South Lyon resident Annette Kelly was recently named Mrs. Michigan United States 2011 and the causes she is representing during her reign run a lot deeper than a pretty face and nice figure.
Both her children have medical problems. Jack, 6, has Type I diabetes and William, 3, was recently diagnosed with autism. The reason she got involved with the pageant, more than anything else, was so she could have a platform to discuss children with special needs.
“First and foremost I am a mom of two children who have special needs,” said Kelly, 34.
“When your children are diagnosed with special needs it can be very, very overwhelming and you are going to be sad and distraught. But, I would highly encourage them (parents in a similar situation) to turn around that energy, reach-out to people to support them, and become an advocate for your child. When you become an advocate you become empowered and can make a difference in your child’s life and other children who are afflicted with that as well. Being a mom that has two children with special needs was overwhelming.”
Annette’s personal journey is the inspiration behind a group called Parents Plus, Restoring Hope for Parents with Special Needs, an outreach program to provide a voice for mothers of special needs children.
Kelly talked about these causes during the Mrs. Michigan United States 2011 pageant held May 21 at the Trenton Village Theatre in Trenton. Holding the title of Mrs. Southeastern Michigan, Kelly was one of eight regional delegates who were judged on a personal interview, physical fitness in a swimsuit, an onstage question and evening gown presentation.
She goes on to represent the Great Lakes state at the Mrs. United States Pageant July 28-Aug. 4 in Las Vegas, and will compete among 53 contestants at that level.
Talking to other parents of children with autism, Kelly said, she learned that autism is becoming more prevalent.
“One in 110 have autism and one in 70 boys have it,” she said. “It really became obvious to me that there needed to be a mom out there who has a voice who can speak on behalf of parents who have children with special needs. I’ve taken it upon myself to be that voice this year. My ambition is to raise awareness of autism, but specifically on autism insurance reform. My husband and I sold our home, because the cost for care for our child was so profound we needed to downsize.”