Community leaders and tourism officials stuck another feather in Polk County’s cap last August with the recruitment of the Miss Florida Pageant to Lakeland, for the economic impact value alone, but the pageant is supporting the area in many other ways, including charitable endeavors that both help, and shine national attention on, the community. The Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant, an official preliminary to the Miss America Pageant, teaches its contestants to give back to the communities that support them.
Miss America Serves Event on April 16 to Benefit Local Charities
In a mission to help children, MaryKatherine Fechtel, Miss Florida 2015 - and nearly 50 contenders vying for the 2016 crown, will join together on April 16 as part of the national Miss America Serves project to be held at the headquarters of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes (FBCH), Orphan’s Heart and The Porch Light in Lakeland. The young women have been working hard on this project to ensure hungry central Florida children have food to eat on the weekends and have collected more than 500 backpacks, along with essential food items to fill them. The women will be sorting clothing donations and interacting with the children on campus, in addition to filling hundreds of backpacks with much needed nutrition. The service project will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the FBCH headquarters located at 1015 Sikes Blvd. in Lakeland, on the Joe K. Blanton Campus; with the backpacks benefiting children at Wilson Elementary in Plant City, one of the schools served by FBCH’s statewide Compassion Ministries.
The dynamic Miss Florida 2015, MaryKatherine Fechtel, has made protecting children from online predators one of her philanthropic platform issues and aspires to specialize in International Human Rights Law. In January, MaryKatherine, who finished in the top 10 in the 2015 Miss America Pageant, appeared on NBC’s Daytime Show to discuss Human Trafficking, to commemorate Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Daytime Show is broadcast in 100 markets across Florida and the Southeast U.S., and her appearance was promoted by the Miss America Organization throughout the U.S. on social media and through their correspondence with all state pageant titleholders. The Miss America Organization utilized the appearance as a platform to promote how Miss Florida and other pageant winners are active in their communities to support charitable causes and organizations. MaryKatherine has also met with Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and has worked in our community with The Porch Light, a ministry at the FBCH.
Tickets to Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant
The Miss America Serves project is just one of many events leading up to the actual Miss Florida Pageant preliminaries and finals, being held at the Youkey Theatre from June 28 to July 2, 2016. Tickets for the preliminaries and finals went on sale last week and can be purchased from The Lakeland Center Box Office by calling 863-834-8111, visiting thelakelandcenter.com or by calling the 24-hour ticketing line 888-397-0100.
In August 2015, Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing (PCTSM), in partnership with the City of Lakeland, recruited the Miss Florida Pageant to The Lakeland Center. The pageant, a Florida tradition for the last 85 years, was previously held in St. Petersburg. Upon announcing the relocation, Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant, Inc. Executive Director and President Mary Sullivan said, “We are grateful to Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs, County Commissioner Todd Dantzler, and the staff of Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing and The Lakeland Center for coming together and creating a mutually beneficial partnership to welcome the Miss Florida Pageant to Lakeland and Polk County. The future of our organization is very bright and we can’t wait to share the next exciting years with our partners in Lakeland and Polk County.”