Miss Cass Pageant

Every year Cass Community Social Services holds several fund raisers.  At Nardin Park we have become very involved with their annual golf outing.  Part of our motivation came from two ladies who served on the planning committee – Bev Fletcher and Susan Miller.  In 2011 the golf scramble is being held on September 19.  So, golfers, hold the date and plan to join us.  We sent 5 foursomes last year and we’re aiming for 6 in 2011! 

One year I attended a CCSS fund raiser that didn’t raise all that much money, but it was certainly a lot of fun.  It was the Miss Cass Pageant.  This is an annual beauty pageant where the contestants include the mentally impaired and developmentally disabled.  When I first heard of it I thought it was a recipe for disaster.  With a lot of suspicion hovering around my head, I steered my car down to the Cass United Methodist Church in Detroit that hosts the event.  An hour and a half later I emerged a total convert!  I went home blabbering to my wife, trying to describe the experience and failed miserably.  The next year Susan went with me and kept doing so for several years.  One year she was asked to be one of the judges for the pageant.

We’ve missed a few years, but this December we once again resumed our pilgrimage and we invited Bev and Al Fletcher to join us.  What an evening!  There were 18 contestants.  They participated in three areas – talent, evening gowns and answering questions.  Paula Tutman, reporter for WDIV, Channel 4, was the emcee.  The men of Cass Community Social Services also participated, decked out in their tuxedos, escorting the contestants, and even performing a musical number on their own.  This year the theme was “A Chorus Line.”

The women of varying ages, sizes, impairments and disabilities were so excited to be on stage.  These are ladies who have rarely been noticed throughout their lives.  They have struggled.  They have been counted out.  They have been discouraged.  But not this night!  On this night they were beautiful!  They were displaying their talents.  Some danced.  Some sang.  One played the piano.  Let’s just say the dancing was more enthusiastic than accomplished.  The singing was more joyous than melodious.  The piano player picked out a tune with her right hand only.  But the people cheered and applauded for every one of them.  For these ladies to have the joy and the courage to perform and to do it with such exhuberance was spectacular!

When it came time for the evening gown procession, each woman felt a beauty in their lives they had never felt before.  The donated gowns didn’t always fit perfectly nor did each contestant glide along the floor with sophistication, but never have I experienced such an elegant moment at this!  When the questions were asked of them (What is your favorite color and why? or What is your favorite ice cream and why?) some contestants were clear and articulate and some of the ladies could only make sounds that never formed words.  But the hearts of the audience responded enthusiastically to every answer.  Applause!  Applause!  Applause!

At the end of the evening a winner was prounced.  Her name is Gail.  But every contestant was a winner, and so were all 300 people in attendance.  All of the ladies in the pageant hugged each other.  Everybody was thrilled.  And I thought, how wonderful it was to help people to know how beautiful they really are.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could do that every day with every one we meet?