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Pageant winners use titles to raise money for cancer research

Good Works by Anna Ferguson

Are you aware of an event or project that benefits our community? Contact Anna Ferguson at 770-963-9205 ext. 1308 or anna.ferguson@gwinnettdailypost.com.

When Lacie Smith was crowned as Miss Atlanta Christian four years ago, the then 17-year-old knew she wanted to do more than just wear a shiny crown. She wanted to make a difference.

"I lost both my grandfathers that same year to cancer. That's how the whole Queens for a Cure idea came about," she said. "I had my crown and I knew other girls who had won titles. So I rallied up all the girls and Queens for a Cure was started."

In partnership with the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life, Queens for a Cure is an organization founded by Smith to involve, inspire and unite titleholders from regional and national pageant systems to join the fight against cancer.

"We just learned that Queens for a Cure is going national, so winners from states all across the country can be involved," said Smith, now 21.

The key fundraising event for the Queens initiative, the fourth annual Miss Gwinnett Relay for Life Benefit Pageant, will be held April 21 at Sugarloaf United Methodist Church. The pageant is open to anyone 5 years old or older.

"Cancer affects everyone, no matter what age. I wanted the pageant to reflect that by including all ages," she said.

Last year's effort brought in $15,000 for Relay for Life, up $5,000 from the previous year. For 2007, Smith said she has high hopes to again increase the funds raised.

"I'm going for the $20,000 mark," she said.

During the pageant, contestants will be judged on sportswear and formal attire, as well as poise, overall appearance and personality. Though age division winners receive a rhinestone tiara and sash, contestants who raise more than $150 will also be given a crown. The contestant who raises the most money will be awarded the pageant's most prestigious title, Grand Supreme Miss.

"The real goal isn't just to win a title, it's to help cancer research," Smith said.

Though the pageant has only been going on for a few years, Smith has been involved with Relay for nearly a decade. At age 11, she began participating with her grandfather at Relay for Life, walking the survivors lap with him. In his final year, when he was too sick to walk, she pushed him in his wheelchair.

"And when he did pass away, I had to turn my grief into something positive," she said. "I was looking for a way to do that, and when I started all this at 17 years old, I had no idea what I was getting into. Now, I know it's what I want to do with the rest of my life."

The registration deadline and $60 entry fee for the Miss Gwinnett Relay for Life 2007 Benefit Pageant is April 15. The pageant will be begin at noon on April 21 at Sugarloaf United Methodist Church, 1795 Old Peachtree Road, Duluth. For more information, call 770-560-4141 or visit www.queensforacure.com.

Bruster's Ice Cream gives boost to Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Throughout April, Bruster's Ice Cream will donate 25 cents from every purchase of its new parfait ice cream to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America. Big Brothers, Big Sisters is a national foundation that pairs at-risk children with mentors. Visit www.brusters.com or www.BigBrothersBigSisters.org

American LubeFast teams with cancer research group

American LubeFast is teaming up with the Atlanta Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk to raise money for breast cancer research and community outreach programs. Throughout April, May and June, Atlanta-area American LubeFast locations will be taking donations. All proceeds will go directly to the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk, which will be held Oct. 12-14 in Atlanta. Call 850-698-7800.

Motorcycle rally revs up for Relay

Scientific Atlanta will host Rumblin' for Relay at 9 a.m. Saturday at the company's headquarters, 5030 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville. The motorcycle rally is a fundraiser for American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. Tickets are $25 for riders and $15 for passengers, and lunch is included. Call 321-723-0269 or visit www.scientificatlanta.com/aboutus/relayforlife.htm.

Rhythm and Blooms Party to raise funds for Dogwood Festival

The Rhythm and Blooms Party at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival will be held from 6 to

9 p.m. Saturday in the Meadow at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. This year's theme is "Fabulous and Funky," and guests are encouraged to pair their best party attire with casual footwear.

The festival's signature drink, "The Bloomin' Dog," and complimentary gourmet cuisine from Atlanta's premier chefs will be served. Tickets are $100 each, and all proceeds benefit the nonprofit Atlanta Dogwood Festival. Call 404-817-6642 or visit www.dogwood.org.

Singers will lift voices for shelter

The Gwinnett Young Singers will perform a benefit concert for the Genesis Children's Shelter at 2 p.m. April 15 at Peachtree Christian Church, 1580 Peachtree St. N.W., Atlanta.

The concert is free, but donations will be accepted to support Genesis, a homeless shelter for newborns and families. Call 770-935-6657 or visit www.gwinnettyoungsingers.com.

Ex-Braves players featured at dinner

The Northern Gwinnett Christian Women's Club will host A Classic Evening dinner from 7 to 9 p.m. April 17 at Winfield Hall, 3890 Satellite Blvd. N.W., Duluth. Former Braves players Greg McMichael and Keith Lockhart will hold a casual question-and-answer session. Tickets are $25 per person. Reservations must be received by April 10. Call 770-995-1134 or 678-714-2322.