Former Charlestown woman crowned Indiana Miss Amazing Sr. Miss PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janna Ross   
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 07:25

“Celebrating Abilities Since 2007.” Those four words have been a motto for many young women over the past 10 years. Many celebrate every day: celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and personal goals achieved.

One local woman has so much more to celebrate.

Cari Jo Bailey has been thrown more curve balls in her 28 years than most will see in a lifetime. She has overcome each medical issue as it has made her stronger. Each medical diagnosis, especially in the last six years, has seemed to bring an additional two or three other medical issues.

Cari Jo has recently added colon cancer survivor to her list of medical hurdles she has overcome.

Just hearing what Cari Jo has overcome recently tends to leave friends admiring her tenacity, courage and amazing personality.

Amazing is one word that could be used to describe the former Charlestown resident. She proved that last month when she participated in her second Indiana Miss Amazing pageant.

Twenty-two pageant contestants competed in eight different age divisions, beginning at the age of five, on April 23 at Fowler Hall at Purdue University. The Miss Amazing pageant has been celebrating abilities since 2007 when it began in Omaha, Nebraska as a dream of 13-year-old Jordan Somer.

Somer volunteered with Special Olympics and, according to the Miss Amazing website, “when she developed an urge to create something for her community, she knew that she wanted to create something for the Special Olympics athletes.”

The website goes on to explain the organization, “It was this combination of creativity and passion that gave birth to a new program for girls and women with disabilities. Jordan took the premise of pageantry, a vehicle she had always used to expand her potential, and made it accessible and empowering for the female athletes that she had met at the Special Olympics.”

Being on stage during the day-long pageant was like second nature to Cari Jo.

“She just glows on stage,” stated Tammy Bailey, Cari Jo’s very proud mother. “She just never meets a stranger. She is very outgoing on the stage. Just smiles as big as she can.”

Cari Jo is smiling again as she shows her trophy, crown and sash she won after being named Indiana Miss Amazing 2017 Sr. Miss.

“I’ve waited my whole life for this sash and now I have it,” Cari Jo smiled.

Although mom explains Cari Jo really did not know what Indiana Miss Amazing was until last year when family friend, Patricia Hyndman introduced the Baileys to the organization.

Cari Jo was explaining that she has worked her entire life to be sitting at her dining room table in Jeffersonville proudly displaying her new bright pink sash. She fondly looks at the sash and smiles before offering it to her mom. The adoration she showed as Cari Jo stared into her mother’s eyes just days before Mother’s Day proves the love she has for her mother and family.

“The sash made me happy,” Cari Jo stated.

Cari Jo discussed in detail her sister, Andrea, brother-in-law or “brother”, as she calls him, Shane Spencer ,and her niece, Kinley. Story after story came as Cari Jo shared the adoration she has for those closest to her. Although family is close at heart, Cari Jo never meets a stranger and makes new friends at every turn.

Preparing for the Indiana Miss Amazing pageant, Cari Jo worked with three of her greatest blessings.

“We have been given three of our greatest blessings with Cari Jo’s behavioral therapist, recreational therapist and music therapist.

The three therapists helped Cari Jo with her phases of the recent Miss Amazing pageant. This year she also chose to participate in the Talent Showcase where she worked with her music therapist, Katelyn.

“She wrote original lyrics to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful.’ Then she performed a dance by working with rec therapist Tyra. She also displayed a piece of artwork on stage,” Tammy explained about Cari Jo’s day at the Miss Amazing pageant.

An excited Cari Jo shared her artwork, a beautifully painted watch with a noticeable flower blooming a little more at each interval of the face of the watch. The flower comes to full bloom at 8:59 p.m., the time Cari Jo was born.

Meeting new friends was another important part of the pageant.

“It’s a way for girls to work on social skills. It’s a great opportunity for them that many do not know even exists,” Tammy explained about the Miss Amazing organization.

Each participant in the pageant is given a “buddy” to help them through the day.

“Each girl is given at least two buddies to help them. Buddies are volunteers who want to help the girls with everything throughout the day. The buddies are trained on the conditions and needs or any unique circumstances for each girl,” Tammy continued.

One of Cari Jo’s buddies, Gwen Jenkins, is a student at Silver Creek High School. Jenkins, reigning Jr. Miss Tiny Tots 2016, volunteered last year but this year volunteered specifically to be Cari Jo’s buddy. Nallely Garcia Nava, Miss Indianapolis 2017 Ms. Midwest, was Cari Jo’s second buddy for the pageant.

