Miss Collinsville 2018
Hailey Raetz

Age: 24
School: Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Talent: Vocal
Platform: Luggage of Hope - Bringing hope to
Oklahoma’s children in Foster Care

Currently, there are nearly 10,000 children in Oklahoma’s foster care system. As a newborn, I was one of them. Now, I feel it is not only my honor, but my duty to reach out to those who are currently in the system in our state. Because of my adoption story and the opportunity that Luggage with Love has given me, I am able to help provide hope for foster-children across Oklahoma.

Foster families may have little or no warning about when a child is coming. These children often arrive with nothing more than the clothes they are wearing and perhaps a trash bag containing a few belongings. Although foster parents do receive a stipend to help purchase the things the child will need, they do not receive it until after the child’s arrival. It is during the in-between time where Luggage with Love steps in to help. At Luggage with Love, we provide a bag filled with basic necessities like toothbrushes, toothpaste, pajamas, and everyday clothes. Luggage with Love is a non-profit organization based out of Norman, Oklahoma, and what began as a small ministry working out of a church has now served over 500 children throughout 6 counties in Oklahoma.

With such a large group of Oklahoma children in the foster care system and no solution in the near future, it is our job to reach out and make a difference in the lives of these children. One of the most important ways Oklahomans can help is to open their homes to foster children. More than three fourths of all children in foster care simply need a temporary home to live in while other circumstances are being worked out. However, there are only approximately 2150 homes that take in foster children across our state, which would be an average of about 4 to 5 kids living in each foster home. Oklahoma’s one-one-one project has attempted to address this issue by saying that if for every one church across the state, one family adopts one child, the need for foster parents to care for multiple children and the need for group homes or shelters would be eliminated. Opening your home for a foster child is not a small order, and can be infeasible for some. For those, getting involved in supplying foster parents with the items needed to properly care for the child can be equally important. As someone who knows not only the importance of a foster home but also the love and generosity of Oklahomans, I know we can do better to support this increasing population in our state.

I love being able to serve as an ambassador of hope for these children across our state. As Miss Brookside, I will collaborate with leaders within our government and our communities to increase their understanding of foster care and work diligently toward making improvements within the system. The opportunity to serve as Miss Collinsville would provide me with a larger platform to raise awareness of foster care by partnering with schools and organizations to supply the needed items for these deserving children and families. I am thrilled about the opportunity provided by the Miss Oklahoma Organization to share this platform that means so much to me. I look forward to being the one who can provide a Luggage full of Hope for these children.

 
Miss Collinsville's
Outstanding Teen 2018
Hunter Wyatt

School: Covenant Community School
Talent: Tap Dance
Platform: Joy in the Cause

“Joy in the Cause” was implemented in 2012 because of the abundance of need in Oklahoma communities. What exactly is “Joy in the Cause”? First, it is an organization that focuses on the individual, not the affliction or the trauma. The recipients are not looked upon as cancer patients or special needs kids, rather they are seen as Joe, a man who has colon cancer, Emma, who is hearing impaired , or Anna, a recovering addict. The individual and their needs come first; their affliction comes second and does not define who they are. Above all, their cause matters.

I joined this cause when my cousin, Madison, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoma at the age of 15. Madison was an active young lady who within a course of 2 weeks went from dance camp to the hospital bed with a grim prognosis. I was not only concerned for her health, but the well-being of her while hospitalized. This is where Lisa, the founder of “Joy in the Cause” stepped in. She brought in her licensed therapy dog, Mavis Pearl, and completely turned Madison’s day around in the most positive way. That is the essence of this organization’s mission. While they could not take away her cancer, they could put a smile on her face and make her world a little brighter if only for a moment. “Joy in the Cause” embraces the fact that everyone’s needs are unique and responds accordingly. Sometimes the need extends beyond a smile so the organization and its volunteers step up to help with everything from raising money for gas cards, keeping someone company during chemotherapy treatments, or cleaning houses for those that are physically unable to do themselves. The possibilities for what the organization will do for a person are truly endless. In fact, I recently met with the leadership of Joy in the Cause, and we are expanding the Kids in Crisis Program (providing ‘Safe Places” for children and youth) to also include Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention. It is our mission to provide an undisclosed Safe Home for such women in Tulsa, and to partner with those who already have homes in other parts of the state.

Compassion is about stepping outside our comfort zones and embracing those who are hurting and suffering. Having a heart of service is about doing your best to make even a small difference in the lives of others. Humility is about appreciating what we have and using that to drive us to help others. Every contestant that competes in the Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen programs embodies each of these ideals and I believe this is especially true in Oklahoma. It is these things, not the fancy clothes or sparkly crowns, that define the young women in this organization. “Joy in the Cause” is a perfect complement to the job of Miss Oklahoma’s Outstanding Teen or any local pageant organization because it holds the same values in high esteem. What a testament it is to the people in this great state that something like “Joy in the Cause” exists. It is an even greater joy that programs like Miss Oklahoma’s Outstanding Teen have given me a powerful outlet to advocate for an organization that does so much to strengthen the communities of Oklahoma.