Miss America Brings Message of Hope to Safe Place Youth and Supporters

March 21, 2012

Entertainment, Feature, Trends

Overcoming Adversity Can Be A Reality

By:  George Addison

Article first published as Miss America Brings Message of Hope to Safe Place Youth and Supporters on Technorati.

2012 Miss America Laura Kaeppeler. Photo Courtesy: Circles of Support

Laura Kaeppeler the reigning Miss America shared her message of hope with supporters of Louisville, Kentucky’s YMCA Safe Place Services during its 3rd Annual Together 4 Teens Breakfast.  Kaeppeler won her Miss America Crown in January during the 2012 Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas.  Many credited her passion and inspiration for helping children of incarcerated adults as one of the key reasons for her success.

Kaeppeler shared the personal story of her father’s incarceration and the emotional shame that she and thousands of children around the country deal with on a daily basis.  The message of hope wasn’t lost on U.S. Congressman, John Yarmuth, and Heather French Henry.

2000 Miss America Heather French Henry. Photo Courtesy: Heather French Foundation for Veterans

Henry was Miss America in 2000 and now serves as Executive Director of the Heather French Foundation for Veterans.  She says inspiring others and promoting awareness is what Miss America does.  “A lot of people see the pageant, the gown, the crown, the sash.  But it’s the job 365 days a year where you’re out in the community not just the large cities like New York and Chicago, but areas like Louisville, Kentucky where you’re able to raise awareness about great programs that are there for that community.  It’s also essential that young girls aspiring to be Miss America, through the “Outstanding Teen Program,” realize its about more than just being in a parade, having pretty hair and a pretty smile.  They are very fortunate to hear Laura’s personal story from her own mouth.”

I asked Kaeppeler why is this particular message of hope and the Safe Place mission important to her cause?  She said,  “I was once one of these kids.  People don’t realize how many kids are out there that have parents in prison.  So, I’m trying to raise awareness for them and say this happens every single day.  Prisons are completely over populated in our country and those people are bound to have one, if not more children.  At the same time, I want to encourage them to become mentors because these children get left behind and fall between the cracks, because they don’t have that stable home environment where they can learn morals and values that will enable them to not go down the same path of incarceration.  Raising awareness and encouraging them to become mentors and get involved with something like Safe Place helps change happen – one person at a time.”

She further stated, “It doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter the background or adversity.  I’ve walked in those shoes and down that path, but it doesn’t have to define you.  I hope to give them the inspiration to become Miss America one day if they want it.”

Kentucky’s 3rd district, Congressman John Yarmuth added, “I think the number of people who came out to show their support to Safe Place programs is astounding! I think that’s a great tribute to the understanding of the vital role that Safe Place plays in our community and across the country in helping young people who are in very challenging situations.  I think this is a very positive reflection of our community.”

Matt Reed, Executive Director of YMCA Safe Place Services said, “the breakfast is a fundraiser that also celebrates one of Safe Place’s signature programs, “Y NOW as well as,  Miss America’s platform of advocating on behalf of youth of incarcerated adults.”

Y NOW is nationally renowned and is one of the top four programs in the country working with children of incarcerated parents.

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