Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October 18- October 27

Hi Friends!

I wish I could express in writing how incredible this experience has been thus far. Every day I feel so blessed to wake up and know that I am going to meet someone who could potentially change my life, or better yet, I could change theirs. As Miss Delaware I have the fortune of serving people in all walks of life, and meeting people who inspire me as much as I hope to inspire them. To be honest with you, I can't help but wonder if I could have found a better job! And I know in my heart that I am the right woman for it.

As I bring my blog up-to-date, I wanted to take a moment and read through previous entries to reflect on my first four months as your Miss Delaware. I found myself with tears in my eyes, and hairs raised on my arms from the memories I have shared with you. My life has already been changed in these roughly 120 days, and I will be a stronger and better woman because of these experiences.

On Monday the 18th I travelled to New York City, my favorite city in the world to work on my Miss America preparations. I am so excited for the pageant and I know that I am ready for the road that lies ahead of me. Be sure to tune in to ABC on January 15th to see me compete for the job of Miss America 2011. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers from now until then as I continue to work hard to represent you at the national level.

A few highlights from my NYC trip were seeing Chicago on Broadway, which was a surprise gift from my wonderful Mother, dining at a tapas restaurant and Serendipity (we sat at the same table the movie was filmed at!!!), and, of course...... stopping at St. Alps Teahouse for BUBBLE TEA! Bubble Tea is my favorite thing in the whole world, and I miss it terribly when in Delaware, because I have yet to find a teahouse nearby that prepares it the way I like. While in the city I also met with Ronnie and Deborah from The Bridal Suite to meet with Sherri Hill once more! The trip was very quick, and quite exhausting but I loved every second there. And I must say, it was quite productive!

As I returned to Delaware late Wednesday afternoon, I hurried from Wilmington to Milford to ride in the Milford Fall Parade. The drizzles of rain didn't stop my town from having lots of fun, and the parade carried on! I treasure every appearance in my hometown, especially those that are followed by time with my parents.

I was back up north on Thursday at one of my favorite sponsors, Hockessin Day Spa, having a facial done by the magnificent Carrie. That day was a relaxing day for me with a few personal appointments here and there. That evening I met with my Executive Director, Debi, at her home to plan for the months ahead of us, and to catch up on the past few weeks. Even though we chat weekly, sometimes daily, we definitely appreciate the meetings together to catch up. Thanks for the yummy dinner, Deb!

Friday was the beginning of my productive week as I worked on essays, blogs, emails, and even found time for my very first air brush tan from Sun Dazed Tanning in Milford! Thank you, Velvet for taking such good care of me! I was afraid I would look like a pumpkin and was prepared to change my Halloween costume at a moments notice, but she picked the perfect color for me!

Saturday was my second favorite appearance opportunity thus far! I had the best time at the Special Olympics Fall Festival Games at the University of Delaware, and I won't soon forget my time there. I had marriage proposals, learned all there is to know about Bocce Ball, took lots of fun photos, and was even given a pumpkin from the cutest young boy, Henry! My fondest memory of the day was walking into the Field House and passing one of the athletes, a young man, who was SO excited to see me! He had been waiting all day for Miss Delaware to arrive, and when he saw my crown he kept repeating, "Oh my, goodness! Oh my, goodness! It's Miss Delaware!" It honestly made his day to meet me, and the fact that I took the time to chat with him and get to know him, meant so much to his family. I am feeling emotional just writing this because it warms my heart to know that I can have such an impact on someone that I barely know. And I have learned that just as soon as you think you cannot relate to a certain person, or group of people, you realize that you have much more in common than you thought!

That is what excites me the most about the job of Miss America. You are chosen to represent and relate to all people, and be able to carry a conversation with anyone who will give you their time. And while no person can say she has something in common with every American, it is Miss America's job to find a way to relate to them. How incredible is that?

To finish my entry- Sunday was my Applebee's Pancake Breakfast for the Children's Miracle Network. Thank you to everyone who volunteered, or came out to support, and thank you to Milford Applebee's for generously donating the time, space and profits of the morning for a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I travelled directly from the fundraiser, to the Ross Mansion in Seaford for their 150th anniversary festival and agricultural celebration! I had such a lovely time with the Dairy Princess, Peach Queen, Sheep & Wool Princess and Watermelon Queen.

