The idea started not only as a way to celebrate a girl’s natural beauty, but also as a way to try to find a cure for cancer.
But the fact that the idea came from an elementary school-aged girl is what sets it apart.
Five years after she had the idea to put together a "natural" beauty pageant as a fundraiser for Relay for Life of Hall County, Amelia Brock, 11, has raised $78,000. This year’s pageant, held during Mother’s Day weekend at Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville, raised about $9,000 for the cause.
And, like icing on the cake, the rising sixth-grader from Lakeview Academy is in the running for a national scholarship award from Kohl’s, worth $5,000 in scholarship money and $1,000 for Relay for Life. She’s already won a $1,000 regional scholarship in the Kohl’s Kids Who Care contest.
Winners of the national contest will find out by the end of July.
"A lot of my family members, they had cancer and some of them are still alive and some of them have passed away, and I just wanted to help out in the community and just fight off cancer," she said. "And so I started a little pageant, and it’s a natural beauty pageant."
This is a different event from the spray tan and Aqua Net-laden girls in more traditional beauty pageants, said Brock, who is a veteran of natural beauty pageants herself. The natural pageants put more weight on interviews and community service, not just on looks.
You don’t even need a fancy ball gown.
"It’s just like a formal Sunday dress, or any dress, and you go on stage and you have a fact about cancer and then you have a little walk, and then they have the winners," she said of Hall County Queens for C.A.R.E. "But after the winners, they just keep volunteering."
Part of being a winner at the Hall County Queens for C.A.R.E. pageant, Brock said, is more than wearing a crown around town. Rather, winners volunteer at Relay for Life events, parades and local hospitals — wherever they’re needed.
"Girls, regardless of whether they’re at this level or older, they realize how fun it is to volunteer," said Teri Brock, Amelia’s mother. "And that’s where me, as a mom, sees her really grow. They wear me out, saying, ‘OK, what can we do next?’ They just fall in love with helping out."
Through the process of putting together the pageant each year, Amelia said she’s learned about a lot of behind-the-scenes production work. She enlists the help of her sister and friends to line up raffle items and send out entry forms, and makes the call on what kind of music to play and whether or not there should be bubbles blowing around the winners as they walk down the aisle.
She said she’s also gotten a lot of help from other area pageant organizers, like the Towns County Lions Club, which has hosted a pageant for 40 years.
"Probably the most important thing we focused on with this is that she has more fun putting on the event," Brock said. "Of course, she bosses me around. If I try to intervene, she says, ‘Hang on a second, this is mine.’ But I think the most fun part for her is she gets to know the different families and the girls when they volunteer, whether they’re doing the (Relay for Life) survivor dinner or lining them up for the Memorial Day parade."
Ron Combs, the 2009 chairman for Hall County Relay for Life, said he’s amazed at what Amelia’s been able to accomplish.
"After the first year it kind of got my attention as Relay chair," he said, noting that a well-run charity golf tournament could net as much as Amelia’s pageant did this year. "The second year I went out to their event at the mall and I was just blown away."
Combs said the Hall County Queens for C.A.R.E. pageant is among the top special-event fundraisers for Relay for Life.
Amelia said she’s learned a lot since embarking on the mission five years ago — "Oh, it’s improved a lot," she said, looking back on the first year.
But it’s more than an after-school activity, she added. This is something she’s invested in and enjoys doing.
"I think it’s just something we’re just going to keep doing," she said.