VILONIA — When 12-year-old Andrea Thorn of Vilonia looks in the mirror, she sees a beautiful, happy child, and so does her mother, B.J.
The youngster has always wanted to be in a pageant. Yet, Andrea is typically confined to her wheelchair on the sidelines watching while her twin sister Bailee and younger sister Lauren, who is 6, are in the spotlight.
At the next pageant, however, it will be Andrea’s turn to shine.
Andrea will have the opportunity March 19 to wheel across the stage at the first Arkansas Angels Pageant to be held in the Beebe School District auditorium. Tailored to special needs children, the event is the brainchild of the Thorn family of Vilonia and the production of many volunteers from around the state.
"We looked around for a pageant to accommodate our special needs child and there was just nothing for her," B.J. Thorn said. "The people at the other pageants were very nice, but there was just nothing to accommodate Andrea."
She clarified that she is a nurse at UAMS who is passionate about children but with little pageant organization experience. That is, until now.
Research, recruitment and hard work has paid off, and B.J. Thorn said Andrea will soon realize her dream alongside several other children.
"We just launched the idea in August and it has exploded," she said.
This pageant will accommodate both boys and girls ages newborn to 21 with varied types of disabilities, including Andrea, who is a quadriplegic and can not walk. Explaining Andrea’s condition, B.J. Thorn said she and her twin sister were born at 25 weeks. They were required to be on a ventilator and Andrea suffered a massive stroke. Since birth, Andrea has undergone 65 surgeries.
Regarding the purpose of the pageant, Thorn said it’s main purpose is to "make kids feel beautiful."
"We want kids to know they are beautiful no matter what they have," B.J. Thorn said.
The attire for the event, Thorn said, is formal wear. The divisions include Tiny Miss ( (0-2), Toddler Miss (3-5), Little Miss (6-9), Junior Miss (10-13) and Miss (14-21). Also, the boys may participate in Little Mr. (0-10) or Mr. (11-21).
There will also be a photogenic contest with participates being judged on unique features including prettiest eyes, awesome outfit and dazzling smile, B.J. Thorn said.
A nonprofit pageant, B.J. Thorn said, there is no entry fee or charge of any kind to the parents. Volunteers recruited from around the state will judge the event. A sign language entrepreneur will be on hand. There will also be entertainment.
"It’s going to be a big production," B.J. Thorn said.
All participants will receive a crown, T-shirt and goodie bag. The pageant is to begin at 11 a.m. and anticipated to go to about 6 p.m.
Female contestants will be escorted by military members, and the male contestants will be escorted by past beauty queens, Thorn explained.
Currently, she said, contestants are signing up from across Arkansas as well as from other states.
"We don’t care how many or where they are from," Thorn said.
There are many festivities scheduled for that day. The families will be greeted by informational booths by several different non-profit organizations including Parents Educating Arkansas about Children with Epilepsy.
Hair, makeup, and pageant wear will be donated. Photography will be provided by Jackie Romine Photography. Many other businesses have made monetary donations as well as provided raffle items. Individuals and organizations are also contributing to the event. All services, Thorn reiterated, are being donated.
To name a few, she said, The Central Arkansas Buckmasters has donated $1,500, Cabot Civitan is sponsoring four children, Mindy’s Stitches is creating homemade sashes for the kings and queens and PEACE will be sponsoring four children. Thorn said additional sponsors and volunteers are needed to make the event a success.
Thorn may be contacted at 501-499-3906 or the website may be accessed at arkansasangelspageant.weebly.com.