Monday and Tuesday were extremely productive for me. I worked on the Quality of Life Application and Essays, was fitted for many dress alterations, had a dentist appointment, worked out at the gym, tanned, danced ballet and even spent time with my dad on his birthday! My to-do list is finally dwindling!

Today, I let myself sleep in a bit, and have been finishing more work. Tonight I will be riding in the Selbyville Halloween Parade! I hope to see you there!

Have a great day, and thank you for being a part of my journey to Miss America.

God bless,

Kayla

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October 3- October 17

Hi Friends!

The fall has been filled with some strange weather here on the East Coast! We have had days that are as cold as Winter, days as hot as Summer and rainy days to no end! Sunday, October 3rd was no exception to the unpredictable weather. I was scheduled to walk and talk at the Walk for the Alzheimer's Association at Rehoboth Beach, but alas, mother nature had other plans. It rained and I arrived to find an empty, but drenched park! I had a fabulous photoshoot that afternoon with Paul Pruitt and was able to have some time with my family that evening.

This week was a business-filled week. Monday and Tuesday were catchup days for me. I was catching up on missed workouts, sleep, paperwork, donation requests, thank-you cards, emails, photos, and so on. Wednesday morning I visited the Miss Delaware haircare sponsor, Michael Christopher's Salon in Wilmington to have my nails manicured with their new polish product! I ran errands while upstate, and visited with an old friend before heading down to Dover to volunteer with the Military 4-H program! Thursday and Friday I worked out at the gym, and called several local businesses soliciting donations for my live auction fundraiser. My to-do list was finally dwindling!

Saturday was the heavily awaited, annual Apple Scrapple Festival in Bridgeville! For those of you who have never heard of scrapple, it is essentially pork mush and scraps. Yum! The weather was rather warm that day as I participated in the Scrapple Sling contest with many local politicians where we each had to throw a frozen block of Scrapple and see how far we could toss it. My first toss was relatively acceptable, but the second slipped through my fingers as the Scrapple block began to sweat from the heat. Luckily, Miss Delaware has some pull, and the host 'inadvertently' kicked my Scrapple into the 8 spot! Although I did not win, I had a great time! That evening I was invited to attend a reception at the home of Joe Conaway where I enjoyed lots of homemade, delicious food made by his terrific wife!

Sunday I woke up early to speak at the Walk for Diabetes at the Dover Downs Monster Mile! I had a wonderful time there, and met so many terrific survivors. I had forgotten my camera that day, so unfortunately I won't be able to post photos. From the walk, I drove to Milford to rehearse for The Nutcracker with the Diamond Dance Company! It is great to be back in the studio and performing in one of my favorite shows! I decided to try to get to bed early that night because I knew I had a long week ahead of me!

Early Monday morning I was on the road with my second parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gillis, who were so generous as to drive me to Johnstown, PA. After six hours of traveling, we reached the Bridal Suite of Johnstown where I had my first fitting for my Miss America gowns! We also picked up the 25 Bridal Gowns that Ronnie and Deborah so generously donated to help me raise money to afford my dream talent costume!!! All of the gowns are so beautiful- I cannot thank Ronnie and Deborah enough for supporting me and for donig everything they can to make sure I look and feel like a Miss America when I am in my wardrobe.

Monday was a long day, but Tuesday was welcomed with a luncheon at Dover Downs with the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Staff where I spoke about my experiences in 4-H and had the opportunity to thank my mentors and colleagues for all of their support over the past 16 years. That night I packed up my suitcase and read over all of my materials for the two days ahead of me!

Early Wednesday morning I left Philadelphia and was on a plane to Columbus, OH for the National 4-H Council's Board of Trustees meeting! Once I arrived, I was shuttled over to the Ohio State University where I checked in, changed and readied myself for the reception that evening at the home of the University's President. My favorite part was not only the delicious food, but the terrific company. I had the pleasure of meeting the other 30 members of the Board of Trustees, Ohio State University 4-H'ers and even local 4-H youth from all different demographics.

