Last week, I was given the opportunity to attend and cover the Miss Troup County Scholarship Pageant and I was really impressed. I also had the pleasure in meeting Judy and Jim Neighbors who have have been running these pageants for 38 years, and it showed, everything was perfect.
A total of 18 young women were competing in two separate categories. Eight of the young women were competing for the title of 2013 Miss Troup County and the remaining ten were competing for the title of Miss Troup Teen. Each of the contestants were given a chance to speak about the cause or issue that they were using as their pageant platform. All of the contestants did well expressing their dedication to their given causes, but I was really taken by MacKenzie Marable’s platform on autistic awareness.
Marable, a senior at Unity Christian School, expressed her concern in helping to provide assistance to families who have autistic children. She is working on forming a local chapter of Best Buddies. Best Buddies is an international volunteer organization that encourages one-to-one relationships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Marable wishes to organize a group of individuals who after training, will be able to help watch and offer companionship to the youngsters.
After listening to Marable during the pageant, I wanted to learn more about her and her program. Judy Neighbors was kind enough to pass my contact information to her and I was fortunate enough to speak to Marable a few times on the phone.
Marable’s understanding and compassion for individuals with IDD stems from her family.
“My dad was a special education teacher for 30 years, so I have grown up watching him and learning from him,” Marable said. “I also have cousins who have autism.”
“Kids that have autism are the same as us and they need to interact with other people,” Marable explained. “A family with an autistic child has a lot to deal with. The kids are a lot of work so that is why parents need a break.”
Marable originally became aware of the Best Buddy program when she had spent some time in Tennessee. She saw how the program worked and knew that families in and around her area could benefit from the program.
“It’s a slow process setting up a program like this but I was excited to be able to speak about it during the Miss Troup County Pageant,” Marable said. “The more people who know about the Best Buddy program may mean the more people who might be able to get involved in it.”
Marable lives with her parents, Katie and Richard Marable and the “light of her life,” Honey, her Yorkie. She also has a sister, J.J. Childs, and a brother, Benji Marable , who are older and no longer live with the family. Marable hopes to be continuing her education next year at Georgia State University.
“I plan to major in hospital administration and minor in Spanish, I would like to become a CEO someday,” Marable said. “I love to lead, plan and organize, this is God’s design for me until he pulls me in another way.”
Marable credits her participation in pageants for helping her to build the confidence and skills that she needs to be successful in her interactions with people both socially and professionally.
Congratulations to the new Miss Troup County, Haley Henderson, to the new Miss Troup Teen, Ansley Hawkins and to all of the contestants for their pose, accomplishments and ambitions.
It was Marable’s birthday the night of the competition and although she did not walk away wearing a crown, for everything that she is trying to accomplish and her compassion for others, in my eyes, she is certainly a winner.