Cari Jo also enjoyed a new friend in Aiden, her escort during the evening gown competition.

“This is also an opportunity for young men with and without disabilities to be escorts for the evening wear. It gives them the ability to work on social skills, gentlemanly skills and gives them a some feeling of responsibility,” Tammy stated. “The entire pageant is done by volunteers. The entire day truly is amazing.”

Tammy continued, “The Miss Amazing pageant gives the opportunity to showcase abilities as opposed to focusing on 15 hospital visits in a week. They work on life skills, social skills and have fun. Pageantry is work, but it’s a chance for the girls to shine. Studies show families of special needs children often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome because they are always on high alert. We all know about Stranger Danger, but what about if she is crawling on the floor and bumps her head will that lead to a seizure, what if she falls, will that fall paralyze her. There are just more life threatening issues with special needs children. Parents always have to be prepared.”

Scrolling through the memories of the Miss Amazing pageant caught with pictures on her cell phone, Tammy came to a picture of Cari Jo and a new friend, Emma, she made at B.loved Boutique in Seymour.

“I just can’t say enough kind words for that young, beautiful heart. The entire staff was treating her (Cari Jo) like a young princess getting the dress. They treated her like a princess having no idea if she would win the crown or not. The owner, Brandi, told me that Cari Jo sure left an impression on her staff. That is just what Cari Jo does. She is just herself no matter the circumstance. She has fun and smiles with everyone she meets,” Tammy said.

The title of Indiana Miss Amazing Sr. Miss 2017 is just the first adventure Cari Jo has conquered. She now has the opportunity to compete in the Miss Amazing Nationals to be held in August in Chicago.

“We want to participate but at this point we are facing another surgery. We are hoping that the surgery will be over and Cari Jo will be strong enough and ready to participate in Nationals,” Tammy explained.

Although Tammy and Cari Jo are still unsure if Nationals will be an option for the Bailey duo, the title has already opened new doors for Cari Jo.

Recently she traveled to Jackson County where she spoke during the Arc of Jackson County’s Spring Fling.

The Arc organization, according to Tammy, “is an advocacy group for those with developmental disabilities.”

She continued, “Southern Indiana is so under-served right now. But we are moving in the right direction. Arc is coming to the old Kmart building in New Albany.”

During the recent Arc event, a Mardi Gras dance on May 2, Cari Jo spoke to the group. She was again all smiles and could not wait to get the microphone from the DJ to share her story. The event was the perfect setting to share the Miss Amazing story so others could become involved.

Since making her first appearance as Indiana Miss Amazing 2017 Sr. Miss, Cari Jo, with help from her biggest supporter, has already began planning for the next event to help promote Miss Amazing.

Tammy and Cari Jo are finishing the final touches on the first Clark County Miss Amazing Food Drive. The county wide food drive will kick off on May 20 and wrap up on June 3.

“Right now we are getting businesses in Clark County to participate by creating a box for collection. If they don’t want to create a box we will provide them with a collection box,” Tammy explained.

Currently collection sites for the food drive are Parkside Trace Apartments in Charlestown, Roots Salon in Jeffersonville and Keller Williams in New Albany. The Baileys are setting up other donation sites.

The food drive in Charlestown will benefit the North Clark Outreach Center, where Cari Jo and Tammy have volunteered. All food collected in each community will benefit the community in which the food was collected.

North Clark Outreach Center Director, Ruthie Jackson, was quick to talk about the Baileys and the dedication Tammy has for Cari Jo.

“Cari Jo and Tammy are just special people. Tammy makes sure Cari Jo’s voice is heard. Tammy is always working on ways to challenge Cari Jo,” Jackson stated. “I cannot say enough about them. I think it’s really cool that with everything they go through on a daily basis, they still find a way to help others. They are just so inspirational!”

Tammy excitedly explained more about the food drive, “Right now we want to give at least one plaque of recognition to the business that gathers the most food for the food drive.”

If your business, civic organization or church would like to participate in the food drive please contact Tammy at 812-406-9353.

“A text message is the easiest way to get in touch with me. If they want to become involved they can just text me their information and we will get them what they need,” Tammy concluded.