Monday, August 25, 2014

Pure Give Challenge - How to Donate

Last week, I introduced you to the Pure Give Challenge. Hopefully, I caught your attention and you're interested in getting involved! Pure Barre Bronxville has a ton of wonderful events planned for the month, and I'll be sharing more details on them soon. For now, I wanted to let you know just how you can donate to My Sisters' Place from the comfort of your own home!

Option 1: Crowd Rise

Each Pure Barre studio participating in the challenge has created a Crowd Rise page to make donating easy. I have my own page set up, and to make donating fun, I've set up a raffle. For every $5 that you donate via Crowd Rise, I will enter your name into a drawing to win a Pure Barre DVD and an awesome Pure Bare tank top! The tank top (size M) is purple (that color of domestic violence awareness) and has an incredible message: "You're Stronger Than You Think." Each dollar you donate goes towards supporting My Sisters' Place and the programs that they run to remind women, men, teens, and children of these inspiring words every day.

Donate Now!

Who knows, I might even throw in a few more Pure Barre goodies for the lucky winner!

Option 2: Silent Auction

Another fun and easy way to donate is via Pure Barre Bronxville's silent auction! There are some fantastic deals to be found, including:
- A Photo Shoot with Mariellen Carpentieri Photography
- A 6 Months Unlimited Pure Barre Bronxville Membership
- A Massage and Facial from Bronxville Wellness Sanctuary
- A Haircut with Mark at Continental 109 in Bronxville
- A 48 Hour Raw Juice Blend Cleanse from Pure Food and Drink in Tuckahoe
- A Private Pilates Session with Hilary Clarke
- A Private, 80s-Themed Pure Barre Class with Hollis and Jill P

Well, I'm off to place a few bids...but I wouldn't mind being outbid by one of you, because it just means that more support and awareness will be raised for My Sisters' Place!

Keep an eye out for my next Pure Give blog post!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Pure Give Challenge - Introduction

If you're friends with me on facebook or follow me on instagram, you probably have noticed my recent obsession with Pure Barre...

Pure Barre on the road...visiting the Syracuse studio!

Months ago, the fabulous Miss Flower City Anneliese Trust told me about Pure Barre. She loves their classes, and I take her fitness recommendations seriously--she always rocks the stage looking fit and fab in swimsuit. Unfortunately, there wasn't a Pure Barre studio in Westchester at the time. That all changed when Pure Barre arrived in Bronxville back in June! I signed up for a new student special, fell in love with the challenging and effective classes, and completed thirty classes in thirty days. Tomorrow, I'll hit the 50 class mark, and my enthusiasm for lifting, toning, and burning at the barre has not waned. 

Pure Barre is great for the body, but it is also great for the soul. My studio is full of wonderful women--from our incredible teachers to the ladies joining each class I've taken. We are a diverse sisterhood and part of a larger Pure Barre Nation that encompasses the USA.

From August 22 through September 22, the Pure Barre Nation will be getting a bit competitive as each of the over 200 studios participate in the Pure Give Challenge!

Pure Barre has always been more than just a workout; it’s a lifestyle. We strive to make each of our studios an inviting and welcoming community where clients feel supported both in their fitness and overall lifestyle goals. We make each client feel important and help them to feel healthier, stronger and more confident in themselves. We also extend this network of support outside of our studio walls. The owners and teachers of our Pure Barre studios are ingrained in the fabric of their local communities and believe in giving back. 

This year, we are bringing our entire Pure Barre family together for our first ever Pure Give Challenge to raise money for worthwhile causes all over the country. Here’s how it will work: 

• Each Pure Barre studio will choose the cause and charity of their choice they want to support 

• During the months of August and September, Pure Barre studios and their fans will compete to see who can raise the most money for their cause 

• At the end of the challenge, Pure Barre Corporate will provide match the donations of the top three studios (up to $5,000 for the first place studio and up to $2500 for the 2nd and 3rd place studios) 

• There will be fun prizes and incentives announced along the way to keep the challenge fresh and exciting!

