such huge supporters of me as Mrs. Massachusetts and staying true to who you said you were prior to Mrs. International. Being an only child, I view many of you as sisters now. My roommate, Mrs. North Carolina, Cynthia Griner, I thank you for the fun and endless hours of conversation even when we were most tired. I miss you!

Now it is back to being mom, wife, career woman, and Mrs. Massachusetts. I look forward to all the wonderful opportunities this title has yet to bring to my family and I. I will continue to share my year with you and thank you for all the support through it all.