Pageant celebrates special needs population

MCDONOUGH — Nearly 50 members of the special needs population in Henry, Fayette, Butts and Clayton counties will participate Saturday in the 11th annual pageant that celebrates their unique qualities.

The youngest contestant, Amelia Oberst of Jackson, is 7 months. The oldest, also from Jackson, is Franklin Ogletree, 68, said pageant director Rhonda Towe.

“I am just tickled,” she said. “We have so many competing this year, close to 50. It’s just great.”

The pageant, the brainchild of Lyndsey Mills, is divided into four categories — junior, teen, young adult and adult. It will be held Saturday at Salem Baptist Church on Ga. 155, with the younger contestants taking the stage at 1 p.m. and the older ones starting at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.

Mills grew up in Stockbridge, the daughter of Dennis and Tina Mills, and competed in beauty pageants in high school and college. Her sister, Kristi Mills, was born with Down syndrome but loved to watch Lyndsey don glittery gowns and bright make-up when she competed. Lyndsey Mills said she saw no reason why her sister and other special needs boys and girls shouldn’t have a pageant of their own. Thus, the Mr. and Miss Special Needs Henry County pageant was born. Kristi Mills was the first queen of the teen portion of the competition. Lyndsey Mills, who was Miss Henry County 2003, was even honored with a Daily Points of Light award in 2004 for shining the light on the special needs community.

Towe took over the pageant several years ago when Connie Dodgen, Tina Mills and Joan Angelini retired. The three women remain active in People First of Henry County and Special Olympics.

Tickets to the after-party are already sold out, said Towe. Contestants, their families and supporters will gather at Open Bridge Community Church and the meat will be catered by Shane’s Rib Shack. Members of the church will provide side dishes and drinks, she said. The festivities include a photo booth, karaoke and dancing.

However, tickets to the pageant are still available, said Towe. Attendees will be able to cast votes for People’s Choice winners and there will be a silent auction to further help raise money.

“It’s going to be a really fun night,” she said. “You don’t want to miss it.”

The contestants are:

Junior Division

Amelia Oberst, 7 months, Jackson

Jessie Maddux Towson, 4, Henry County

Dakota Chamlee, 8, Henry County

Avery Elizabeth Stein, 8, Henry County

James Holmes, 8, Morrow

Teen Division

Jacob Holbrook, 18, McDonough

Dustin Taylor, 19, Morrow

Javonni Stevenson, 17, Stockbridge

Holly Nicole Fogg, 16, Stockbridge

Krystal Hathaway, 14, McDonough

D. Cherrell Reeves, 14, McDonough

Stormy Dawn Fogg, 13, Stockbridge

Rachel Nicholson, 13, McDonough

Paige Thorpe, 15, Locust Grove

Haley Michelle Fogg, 16, Stockbridge

Mishelle Berry, 13, Rex

Young Adult Division

James McDaniel, 25, Fayetteville

Lakedriin Lewis, 21, McDonough

James Michael Summers, 22, Stockbridge

Caroline Parker, 22, Fayetteville

Dominique Taylor, 27, Fayetteville

Katie Aaron, 27, Jonesboro

Natasha Hemrick, 25, McDonough

Briann Ajene Martin, 20, Jonesboro

Bolivia Freeman, 23, Jonesboro

Jamie Waters, 24, Fayetteville

Kara Maker, 29, Rex

Rebecca Heaton, 20, Hampton

Ebony Nicole Fleming, 27, Morrow

Cara Marie Towe, 27, Fayetteville

Elizabeth June Hampton, 28, Morrow

Leecy G. Cothran, 20, Stockbridge

Adult Division

Mario Duffy, 33, Fayetteville

David McRee, 40, Jackson

Charlie Phillips, 47, Jackson

Benji Dollar, 40, Jackson

Aaron Martin, 56, Jackson

Franklin Ogletree, 68, Jackson

John Wilkerson, 51, Jackson

Jeffrey Collymore, 33, McDonough

David Grant, 50, Jackson

Eugene Ray, 52, Jackon

Tammy Baker, 32, Jackson

Sherkina Peavy, 32, Jackson

Nicole Foley, 37, Decatur

Marnie Hornsby, 39, McDonough

Tommie Jean Hollis, 55, Jackson

Nakisha Drayton, 32, Morrow