Five-year-old Madison Denham beamed up at Laura Kaeppeler, Miss America 2012, as they stood in an elegant meeting room of the Rivers Club in Downtown Pittsburgh. Ms. Kaeppeler, in her black pumps, was much taller than the little girl in her powder blue dress, but Madison wasn't shy around her idol as they posed for photos together.
"I think she has really good manners," said Madison, of Butler County, who is an aspiring Miss America herself.
MIss America visits Pittsburgh
Miss America, Laura Kaeppeler, speaks at Dress For Success Pittsburgh about supporting children with parents who are incarcerated. (Video by Doug Oster; 10/5/2012)
Madison was one of many who had the chance to meet Miss America during her one-day stop in Pittsburgh on Thursday. Ms. Kaeppeler presented "An Evening of Inspiration" to help raise funds for Dress for Success Pittsburgh, an organization that provides professional attire to disadvantaged women.
Ms. Kaeppeler also spoke about her community service program, Circles of Support, a mentoring organization for children of incarcerated parents. Ever since being named Miss Wisconsin last year, she has made it her goal to help the more than 2 million children who have a parent in prison.
Ms. Kaeppeler has a deep understanding of the struggles faced by children of incarcerated parents, because she was one herself. Her father was sentenced to prison when she was a teenager, a difficult time in her life.
"[The children] often feel that they are isolated and are ashamed of something that they didn't do and that's out of their control," she said. "Not allowing their past to define their future is a huge message that they need to hear, and also that they're not alone."
While she tours the country discussing Circles of Support, she also hopes to someday see a national organization that would oversee all the existing nonprofit groups with similar goals.
Ms. Kaeppeler will travel around the country advocating her platform for another year. After that, she hopes to enroll in law school to pursue a goal of helping children through legislation.
Ms. Kaeppeler is a 2010 graduate of Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis. She earned a bachelor's degree in music with an emphasis in vocal performance. In the Miss America pageant, she took the top prize in the first preliminary talent competition for her operatic vocal performance of "Il Bacio." She was the first Miss Wisconsin to win the national title since 1973.region
Emily Petsko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1468. First Published October 5, 2012 4:00 AM