Daya Durham isn’t wearing a pageant sash and crown anymore, but she’s still giving back.
Two years ago, Daya, now a seventh-grader at Ravenscroft School in North Raleigh, teamed up with her mom Pamela Williams to start their own patriotic pageants for girls to honor military veterans and their families.
Back then, Daya was the reigning Jr. Miss North Carolina. Creating the patriotic pageant was a way for her to give back, to respond to all she’s learning about the human toll and sacrifice of our military, their families and children.
Through Patriotic Pageants Charitable Services, the mother-daughter team is now branching out as co-hosts of the first Charity Dance for Camp Corral on June 4.
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Like the pageants, all proceeds from the dance will go to Camp Corral, a weeklong summer camp for children ages 8 to 15 of military men and women who have been injured, disabled or killed protecting our country.
“It’s really emotional for me,” Daya said of the realities of military service. “It makes me feel really good that we’re using something like pageants and our charity dance to help them, to do something that is so important in the lives of so many people.”
The goal of the dance is to raise $40,000 – enough to send 66 children to Camp Corral started by Golden Corral restaurants, said Tim Martin, general manager of the Wake Forest Golden Corral. He first met Daya and her mom as “regular customers” at his restaurant, and they told him about their passion for pageants as community service.
“The first year, they raised $500 for us and we were ecstatic,” Martin said of their contributions to Camp Corral from pageant proceeds. “Last year, they raised $5,000. They go above and beyond, and they’ve done a great job. We hope to have another huge turnout.”
The dance is for grown-ups, so Daya will miss the raffles, buffet and live DJ spinning ’80s and ’90s tunes.
No worries though, Daya said. She’s looking forward to July 9 when the mother-daughter team resumes its pageant circuit with the Little Miss and Teen Miss of Wake County Memorial Day/Independence Day Pageant in Raleigh. It is a preliminary pageant to the Junior Miss and Teen Miss North Carolina state pageant creatively packaged in a patriotic theme to celebrate and honor past and present troops, families and supporters.
There are two additional pageants each year, Miss Patriotic in September and Miss Liberty in February.
Pageant contestants compete in beauty, casual wear and patriotic-themed outfit of choice. Photo and talent contests are optional.
Each pageant welcomes 17 to 30 girls vying for three titles: Mini Majestic, ages 0 to 6; Grand Majestic, ages 7 to 19; and Supreme Majestic, awarded to the overall highest score across age groups.
Three patriotic pageant queens – one Daya trained herself – won state titles.
But the best prize, Williams said, is that contestants learn and serve, and boost awareness, compassion and communication skills. The organization’s ambassadors are expected to go into the community and raise awareness about the needs of others, especially the children in military families.
“With me coming from a very humble background, I always talk about being an example of just because you were born in one place doesn’t mean you have to stay there,” she said. “That’s why we’re trying to do extra to raise as much money as we can.”
Community service lured Catherine Katz’s 12-year-old daughter, Sarah, into the patriotic pageants. Now she’s an ambassador, and Katz applauds the idea of a charity dance to reach more people, especially adults.
“It’s a great idea to have something for adults,” she said. With a chuckle, she added: “Let’s face it: The kids are great, but the adults are the ones who donate.”