Talent Presentation at the Miss America Pageant

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blogging from Merced!

Hello from Merced!!

This has been a VERY busy week... so this might be an extra long post!  Be prepared :) 

I woke up at 5:45am on Wednesday morning and my mom and I left the house at 7am!  I spoke at chapel at Valley Christian High School in Cerritos.  I attended VCHS my freshman and sophomore year of high school and it was such a great experience to return to the campus!  I never thought that I would be a speaker at chapel!  I even got to see a few of my old teachers, which was really fun.  Thank you Mr. Rinks for setting this up!

Right after I finished speaking at Valley, my mom and I hopped back in the car and headed to Bakersfield.  We arrived at the Bakersfield Memorial Hospital around noon and we were met by Janelle, the Foundation coordinator.  She was absolutely wonderful!!  I also met Gary and Michelle in the lobby (see picture).  Janelle took me on a tour of the NICU where we saw a few babies who were not even two pounds!  I met several of the nurses that work in the NICU and got to see several of the little babies in there.  This hospital has amazing equipment and some of the funding from Children's Miracle Network goes towards purchasing these very high-tech and very expensive beds.  In fact, the Bakersfield Memorial Hospital just had a media telethon and they raised $45,000!  The hospital is also undergoing several changes and remodels and the new facilities are beautiful!  After visiting the NICU we went to the pediatric unit!  This is the place to be!  The hallways were decorated with gears on the walls and each room was themed differently.

I walked into one room that had hot air balloon border on the walls... as soon as I walked in, I was greeted with a bright shining smile from a nine year old girl.  Katie was absolutely adorable and had an infectious smile to go along with her freckles.  She had just had her appendix out and was recovering very nicely.  I met Mr. Beary (he is in the picture with us of course) and got to visit with her for just a bit.  What a great experience.  Her smile reminded me that smiles truly are contagious.  I plan on spreading them around more and more in the coming year!

After our visit, we went to CPK for a quick lunch and then got on the road again!  Three hours later, we arrived in Merced!  Wednesday night was filled with homework, steaming clothes and preparing speeches for Thursday, then off to bed!

Thursday morning was another early morning... this is at 7am as I walked out the door!

Linda picked me up and it was so great to see her!  I haven't seen her since Miss California so it was so fun to catch up in person!  We arrived at Mitchell Middle School in Atwater and went straight to the assembly.  I spoke to 800 students (during two different assemblies) and we had a great time.  I encouraged them to dream big, to realize that they have the potential to do anything they set their minds to, and also to say no to drugs and alcohol (in honor of Red Ribbon Week).  The students were so well behaved and so very enthusiastic.  I also gave out about 500 hugs and 300 handshakes.  I have never hugged so many people in one day ever in my life!

After speaking twice at the middle school, Linda and I were off to the Castle-Atwater Kiwanis Club!  I met all the Kiwanians and spoke for about 20 minutes.  I talked about how I became Miss California, what I am currently doing as Miss California and about my platform of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and we ended with a question and answer session.  

After the Kiwanis it was back to the Ballesteros house where we are staying and I laid down on the couch and was out like a light for a good hour!  It felt like 5 minutes, but it was a much needed nap :)  Thursday night included dinner at De Angelo's Italian Restaurant in Merced (yummy!) and finishing my LAST Criminal Justice Assignment!  (wooohooo!!)

On Friday I got to sleep in (it was AMAZING!) and then Wendy picked me up and we went on our way to Madera to visit the Children's hospital.  We arrived at the Children's Hospital Central California around 1:30 and met with Katie, who works with the Foundation.  She was wonderful!!  We started off in the playroom where I got a chance to paint with Skylar, hang out with Aldo and talk with Cameron.  Skylar and I painted crowns and watched the lizards in the case.  