Imagine my excitement when I was told that the Bronxville studio has chosen to support My Sisters' Place this month! The Bronxville studio has a plethora of exciting events, partnerships with Bronxville merchants, and raffles planned for the month. I would love to see Pure Barre Bronxville take the top spot in this challenge as that won't mean we were only successful in raising money, but successful in raising awareness about domestic violence and the resources available for members of our community at My Sisters' Place.

I want to end this post with a personal appeal to all of you reading my blog. Whenever I have been challenged to raise funds for a cause, I often choose to make the donation myself for a few reasons. One, since I am passionate about many causes, I don't mind putting my dollars where my heart is and seeing my donations go to good use. Two, it is often easier to just make a donation than take the time to fundraise. Three, I don't ever want you, my family and friends, to feel like I am bugging you for money. Since last August, I have personally donated over $3,500 to causes that are important to me, including My Sisters' Place and the Children's Miracle Network. 

Please, join me in supporting the incredible work that My Sisters' Place is doing in Westchester County. No donation is too small--every dollar will make a difference. As a volunteer for My Sisters' Place for the past three years, I have seen so many of their dreams come to life as a result of generous donations, including the opening of a brand new residential shelter. 

Over the course of this month of giving, I will be making regular posts here on my blog to keep you up-to-date on the events Pure Barre will be hosting. I will also be sharing some stories of how local residents have personally experienced domestic violence. Most importantly, I will be providing information from My Sisters' Place to help educate and empower our community to stand up to all forms of abuse. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Miracle Treat Day

I love ice cream, y'all. I have since I was a child--in spite of a lifelong dairy intolerance! It is the one dairy food that I am willing to bend the rules and enjoy in small doses...or, one day a year, in a large cup! That's right...I'm talking about Miracle Treat Day.

Each summer, Dairy Queens nationwide dedicate a day to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, and donate $1 (or more, in some cases) from each Blizzard sold to their local Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. While there is no Dairy Queen in Westchester County (they REALLY need to change that!), there is a Dairy Queen a short drive away in Stamford, Connecticut, that I ventured out to last night.

I wasn't the only person in the mood for a treat!

Enjoying my mint-Oreo Blizzard. It was delicious!

The cherry on top of this sundae of a day? 2014 marks a very exciting milestone for Dairy Queen and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals: their 30th year of collaboration! To date, $100 million has been raised in support of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals across North America. That includes the local hospitals supported by the Children's Miracle Network in Connecticut: Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center and Connecticut Children's Medical Center! I was so glad to support this cause, which is special to me as a healthcare worker and as a Miss America Organization local titleholder.

Speaking of Miracle Treat Day, here is a flashback Friday photo from my year as Miss Westchester 2012. This weekend, the Miss Westchester and Hudson Valley pageants are celebrating their 5th anniversary. I can't wait to see who will be joining the sisterhood!

With two of my favorite people, well, ever--Jackie, Miss Westchester Teen 2012 and Megan, Miss Hudson Valley 2012.

P.S. - If you missed Miracle Treat Day but would still like to make a donation to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, click here!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Miss Thousand Islands 2015

Summer is the perfect time for a nice weekend getaway, so last week I took Friday off and headed up to Clayton, New York! I was so excited to enjoy the beautiful St. Lawrence River and attend the Miss Thousand Islands Pageant. The Miss Thousand Islands Organization was celebrating their 50th anniversary, and as a member of the golden sisterhood I was glad to support the wonderful people that make the pageant so special.

Miss Thousand Islands was my first local pageant of the 2014 season. It was SUCH a wonderful experience for me. I grew as a competitor and met some girls who would become my closest pageant sisters this year.

Olivia, Madison, Emily and I all competed at Miss Thousand Islands together, and we all made it to the Miss New York stage!

Competing in Clayton last year also introduced me to the Thousand Islands region. My mother, sister, and I were all looking forward to returning this year. We arrived on Friday evening, got settled in our hotel, and then took a nice walk down the main street. We decided to have dinner at the Johnston House, which proved to be a great choice. I ordered the 'Namaste,' their vegan offering. Friday night's chef selection was green beans, potatoes, spinach, and peppers in a light lemon-oil sauce. Delicious!

