Winder girl reaches semifinals in Volvo For Life awards

WINDER - After four years of entering, Jena Sims, 18, of Winder, is in the semi-finals for the Volvo For Life awards. The award money, if she wins, would fund her nonprofit Pageants of Hope.

Votes from the public can help her win.

For six years, the Volvo For Life awards has honored more than 17,000 everyday heroes and contributed millions of dollars to their causes.

If chosen as a finalist, Sims would receive $25,000 in funding for her Pageants of Hope and would be eligible to win the $100,000 grand prize, a trip to the awards ceremony in New York City and a Volvo for life.

The evening she was crowned Miss Georgia Teen USA 2007 was a proud moment in Sims' life.

But the glory of making the pageant walk and a year of representing Georgia's teen girls is eclipsed by another kind of pageant.

Since 2004, Sims has held Princes and Princesses of Hope beauty pageants across the United States, a special beauty pageant for children with cancer and other serious illnesses in which each child leaves as a winner.

"One of the first things that popped in my head was, 'What am I going to do with $100,000 if I won?' Sims said. "I started picturing my 'dream' pageant."

After losing both her grandfathers to cancer at age 10, Sims spent much of her spare time raising more than $80,000 for a cure. Her Pageants of Hope allow her to go beyond funding.

Anyone can vote an unlimited number of times until Jan. 7 at www.jenasims.com/ index2.php, under Quality Award.

"I hope to do my absolute best with promoting my project, raising awareness on the importance of teen volunteerism, and getting the most votes possible," Sims said.

Sims is the reigning Miss Georgia Teen USA and a freshman at Belmont University in Nashville, majoring in marketing.