Outside of the Children's Hospital Central California

Talking with adorable little Maxi and her mom
Skylar and me painting in the playroom

After that, I went to several different units to visit with the kids.  We started in the oncology wing where I met Corbin.  He was too fun!  He is 14 years old and has been diagnosed with leukemia.  He loves to play football and we had a great time talking and laughing.  We took a funny picture together too!  (Those are my favorites)  

I went down the hall and met several other kids.  Guillermo and I talked for a bit and he was the first taker to try on my crown!  I thought it looked pretty good on him!  

Guillermo and me 

The visit ended with a pumpkin spice latte.... my first one of the year!  Visiting these children's hospitals is really the best part of my job.  These kids are so brave and they go through so much... their stories are incredible and I am humbled and constantly reminded of how grateful I am when I see everything that these kids go through.  A big thank you to Janelle and Katie for welcoming me into your hospitals!

So... on Thursday at the Kiwanis club meeting, I was talking with Linda and a few others and something came up about helicopters and I mentioned "I have never been in a helicopter before, but I would love to do that someday!"...  and within 5 seconds Linda was on the phone arranging it!  If you want something done, ask Linda and she will take care of it!  Well, unfortunately, the helicopter pilot was off this weekend, so instead she arranged for me to take a flight on a Sesna (small 4 passenger airplane) with the Sheriff's department.  I arrived at the Castle airport on Saturday morning and was greeted by Aaron McKnight, a pilot with the Merced County Sheriff's department.  After he handed my mom and I our barf bags, we boarded the plane.  We had a great flight and Aaron took us all over Merced county, explained what they did on a daily basis and he even let ME fly the plane!!  It was so much fun!  (By the way, we didn't end up needing the barf bags)  I found out later in the evening that I caused quite a ruckus by flying the plane over Merced... the Sheriff's mom called her son asking "What is going on??  Why is the plane hovering over my house??"  So I guess I caused quite the stir!  Little did they know it was just Miss California, who has no training or experience, flying the county plane over their houses!

Excited for the flight!
Below, with Aaron McKnight the pilot (he wanted me to sign his map!)
Saturday night was absolutely wonderful.  I cannot say thank you enough to Linda and her committee for the beautiful homecoming.  The tables were decorated in black and pink with pointe shoes as the centerpieces surrounded by rose petals and candles.  It was so fun to see everyone and to catch up!  The program was excellent and included two dances by the beautiful and gracious Crystal Lee, a fun performance by the talented Brittney Henry and several presentations from representatives of the county.  Jenna Harvey also put together a beautiful slideshow of my journey to Miss California and my year so far... it was so fun to watch and is something that I will always cherish.  I have never been to a homecoming before so I didn't realize that I would receive so many gifts!  It was like having a birthday in October!  Ernie Koneck, the President of the PPA presented me with a check for $500 that I can use towards all of those odds-and-ends that come up before Miss America!  (In my head I have already spent part of this money on my new pointe shoes and tights!)  He also surprised me with a new initiative they started this year called "Team California".  Several local pageants contributed to this fund and presented me with an additional $1100 for my wardrobe budget for Miss America!!  What a wonderful and unexpected surprise!  Thank you so much to all who contributed!  And thank you so much to everyone who came and for all of my wonderful gifts! 

The beautiful table settings!
With my parents at the homecoming

We had no problem coming up with some silly faces for this one!
All of the local titleholders who were in attendance.  Love you girls!
Dancing Connie and me with the beautiful blanket that she made me!!
My new luggage from my committee!!  Adorable!
Me and Nicole Honaker, Miss Sierra Nevada 2009

With the Miss Yosemite Valley committee, Michelle, Linda and Wendy!
I have a feeling that 15 years from now, Londyn will be wearing her very own Miss CA crown!
With former Miss Yosemite Valleys!  Courtney and Jacqueline!

Don't forget to check out the Miss California website for more pictures!

Quotes of the week: 
"Our truest life is when we are in our dreams awake"
Henry David Thoreau

"Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow."
Doug Firebaugh

Miss America countdown: 86 days