Saturday, we had breakfast at the Koffee Kove before heading to Alexandria Bay to take a boat to Singer Castle. The boat ride was about an hour long, and there were so many islands to check out along the way. You can even buy your own, with a fabulous home and tennis court, for a cool 2.2 million!

Couldn't resist pulling out my sash for a quick picture at Singer Castle!

Singer Castle was beautiful--and had a few secret passageways to explore. Did anyone else dream of having those in their home as a kid?! After the castle tour, we returned to Clayton and enjoyed lunch at Bella's. Their apple cinnamon scones are to die for--I may have eaten at least 5 over the course of the weekend!

At 7 PM, it was pageant time!

It was so great to see some of my pageant sisters! Miss NY, Kira, was also in attendance!

The Thousand Islands Organization put on a beautiful show. The contestants were all fabulous, but I have to give an extra-special shout-out to Kristina Blackstock. We competed at Miss Thousand Islands together last year. She is such an incredible gal--brains, beauty, talent, and a truly kind heart. She drove out to Syracuse in a storm last year to support me as I competed at the Miss Syracuse triple crown. I was delighted to support her this weekend and so happy to see her win Miss Congeniality, the Miracle Maker award, and place First Runner Up! 

When crowning time came, I couldn't wait to see who would wear the Miss Thousand Islands crown (and special 50th Anniversary sash)!

Your new Miss Thousand Islands 2015, Allison Carlos! Pictured here with the fabulous Olivia (Miss TI 2014), Kira (Miss NY), and Joelle (Miss TIOT).

I was so happy for Allison Carlos when I heard her name called as Miss Thousand Islands 2015! I have been following her amazing blog that shares her experiences as a foster parent. I know she will spend her year of service inspiring many people with her generous spirit.

I was so sad to leave Clayton behind and make the drive back downstate on Sunday. I had a wonderful weekend, and I look forward to returning to the Thousand Islands in October when they host their first Outstanding Teen pageant!

See you soon, St. Lawrence River!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Visiting Princess Camp

As a titleholder, I'm often mistaken for a princess by some of my younger friends. They see the crown and immediately begin to giggle. They want to touch it (of course they can!), try it on (they can do that, too!), and ask as many questions as they can. "Are you a REAL princess?" "Do you live in a castle?" "Do you have a magic wand?" It is incredibly endearing! 

This week, I had the chance to play princess for my cousin, who was directing a Princess Camp for girls aged 3 to 6. She invited me to stop by on what was a very special day for the campers. They were all wearing pink (many of them were rocking princess gowns) and had plans to create their own tiaras and have their nails done.

I took a few pictures of the action to share here. For privacy purposes, there aren't too many and they don't show faces--but hopefully you'll get a sense of the fun we had the chance to share!

Decorating tiaras--flower foam stickers were a popular choice, as were (surprisingly) frogs!

Each of the tiaras had a unique pattern, and each girl then added special flair of their own.

Lots of little princesses were hard at work!

A princess always takes the time to help out a friend in need.

I had a blast sharing some time with the sweet princesses at camp! They were kind, welcoming, and full of cheer--as every great princess should be! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

National Night Out 2014

Yesterday, I had an exciting evening out in the community for National Night Out 2014.

This was the second year in a row that I attended National Night Out on behalf of My Sisters' Place. Last year, I manned an informational table at the White Plains Night Out. This year, I was in Yonkers. The goal of National Night Out is to bring together the community and local police departments. It is a great way for residents to get to know the resources available in their neighborhoods and the officers who are there to keep them safe. Growing up as the daughter of a police officer, I never had any reason to fear law enforcement officials. I knew what her job was and had the chance to meet many of her co-workers. For some children (and even adults!), police officers can be scary. National Night Out is a great way to foster positive interactions so that in times of trouble, residents will not feel intimidated or uncomfortable to call upon their local police precinct.

With wonderful Helen, a founder of My Sisters' Place who continues to serve her community in so many ways!

