(L-r) Stormy, Olivia, mom Greta, Haley and Holly Fogg. (Staff photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
MCDONOUGH — Jonesboro’s Bolivia Freeman took top honors Saturday during the 11th Annual Special Needs Pageant when she was crowned Miss Young Adult Henry County.
Freeman, 23, drew cheers and applause as she strutted across the stage at Salem Baptist Church. The packed audience was clearly smitten with the petite Freeman in the cobalt blue dress and lighter blue flower perched over her left ear.
During her interview with co-emcee Miranda Lynn Davis, Freeman’s faith showed through.
“I can do all things through Christ,” she said. “I am fabulous, lovable and nice.”
Freeman said she wanted to win the crown so she could “help the world and be a better person.”
Freeman was crowned in her division with James McDaniel, 25, of Fayetteville, who won the “king” title. Elizabeth June Hampton, 28, of Morrow took the People’s Choice Award and Rebecca Heaton, 20, of Hampton was first runner-up.
Nearly 50 contestants participated in the annual event that spotlights the special needs population in the Southern Crescent. Helping Davis emcee the event was her husband, Steve Davis. The couple live in Hampton but Steve Davis was raised in Clayton County where he attended Morrow High School.
Miranda Davis’ mother, Rhonda Towe, has been pageant director for the past several years. Towe’s other daughter, Cara Towe, has competed in the pageant over the years and was named a princess in Freeman’s court this year.
Dustin Taylor, 19, of Morrow was crowned king in the teen division and will serve alongside Miss Special Needs Teen Haley Fogg. Fogg, 16, of Stockbridge competed in the same division against two of her sisters, including her twin, Holly Fogg, and Stormy Fogg, 13. A fourth sister, Olivia Fogg, 11, did not compete.
Haley Fogg drew laughter from the crowd as she told Miranda Davis about her hobbies.
“I like music because it makes me happy,” she said. “Because my sisters stress me out.”
The girls attended the pageant with their mother, Greta Fogg, and grandparents Terry and Bill Moody. Holly and Stormy will serve as princesses in their sister’s court.
James Holmes, 8, of Morrow took the title of Mr. Little Special Needs and will serve with Miss Little Special Needs, Avery Stein, 8, of Henry County. The youngest contestant, Amelia Oberst, 7 months, of Jackson was crowned Miss Baby Special Needs and Miss Tiny is Jessie Towson, 4, of Henry County. Dakota Chamlee, 8, of Henry County took the People’s Choice Award in the junior division.
Other Clayton County contestants included Katie Aaron, 27, of Jonesboro; Briann Martin, 20, of Jonesboro; Kara Maker, 29, of Rex; Nakisha Drayton, 32, of Morrow and Ebony Fleming, 27, of Morrow.
A highlight of the pageant was the good-bye ceremony where last year’s kings and queens took the stage to watch a video of images from the past year and of their thoughts about serving in the spotlight. Over the next 12 months, the kings and queens will represent the organization at a variety of events including appearances at parades and the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The pageant, founded in 2003 by Lyndsey Mills, whose sister, Kristi was born with Down syndrome, is for males and females with developmental disabilities or autism. Lyndsey Mills was active in pageants, which her sister adored, so she came up with the idea to create an event celebrating the special needs population.
Kristi Mills went on to become the first Miss Teen Special Henry County and won the adult title in 2008.
The special needs population in the Southern Crescent is active outside the annual pageant, most of whom participate in Special Olympics, an annual Easter egg hunt at Nash Farms, a fall festival in Locust Grove, Bingo games, joy prom, karaoke, spaghetti dinner, walk-a-thon and other fund-raising events.