Woman with Down syndrome to compete in Miss Minnesota USA pageant

From the Hamilton Spectator
By Aimee Blanchette

MINNEAPOLIS — When Mikayla Holmgren applied for the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, she submitted a lengthy resume that highlighted her past pageant experience, her status as a triple-threat athlete and her work as a mentor for other young women like her.

The 22-year-old has Down syndrome, something that pageant directors had not seen before in a contestant.

“Mikayla is a trailblazer,” said Denise Wallace, executive co-director of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, which is part of the Miss Universe Organization.

When Holmgren takes the stage later this year, she will be the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the state pageant, and as far as pageant officials know, the first in the country.

Her participation reflects the new strides toward body acceptance and more diverse beauty ideals that are being made not only in pageants, but on fashion runways and television. Late last year, a 19-year-old St. Cloud woman became the first person to compete in the same Minnesota pageant wearing a hijab and burkini. In February, designers hired people with disabilities to model their clothes at New York Fashion Week.

Society’s traditional view of what’s beautiful is changing, pageant insiders say.

“I’m ready for this,” Holmgren said recently after practicing in a dance studio on the Bethel University campus, where she is a student. “When I’m performing on stage, I just want people to see me.”

Indeed, pageant directors say they saw more of Holmgren’s talents, goals and self-confidence than they saw of her disability. They accepted her application without hesitation.

“To have women from all walks of life truly be represented on stage shows that pageants are accessible for all and that beauty isn’t a box that we can fit in,” said Jordan Buckellew, the director of Minnesota Miss Amazing, a pageant for girls and women with disabilities. “We’re stepping away from the ‘Miss Congeniality’ vibe where everyone has blond hair and blue eyes. That’s not what we accept or define as beauty anymore.”

Holmgren was crowned Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing in 2015 and went on to represent the state in the national Junior Miss Amazing pageant in Los Angeles.


From the neonatal intensive care unit to the glitzy world of pageants, Holmgren has always been determined to prove her disability doesn’t define her.

Born six weeks early with Down syndrome and without an esophagus, a condition that required surgery, Holmgren has always been a “go-getter” who has never been defined by her disability, said her mother, Sandi Holmgren.

“At first you’re handed this child and the doctors are telling you she may never talk and she may never walk,” Sandi Holmgren said. “You’re thinking, ‘What does her future hold?’ She’s achieved more than I ever dreamed of.”

Holmgren is no stranger to the stage. She’s been dancing since she was 6, when her parents signed her up for classes in her hometown of Marine on St. Croix, Minn.

“From the start, my husband and I decided that she’s a child first and the Down syndrome is secondary,” Sandi Holmgren said. “We never said that she can’t do this because she has Down syndrome; instead we asked, ‘Why not?’?”

Holmgren competes solo and with the dance team at Bethel University, where she’s in her first year of a two-year post-secondary program for students with intellectual disabilities.

She choreographs most of her own dances, which are typically modern in style. She moves gracefully, doing back bends, jumps and the splits to her favourite music.

“I like to dance for people because it brightens their day,” Holmgren said. “Down syndrome means I have something special. I can warm hearts.”

‘I have to wear a swimsuit’

While Holmgren won’t get the chance to perform a dance routine at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant in November (there’s no talent category), she’ll be able to talk about her passion for dancing during the interview portion, which she’s been practicing with her advisers at Bethel.

What else does a young woman need to do to prepare for a pageant?

“I have to practice walking in high heels,” Holmgren said. “I’m working out a lot to get my body in shape. I have to wear a swimsuit.”

With no nervousness detected in her voice about donning a swimsuit and heels, Holmgren also said she hopes that by competing in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant she will help change the way that society views disabilities and the notion of beauty.

“I want the whole world to see that I can do things that are hard and that people with Down syndrome are beautiful and talented,” she said.

Although Wallace said that the Miss Minnesota USA pageant has always valued inclusion and diversity, what’s changed is that more women with different backgrounds want to participate.

“What is amazing and beautiful about this is the fact that women are finally seeing representations of themselves in this capacity,” Wallace said. “It makes the next woman feel like they can do that, too.”

If Holmgren wins Miss Minnesota USA in November, she would go on to compete in the Miss USA competition. The winner of that goes on to Miss Universe.

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS for Our Clothing Drive!!

May 27th we will be having a Clothing Drive Fundraiser for The ARC Community Event Centre.

We require people and trucks for pickup of clothes.

Saturday May 27th: Door-to-door pickups in Westview ONLY
City garbage routes C, D, & E.

We will be meeting at the Jean Pike Centre at 8:30am for route assignments.

Leave your donation bags on the curb by 9am for free pickup

Please call the Marine Ave. office, 604-485-6411 to get on the Volunteer list or for more information.


Spring clean out your closet and put your items to good use!

Clothing – Shoes- Accessories – Bedding- Towels

Your donation supports people with developmental disabilities to live more enriched lives in this community

May 23rd – 27th: Drop off your items at the ARC Community Event Centre 7055 Alberni Street, 9am to 3pm

Saturday May 27th: Door-to-door pickups in Westview ONLY
City garbage routes C, D, & E.

Leave your donation bags on the curb by 9am for free pickup
Call 604.485.6411 for more information

Tomorrow is ELECTION DAY, BC!

2017 Provincial General ElectionThe BC Election is tomorrow, May 9th. We strongly urge everyone who can vote to do so.
Polls are open from 8am until 8pm.
In the Powell River Regional District, you can vote at the following locations:
• 9654 Larson Rd, Lund
• 5866 Lund St,
• 6792 Cranberry St
• 5001 Joyce Ave
• F-4493 Marine Ave
• 3676 Joyce Ave
• 11090 Sunshine Coast Hwy
• 4913 Gillies Bay Rd, Texada Island
• 2007 Waterman Ave, Texada Island
Voter ID
All voters must prove their identity and residential address before voting. You can find  all the Voter ID information and more at http://elections.bc.ca
If you have any questions, please call the District Electoral Office at
(604) 485-0678.

