The annual Shining Stars pageant brought smiles and cheers at the Ormond Beach Performing Arts Center.
As motorcycles roared down U.S. 1 on Saturday afternoon, Stephanie Yelvington fought the wind to keep the white net crinoline and baby blue evening dress from touching the ground in the parking lot at the Ormond Beach Performing Arts Center.
The gown was for her granddaughter Carolina Preservati one of nearly 60 contestants participating in the annual Shining STARS Pageant and Fashion Show for those with special needs.
Inside, the center was filled to capacity with family and friends ready for an afternoon of laughter, music and sheer joy. Master of Ceremonies duties were split between the Rev. Stephen Pessah and his son Nathan.
Pageant founder Tia McDonald, 23, was crowned Miss USA United Nations in January and attended the pageant wearing her newest sash and tiara. The pageant is now run by Lori Koplin and the city of Ormond Beach Department of Leisure Services and Specialty Population Division.
“In the U.S. I’ve personally raised over $150,000 for people with special needs, in addition, enough funds to purchase five vehicles with hand brakes, hand gas, and lifts,” McDonald said on the Miss USA United Nations website http://bit.ly/2mX0YR1. “I started this program when I was nine years old and have a special place in my heart for empowering children to shine.”
Each star was unique. Some were attending for the first time while others have participated for years.
“We sat in the audience the first year,” Grace Hill said as she watched her son Adam, 32, smile from ear to ear as McDonald talked with him. “We got to talking to other parents at the reception, and he has been part of this ever since.”
The Hill family splits their time between Plymouth, Massachusetts and Ormond Beach and they are always in town for the pageant.
“All of the attention is on him and the others and it’s great,” Grace Hill said. “We have Special Olympics in Massachusetts, but nothing like this.”
When John Hearn “and friends” came on stage to perform YMCA, “The “friends” role was played by Mariah Zirkelbach, who eased herself from her chair in the audience, placed her crutches onto the stage and swung her braced left leg over the apron.
Zirkelbach, a senior at Flagler College, works with Koplin and was recovering from ACL surgery. That didn’t stop her from doing the trademark YMCA song moves as Hearn strummed his guitar and sang.
By the end of the end of the program the glitter on that section of U.S. 1 in Ormond Beach wasn’t the chrome of bikes, it was the sparkle of tiaras and smiles.