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Miss Virginia's Good News/Bald News Fundraising Plea

Allyson McClellan and Miss Virginia Tara Wheeler. (Courtesy Tara Wheeler)

The latest look in the pageant business: a bald beauty queen.

It required permission from both the Miss America Organization and state pageant officials, but Miss Virginia 2008 Tara Wheeler will shave her head next month if she generates enough money for pediatric cancer research.

"If I raise $500,000, I am allowed to be a bald Miss Virginia," Wheeler told us yesterday.

It's the first time, insofar as anyone can remember, that a current titleholder has gotten the go-ahead to shear those glossy locks so prized on the runway.

But what about the crown?

Under control. Wheeler already has a wig sponsor so she can still pin on her rhinestone tiara.

The 24-year-old military brat/journalism major came up with the idea two months ago when she was invited to an event for St. Baldrick's Foundation, a charity for kids' cancer research. The fundraising gimmick? Participants set donation goals and, if they meet them, shave their heads.

Wheeler thought to herself, "I could do that." No shrinking violet, she was starting goalie for the women's ice hockey team at Penn State, which she attended on an Air Force ROTC scholarship. In college, she also began volunteering in charity dance marathons, and is an ambassador for the Children's Miracle Network. She was crowned Miss Virginia in June, and has been visiting cancer patients in hospitals ever since.

One thing that bugged her were the little girls who were teased about losing their hair. Wouldn't it be cool if she were bald, too? "Imagine how those little girls will feel when they get a visit from Miss Virginia and she pulls off her wig?" Wheeler says in a YouTube video.

So she went to pageant officials with her idea. "I know you're going to think I'm crazy," she began. But they heard her out, and decided she could go for it -- if the bar was high enough. She said they told her, "If I'm going to lose my hair, it better be for a pretty big chunk of change."

Seventy-five percent of the money Wheeler raises will be donated to St. Baldrick's, with the balance split between the Children's Miracle Network and the Miss Virginia Scholarship Fund. The campaign started a week ago and has raised only a couple thousand so far, but Wheeler has a motto ("Beauty is as beauty does") and is convinced she'll get enough donations.

If she meets the $500,000 goal by her April 11 deadline, she'll set a record for the foundation -- and the hair will come off that day at the Crystal City Sports Pub in Arlington.

By The Reliable Source  |  March 16, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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Online donations here:

Posted by: brown64 | March 16, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Thanks so much brown64 -- it made my blood boil that the reporter missed including the link in the story.

Hopefully this will be corrected in tomorrow's edition.

Posted by: CMoran325 | March 16, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

It's doubtful that it will be "corrected" because I'm sure it was intentionally left out to appear they weren't soliciting for donations.

That being said, Tara is a great Miss Virginia and we should all support her in this as best we can.

Posted by: joshua-frank | March 16, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I was very excited, initially, to see that Miss Virginia was ready to participate in St. Baldrick's--but the gesture is disingenuous. If she was sincere, she'd have set a practical goal. St. Baldrick's participants do not have to meet their goals to shave their heads. I am the proud mother of two lovely shavees (who raised almost $10,000 in an event that raised over $90,000).

Posted by: evansnf | March 16, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

To Evansnf -
Tara was at the mercy of what the Miss America Org and Miss VA org would allow. They set the price... not her. But hopefully with this very lofty goal people will not feel that "others will donate" and realize we all must do our part.

Posted by: Gramse2 | March 16, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Tara is bound to a contract as Miss Virginia, and they set the bar that high. She would happily do it for less, but cannot at this point while she is the titleholder.

Posted by: joshua-frank | March 16, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Dear evansnf,
Our Miss Virginia is anything but disingenuous! Again, the bar was set by Miss VA and Miss America and she must contractually stick to it. Knowing this girl, she would have shaved her head for $50 to help these kids! I challenge you to help Tara like I am sure you did your two lovely shavees and give to a great organization. My best friend's daughter was diagnosed at 5-years-old with cancer, and I personally believe the amount of publicity she is generating for St. Baldrick's is HUGE for pediatric cancer research and I commend her for that.

You GO GIRL!!!

Posted by: vamvomom | March 16, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Yeah Tara! I read this at work this morning and passed it all around the office! Good luck.

Posted by: britmcneill | March 16, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Tara is also well known in the local hockey blogging community, both among writers and readers. This has been picked up by some of the blogs and I'm sure those readers will donate, too. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has it on his blog, even.

Posted by: RedBirdie | March 18, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

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