BC Election 2017: TV Leaders Debate Tonight!!

Inclusion BC sent in questions for the BC political leaders’ debate, which will be televised this Wednesday, April 26, from 6:30 – 8 PM, on all major TV and radio stations.

Question 1: Will you support an increase in PWD monthly rates to $1,200/month in 2017, with yearly cost of living increases and portable housing subsidies that cover actual housing costs?

Question 2: How would your party address the chronic shortfall in CLBC funding and the need for an independent external review of CLBC?

Do you have a question? Email it to: bcdebate2017@gmail.com

Advancing inclusion in BC Election 2017:
Our BC Election 2017 Toolkit has info and tips to help you make a difference when BC votes on May 9, including:
Schedule of candidate debates around BC
Priority issues & questions for candidates
Take action: Election activities
How to register & vote
Resources & where to get more info

Giroday, Paul Emmanuel July 2, 1964 – April 16, 2017


On April 16, we lost our beloved Paul. He passed away at Powell River General Hospital surrounded by family. Paul was born in Dawson Creek on July 2, 1964, but was a Powell River resident from July 1968 ever after. He was predeceased by his dad Michael (2002) and is survived by his mother Shirley, siblings Lesley (Greg), Ian (Sheryl), Neil, Patrick (Rita) and Robert, and his nephews and niece David, Blair, Daniel, Matt, Nolan and Cara. Paul loved his nephews and niece dearly and they always looked forward to receiving his unique Christmas and birthday gifts. Until the last few years, Paul was a great walker and was seen and well-known around town. He also loved his drives around Powell River with his dad, and in more recent years with his mom and/or siblings. With his passing, the Eagles have lost their greatest fan, and shares in Coca-Cola will dip quite a bit. Paul looked forward to his daily Coke and newspaper. He also liked the occasional Labatt’s Blue. Paul loved rock and roll music and had a vast record collection. He also loved America and often expressed his wish to live in California. He had some great trips to New York City, California and to Aunt Dolly and Uncle Bill’s acreage outside Toronto where he spent many hours “teaching the shickens to crow.” Paul suffered many illnesses and setbacks throughout his life. He endured them with a stoic courage. He spent most of his adult life in community care with Inclusion Powell River (formerly PRACL). Paul’s family is forever grateful for the love and care he received from his caregivers, past and present. A big thank-you as well to doctors Dohm, Burns and Murphy for their care of Paul over the years, and to staff at Powell River, Lions Gate, Vancouver General and St. Paul’s hospitals, where he spent far too much time. To those of you who gave Paul a kind word or gesture over the years, we thank you. A gathering in remembrance of Paul will take place between 1:30-4:30 pm on Friday, May 5, at Jean Pike Centre, 7055 Alberni St, Powell River. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Inclusion Powell River.

Amazing Work Michelle!

We would like to take this moment to aknowledge our Michelle Riddle, Early Intervention & School Age Occupational Therapist, for her recent professional accomplishments.

Michelle introduced a community based education program called “Food For Thought” several years ago and has been invited to speak about her program within our community and in other communities. This year she is presenting a poster presentation entitled “Food for Thought: Epigenetics and Childhood Epidemics”. She is presenting this at the OT/PT/SLP Provincial Pediatric Update Symposium in Vancouver. Michelle has also been invited to be a speaker at the upcoming ECEBC conference this month. She is presenting a 2 hour lecture on changing health habits to address the increase in childhood problems like ADHD and anxiety. The presentation explores “how nature and nurture (genetic and epigenetics) can work together to turn on factors that change the trajectory of young lives”.

On a final note, Michelle has been working hard at organizing a conference happening in September at UBC entitled:
Resilience 2017: How to Thrive, Not Just Survive in the 21st Century:
This conference features presentations by several neurologists and specializing physicians including Dr. Derrick MacFabe, Physician/Neuromicrobiologist who is featured in David Suzuki’s film ‘The Autism Enigma’ and Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, Physician, Neurosurgeon, Neurologist and Nutritionist who has authored “Gut and Psychology Syndrome’ and ‘Put Your Heart in Your Mouth’.

We just wanted to let everyone know the amazing work being done by Michelle and the exciting ways she is contributing to the increasing the awareness of healthier lifestyle choices and just how much of a difference they can make in addressing the ever increasing beahvioural symptoms we are seeing amoung our children today.

Amazing work Michelle!

Early Voting!!

Did you know you can vote early?
-From now until 4:00 pm on May 9th you can vote at the District Electroral Office located at F-4493 Marine Ave. The office hours are:
April 11-28, May 1-2 and May 8
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
April 29-30 and May 3-6
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday, closed
-There is also advance voting at 55-7100 Alberni, that’s at The Town Centre Mall.
Advance voting dates:
Sat-Sun, Apr 29-30 Fri-Sat May 5-6.
All Advance voting times are: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
-For more information please call The Electoral District office at (604)485-0678 or go to the Elections BC website. http://elections.bc.ca

Basic Income: A conversation with Hugh Segal – April 10th

Please join us for an important conversation about Basic Income for people with disabilities. It will be sparked and guided by our very special guest and Canadian champion for Basic Income — former Senator Hugh Segal.

Click on this link to register.

This free event is for everyone interested in gathering in the spirit of collaboration and learning. If you are inspired to propel everyone toward full economic citizenship, you won’t want to miss this.

We hope to see you there!