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.”
“Legislation is being drafted right now and hopefully we can get this reform passed,” said Kelly, who has been married to her husband, Dan, for nine years.
Kelly is also involved in getting U.S. legislators to guarantee funding for research and development to find a cure for diabetes. She and her son went to Washington when he was only four to promote that effort. Kelly said she believes there has been progress made in diabetes research, especially in the area of creating artificial pancreases.
Meanwhile, she is filling her calendar with engagements related to the Mrs. Michigan title. She is not new to the pageant arena and participated in the Miss America organization in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000. When she graduated from college she worked for the Oakland County Republican Party.
But she was already busy caring for her sons.
“You have to be a nurse, a doctor, a speech pathologist, an occupational therapist a physical therapist and all these things for my kids and on top of it be a mom,” she said.
Kelly is not the first South Lyon resident to be named Mrs. Michigan United States.
Kristina Austin Scarcelli, a longtime resident of the city and executive director and producer of Mrs. Michigan, earned the title in 2006.
“There is a prize package for the national winner. But more so it’s an opportunity to champion a cause and to represent married women across the state,” Scarcelli said.
The Mrs. United States Pageant has been in existence for 25 years. On the national level Kelly will be evaluated on beauty, charm, personality, poise and the ability to articulate. Contestants participate in a personal interview with the panel of judges; on stage in an evening gown presentation and in physical fitness shown in swimsuit competitions.
The winner of the Mrs. United States Pageant will receive cash and prizes, as well as the opportunity to travel the nation for a year as a role model and spokesperson for married women.
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