Miss Virginia's Good News/Bald News Fundraising Plea
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.
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