Some of my favorite moments of the evening included:
  • Answering a question that many children who approached our table had: "What does My Sisters' Place mean?" A lot of them were VERY young, so I didn't go into details about domestic violence. Instead, I encouraged the kids to think about treating others with respect and love...much like they would do with their sister (or brother)!
  • Providing information to a mother who has been thinking about going to My Sisters' Place for services for a long time now, but thought that she had to have a police report to speak with someone at MSP. I was able to let her know that My Sisters' Place will provide help to whoever needs it--regardless of police involvement or without it! I really hope that she reaches out to My Sisters' Place for whatever support that she needs.
  • Seeing so many of our community leaders in attendance--from New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, to Yonkers Police Commissioner Gardner, to many of our City Council members. 
  • Catching up with a few of my mother's past co-workers, who still remember me as the four-year-old visiting police headquarters!
  • Hearing the passion and excitement of many Yonkers teens in attendance. They were volunteering, performing, and preparing for the upcoming school year. 
  • And, of course, being knee deep in stickers, autograph cards, and the laughter of children--the best part of my job as Miss Empire Star.

I am already looking forward to National Night Out 2015! I can't wait to continue to spread the word about My Sisters' Place, support the Yonkers Police Department, and share a smile with the passionate and diverse community that I am blessed to be a part of. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Miss Central New York 2015

I can hardly believe that the Miss New York 2015 pageant season has officially started! It feels like just yesterday that I was preparing to kick off my local pageant journey by competing at Miss Thousand Islands 2014. While I'm no longer eligible to compete in the Miss America Organization (I turn twenty-four at the end of the month...eek!), I was still beyond excited for the Miss Central New York 2015 pageant, which took place this past Saturday in Syracuse, New York.

One of the reasons for my excitement was the invitation extended to me by the Miss Central New York directors, Corri and Amy, to co-host the show! The theme of the show was Cultural Diversity, embracing Miss America Nina Davuluri's platform. Corri and Amy did an amazing job of picking music from around the world to play throughout the program--it was so fun!

With my lovely co-host and friend Bianca, the reigning Miss Syracuse International

The show kicked off at 7 PM, and boy was the audience in for a treat! The eight contestants vying for the title were all gracious, well-spoken, and talented. It was probably the most diverse pageant, in terms of talents, that I've attended. We saw ballet, clogging, Irish step dance, artwork, parkour, broadway-style vocals, piano, and flute. How awesome is that lineup?!

The new Miss Central New York's Outstanding Teen, Colleen!

While the search was on for a new Miss Central New York, the audience was introduced to the new Miss Central New York's Outstanding Teen, Colleen Denmon. She performed a jazz dance for the crowd and also took the stage in active wear and evening gown. In addition, she answered an on-stage question and wowed everyone with her poise. Fun fact--Colleen manages one of the most popular Miss America facebook pages out there--Miss A Unlimited. Check it out!

After all of the areas of competition were complete, it was time to say goodbye to the 2014 Central New York titleholders. It was a bittersweet moment. Courtney (Miss CNY) and Libby (Miss CNYOT) were the inaugural titleholders for the organization, and they made everyone proud this year with their commitment to the four points of the Miss America crown: service, style, scholarship, and success. I feel so fortunate to count these two young women as friends, and I cannot wait to continue to follow their pageant journeys.

Finally, the time came to crown a new Miss Central New York and her court.

3 RU - Dannah Laguitan 
2 RU - Lauren Crandall
1 RU - Lauren Molella
and the new Miss Central New York...Katelynn Smith!

Katelynn and I

I was so happy to see my Empire sister, Katelynn, take home the Miss Central New York crown. This will be Katelynn's fourth and final trip to the Miss New York pageant. I know that she is going to be an excellent titleholder (her track record of excellence speaks for itself) and that she will impress the judges next May with the unique energy that she brings to each phase of competition.

It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but I enjoyed every minute of being a part of the Miss Central New York pageant family. Thank you so much for welcoming me as a host! It was also so wonderful to see so many of my Miss New York sisters in the audience. 

Well, it's time for me to get back to work, because before I know it, I'll be hitting the road again for the next local pageant of the 2015 season! That's right...Miss Thousand Islands will be taking place this weekend, on Saturday August 9. See you there!
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