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Everyone deserves to be royalty

With 17 candidates scheduled to take part in the fifth annual Crowning Achievements Special Needs pageant, Committee President Kym Lokken couldn’t be happier with the event she and her daughter Shelby put together back in 2009.

“My daughter, Shelby (a 2008 Miss Hudson Princess), did a lot of volunteer work and a lot of the girls she volunteered with at the high school were really excited for her to be a princess,” Lokken said. “She would even sneak her crown in there so they could try it on. So she thought that they should have the same experience as her, but with a little less stress. We talked to some of the other princesses and their moms and decided to go forward with it. ”

This year’s pageant will once again be held at the New Richmond Faith Community Church,starting at 2 p.m. Doors open for the pageant at 1 p.m. to allow people to buy raffle tickets ($1 each), socialize and meet the candidates.

“In the end, everyone wins,” Lokken said. “They all win a title. The girls win a crown and a sash and the guys get a medal with a sash that goes along with it.”

The pageant will last around 45 minutes, with cookies and beverages available after the event. The raffle drawing will be held 30 minutes after the event. A list of raffle items, which were donated by area businesses, can be found on the Crowning Achievements Facebook page. For every new hat, mitten or glove donated to Coats for Kids of St. Croix County, visitors will receive a free raffle ticket.

During the pageant, contestants talk about themselves and what they do while also performing in a talent show where they can show off their special talents.

“Basically what we do is tell a little bit about each person, what they do, what they like and what their interests are,” Lokken said. “And every year, we have a fun question that we have them answer. They also do the talent at the pageant and we have eight different talents this year that are going to be presented.”

To take part in the pageant, participants must be 16 or older and also stick to certain guidelines. There is no geographical restrictions for who can take part in the pageant, but the candidates must be able to be at the correct number of events that the group holds.

“To be able to be in the pageant, they have to participate in a set number of fundraising and other events, so they can’t just come in last minute and say they want to be part of the pageant,” Lokken said. “They have to be a good role model and be somebody that is able to represent their community. They have to be able to get to some of the events throughout the year if they want to be in the pageant and they must also have a PCA or an adult with them.”

The majority of dresses and tuxedos worn during the pageant are donated to the group, who has a dedicated seamstress who donates her time to make alterations for all the outfits.

“We are always looking for volunteers; we wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them,” Lokken said. “We have volunteers as young as 10 or 11 years old all the way up to adults. We love having the adults to help out, but it is also really good to have the kids to help out because I think that it is very important for kids to be volunteering at a young age.”

Aside from the pageant, the Crowning Achievements group takes part in various events throughout the year including parades, fundraisers and other fun activities.

“We try to do a lot of fun events and every month we have something that is fun, like the science museum, horseback riding and stuff like that,” Lokken said. “We have volunteers who help out, so we try to do something that fosters volunteerism with our youth in the communities. We would like to have a mentoring feel about it and try to get them out in the community. Through our events, we are working on social skills and other types of skills that will help them get employment of some type.”

One of the other reasons Lokken lists for starting up the pageant is to give anyone with special needs a way to get out of the house and interact with people in the community.

“Once these guys are out of school, there aren’t a lot of things for them to get out and do on a regular basis,” Lokken said. “Some of them don’t have anything social to get out and do. We wanted to provide them for that and get them out in the community as well as have fun.”

With the success Crowning Achievements has found in its first five years, Lokken feels like it is only a matter of time before other communities start up their own similar programs.

“We would love to see something like this starting in other communities as well,” Lokken said. “We’d like to be a starting point and a resource for other people for anyone who would like to start something similar.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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