Thursday was filled with board meetings where I quickly realized what an honor it is to have been invited as a new trustee. All of the members are successful in their respective careers, and genuinely care for today's youth. Landel Hobbs, the COO of Time Warner Cable was welcomed as the other new trustee, and it was a great opportunity to network with someone who works in the field of which I hope to pursue a career. Representatives from JC Penney, WalMart, New York Life, prestigious universities and much more are among the other trustees. Thank you to Don Floyd, the CEO of National 4-H Council for inviting me onto the Board and for making my first experience so comfortable. I look forward to playing an important role on the council and helping to make decisions that with shape the program which I attribute so much of my success.

After the last meeting that afternoon I was on a plane, returning to Philadelphia International Airport. I ate and slept as soon as I made it home. What a busy week already!

Friday morning I worked out and then drove to Milford for an early lunch and interview with Milford's newest online news source, Milford Live. Bryan Shupe, the creator of Milford Live asked all sorts of questions about my preparations for Miss America and what events I will be a part of in our hometown of Milford. After I talked his ears off, I was on the road again headed to the University and Whist Club in Wilmington for the Chocolate and Roses Tea. I was asked to model for Ladies Image, a shop in nothern DE and loved one of the dresses so much, I had to purchase it! One of the families in attendance was just so sweet, that I stayed after to chat with their daughter and her best friend. They were both so friendly and so beautiful- I asked them to consider getting involved with the Miss Delaware's Outstanding Teen Program, and I surely hope they do!

Saturday was the busiest day of all! My family and I were preparing all morning for my two fundraisers that day- the Bridal Blowout Sale, with the gowns donated by the Bridal Suite of Johnstown, followed by a Pulled Pork Dinner and Live Auction! The proceeds of these events were to benefit my Miss America talent preparations and dance costume. My mother worked tirelessly for days and weeks to pull off these events to ensure that I make it to Miss America knowing I had the best preparation possible. I could go on for days but I want to thank my mother for all of her hard work, and for caring more than anyone else that I am fully prepared for Miss America. I never doubt that she is behind me 100%, and I know she always will be. I love you so much, Mom!

Thanks to my mother and father, Herbie and Debbie Kenton, Georgeann White, Mr. and Mrs. Gillis, The Bridal Suite of Johnstown, Brittany and Vicky Dempsey and so many local businesses and community members, I was able to reach my fundraising goal for my talent! I love you all!

Sunday I felt a huge sigh of relief knowing the fundraiser was complete! That afternoon I spoke at the Kent County 4-H Banquet where I spoke about the relation between the 4 Points of the Miss America Crown to the 4 H's. I had such a lovely dinner and enjoyed my time with my 4-H family!

I rushed from the banquet over to the Rickshaw Rumble at Harrington Raceway where I participated as a driver! I was pulled by my "horse", driver, Victor Kirby! He was such a great sport, and took wonderful care of me. This was a fundraiser to protect retired horses, and hopefully find them homes. A special Thank You to Chuck Ivins for sponsoring me in this event! I had a blast and enjoyed the company of my best friend, and former Miss Delaware, Brittany Dempsey!

Whew! What a busy two weeks! Thank you for checking in to see how my year is going. I hope to make all of you proud in January!

Yours in service,

Kayla

Friday, October 22, 2010

September 27- October 2

Hi Friends!

I won't even begin by saying how busy I've been, because you probably know that by now! But, I wouldn't have it any other way. The job of Miss America is very busy, and she is always on the road. So, the past four months have helped to prepare me for the expectations of that job!

Monday, the September 27th, I had an appointment with Dr. Webster, who is generously making sure my teeth are perfectly straight and white for the Miss America Pageant in January! After my appointment, I worked out at Lifestyles Fitness Center. After a shower and quick dinner, I was off to a lyrical class!

Tuesday I was blessed with the opportunity to visit the kids at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. This remains to be one of my favorite appearances since becoming Miss Delaware. I begged to be able to do room visits and spend one-on-one time with the patients, and Susan (the Miss DE Business Mgr) made it happen! It warms my heart to see the reactions of the children when I enter the room and get to know them. I met one boy in his teens who was in a terrible accident, and he had made such a quick recovery that they were sending him home early! He was so thrilled by the news, and I was fortunate to have entered the room briefly after he had been told. I signed a photo for him, and we joked that he could return to school and pretend he had spent the past three weeks with Miss Delaware!

I also met a little girl, who was undiagnosed and had a large and supportive family by her side in her room. We spent time talking about Hannah Montana and other Disney shows that she loves to watch. She had been told that morning that Miss Delaware was coming to visit her, and she had anxiously awaited my arrival for hours! The minute I entered the room, her face lit up as if she had just met Selena Gomez! Moments like that remind me just how important my job is, and what kind of impact I can leave on a child's life.

My most memorable moment was meeting a girl who had lost her hair as a result of medical treatment. I was visiting the hospital with my wig on, and as she and I were talking about her experiences at CHOP, she mentioned that she was waiting for her hair to grow back. She seemed quite concerned about it, so I thought I would open up and share with her about my hair (or lack thereof). She was so surprised and remembered that she had seen me in People Magazine! I know that I left an impression on her that day, and she has even emailed me to let me know that she is now home with her family. I thank God every day that I have the chance to meet so many inspiring people, and hopefully touch another person's life along the way.

That night I was thankful to have dinner with my family and reflect on my experiences that day. Wednesday morning I had an interview with Richard Gaull from Delaware Today Magazine at the lovely Dover Downs Hotel and Casino. We sat and talked for hours, and it was one of the best and most thorough interviews I have had to date. The article will be published after the Miss America Pageant. That evening, I drove to Wilmington for a mock interview!

Thursday I drove down to Paul Timmons at The Firm in Rehoboth Beach to workout, and boy, did he kick my butt! After my long and tiring workout, I stopped by Sun Dazed Tanning in Milford to tan quickly and spent some time with my father.

Friday was my busiest day of the week! I visited Benjamin Banneker Elementary School in Milford to give a Character Counts presentation in three classrooms! I left the school and immediately drove up to Wilmington to have lunch and meet with National 4-H's CEO, Don Floyd at the Hotel duPont. Our lunch was delicious, and it was a very productive and exciting meeting. I was asked to become a member of the National 4-H Council's Board of Trustees. This was quite an honor for me, because I am a third generation 4-H'er and I attribute so much of my success to my roots in 4-H. I learned to be a teamplayer, to give more than you take, and to continuously learn from growing up in a 4-H club.

After asking for a small to-go bag of the hotel's famous Coconut Macaroons, I was headed back down to Milford for a Breast Cancer Fundraiser at the Abbott's Grill with my travel companion and friend, Chuck Ivins. It was a pleasure to be a part of this event, and see so many familiar faces in my hometown. Since I didn't have time to eat, Chuck, Kevin and I went out for a Sushi dinner in Rehoboth after the event! I love the crab soup at the Cultured Pearl- if you are ever in the area, be sure to try it!

Saturday was one of my favorite days of the month! A young girl, named Jodi, came to Delaware from New York to visit with me and have lunch. Jodi, and her parents were the most delightful people, and we had such a good time that we just ate and chatted for hours! We met at Frankie's Restaurant in Dover Downs Hotel & Casino and the staff treated each of us to a delicious Tiramisu dessert! Then I gave Jodi and her family a tour, and she was able to see the stage where I was crowned Miss Delaware. We took some fun photos and just enjoyed the time together. Jodi has Alopecia, like me, but we had so much more to talk about than that! I hope the next time I visit NYC that we can meet for dinner and dessert! Jodi is an inspiration to me because she has such a positive attitude and a beautiful personality.

I feel so blessed to have this opportunity and the chance to make an impact every day. I cannot thank God enough for each of these blessings and for providing me with supportive family and friends to help me be the best I can be.

Thank you for checking in, and come back soon for more updates!

With much love,

Kayla

September 20- September 26

Hello everyone!

The past few weeks have been some of the busiest yet! The 20th of September I volunteered at the RE/MAX Annual Golf Tournament for the Children's Miracle Network at Back Creek Park in Middletown! I had such a wonderful time chatting with the golfers, and spending more time with Caitlin from CMN. Without even researching, I know the tournament was a huge success and they surpassed their fundraising goal! Every dollar raised will help a child to have a more comfortable stay in the hospital and keep their spirits high. Thank you to RE/MAX and all the teams for your generosity!

From the golf tournament I rushed over to my Executive Director, Debi's, house for.... the Miss America Contestant Lottery!!!! No, this was not the kind of lottery where you can win money, but I definitely was so thrilled that I felt as if I won! For those of you who may not know about the MAO Contestant Lottery, this is where each contestant logs online and is called in random order to select their contestant number/position for the Miss America Preliminary Competitions. Once George (Miss DE board member) and I arrived at Debi's we talked briefly about what my plans were for the lottery. Since Miss Delaware is usually called in the latter half, I did not expect to have many numbers to choose from. The lottery had begun streaming live, and Debi began preparing our dinner. I was about to go and change my clothes as the first state was selecting their number, when all of a sudden I see "Delaware" on the bottom left corner of the screen! I couldn't believe it- I was the third state to choose. I didn't even have time to put my comfy clothes on! I had 51 numbers to choose from, and ultimately selected contestant #9 from the Sigma group! This means I will compete in the Tuesday Interview group (the last to go) and Tuesday night I will model my Swimsuit and Evening Gown. Wednesday I will perform my talent, and Thursday I will answer my onstage question.

I know that many of you were confused about why I chose this number and group, but in my heart I knew that I chose the perfect number and group. I wanted to be in the last group for interview so the judges would have three opportunities to get to know me in one day. Then Wednesday I will continue the positive energy to perform my dance, and continue to leave my mark in the judge’s minds. Then Thursday, I will leave my lasting impression with the On Stage Question. I cannot wait!

The next day I worked out at the gym and drove to Wilmington for a mock interview. The interview was terrific, and I was thrilled to have another opportunity to prepare for the most important part of the Miss America Pageant. Then, Wednesday was spent at the gym, working on paperwork and ended with a ballet class that evening!

Thursday night was my Quarter Auction Fundraiser at the Millsboro Fire Hall, which was a huge success! Thank you to everyone who volunteered that evening, and came out to support me on my Miss America journey. I especially want to thank Georgeanne White for all of her hard work and for finding the perfect location. Thank you, to the best mother in the world, Rhonda Martell, for singlehandedly organizing this event and for losing many nights of rest to ensure that I raised enough to cover the costs of my talent choreography. Without everyone’s help, I’m not sure what I would have done, or how my talent would look in January! Thank you Shawn, Justin, Brenda, Ashley, Susan, Sandy, Rich and Melanie, Sussex County 4-H, Brooke and Sandy Mitchell and everyone else who lent a hand that night!

On Friday it was back to work as I met with Debi and George to work on the Quality of Life application and essays. I am so thankful they have me focusing on this with more than enough time to spare! I spent the night in Newark with Debi since we had quite an early morning Saturday! Debi and I drove to the Bridal Suite in Johnstown, PA to try on my Miss America Evening Gown, and pick out my walk-on gowns! It was worth the ten hours in the car with Debi and “Tom Tom” (her new GPS!) because I fell in love with my gown all over again, and found two amazing gowns to wear on stage Wednesday and Thursday in Las Vegas! Thank you Ronnie and Deborah for providing me with a wardrobe that is more than I ever dreamed it would be! Be sure to come to my Miss America Send-Off Party on December 12th at Dover Downs so you can see my entire wardrobe and send me off to Las Vegas in style!

Congratulations to Steffi Holmes and Jessica Tilley, our new Miss Diamond State and Miss New Castle County! Unfortunately, Debi and I had to miss the pageant as we were in the car until late that evening. George was sure to call us and give us an update! I know Steffi and Jessica have quite an exciting year ahead of them, and I cannot wait to see them on the Miss Delaware stage in June!

Sunday morning I was up, bright and early, to speak briefly at Glasgow Park outside of Wilmington to raise money for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. I feel blessed to have been named an honorary member of their board! The crowd was terrific, in spite of the questionable weather and everyone surely enjoyed themselves.

I rushed from the walk to my best friend, Julia’s, surprise Bridal Shower! Natalie, her cousin and MOH, did an outstanding job pulling everything together and Julia was definitely surprised! I made a few dozen Oreo Truffles, Strawberry Cake Balls, and Peanut Butter BonBons which served as yummy favors for everyone. Julia is the most kind-hearted person you could ever meet, and also the most talented- she photographed my headshots! It was nice to have an afternoon to just be Kayla, the bridesmaid, and celebrate this exciting time in Julia’s life.

Thank you all for following me on my Miss America journey and check back soon for the next update!

Love,

Kayla

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