Emily Ambery | Layout Editor
At 15 years old, Mia Thompson fights Germinoma, a type of tumor found in the brain. At 10 years old, violinist Fred Poe, has had 10 surgeries related to his heart. Both children, who were diagnosed with critical illnesses, have had wishes fulfilled by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The “Miss Duquesne” pageant, hosted by the Beta Delta chapter of Alpha Sigma Tau raised over $19,000 for the Make-A-Wish foundation on Saturday. The event featured competitors around campus showing off gowns and talents, but the stars of the show were young Thompson and Poe. Thompson was crowned “Junior Miss Duquesne,” the first one in Miss Duquesne history, and Poe performed on his violin and received two standing ovations.
In its 20th year of fundraising, Miss Duquesne was organized by Alpha Sigma Tau sisters, junior Emma Tobia and sophomore Abby Tills. The two expressed gratitude for Saturday evening’s event, which they started planning in June.
“It was very stressful to plan and host, but it was so worth it in the end,” Tobia said. “Seeing the look on Fred’s face when we were all cheering for him was so amazing. We had to hold back tears and get back to the stage.”
Friends and family filed into the Union ballroom at 7 p.m. for an evening of catwalks, questions, performances and crowns.
Attendees could purchase baked goods, raffle tickets and flowers to support the foundation as well as donate through the Create Change online campaign. The event also had a Kendra Scott table selling jewelry, where 20% of the proceeds went to Make-A-Wish. Raffle baskets included Enclave merchandise, a Nakama gift card, lululemon and a signed picture of Cameron Heyward.
“We’ve worked with the sisters of Alpha Sigma Tau so many times and are always so impressed with how organized and motivated they are in their philanthropy,” said Maggie Zurbruegg-Ramey, manager at the Kendra Scott store in Shadyside.
The pageant began with opening words from Tobia, Tills and president of Alpha Sigma Tau, Maddie Tronoski emphasizing the importance of the work the Make-A-Wish foundation does.
“Every 34 minutes, Make-A-Wish grants the wish of a child diagnosed with a critical illness in the United States and its territories,” according to a video played during the event.
Contestants debuted their gowns with a catwalk to Nelly Furtado’s “Maneater.” Each contestant represented a group on campus, a majority of which were Greek Life.
As they walked, members of their clubs, family and friends cheered and awed at contestant’s floor length ball gowns.
“She looks so good,” said a friend of Kathy Nguyen, a contestant representing Delta Sigma Pi sorority. “Yeah, she ate,” another friend agreed with a colloquialism for doing well.
Represented by Gamma Phi Beta was Kyah Thompson, 15-year-old Mia’s older sister. Thompson shared that her motivation to join the pageant was her sister.
“I really enjoyed Miss Duquesne. There was a lot of meaning behind it for me because I was competing for Mia,” Thompson said. “The best part was being able to help fundraise for kids like Mia and for Mia to have her moment.”
Although the Cleveland branch of Make-A-Wish has arranged Mia’s trip to the Caribbean, Thompson noted that the first response from Alpha Sigma Tau when they heard about Mia’s story was that they wanted to grant her wish.
“Knowing that we have the support that we do is what makes it easier. Hearing that someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer at such a young age is a really hard thing to process,” Thompson said. “But it makes it a lot easier to carry that weight when you get to spread it across your community. We are really grateful to Alpha Sigma Tau.”
The catwalk was followed by contestants talking about their motivation, achievement, dream job, favorite motto and spirit animal.
Jake Seavy, development coordinator at Make-A-Wish Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia, followed with remarks about Alpha Sigma Tau’s more than $112,000 contribution to Make-A-Wish in the past six years, granting 22 wishes.
“The amount of time the sisters of Alpha Sigma Tau have put in behind the scenes is remarkable” he said.
Fred, as part of his own wish, performed a song on his Make-A-Wish-donated violin for the Miss Duquesne audience.
He expressed his musical passion to many in an emotional speech that made the audience visibly tear up. His goal is to play more than nine instruments, the amount that his aunt can play. Poe is more than halfway there with violin, recorder, saxophone, ukulele and piano under his belt.
After two enthusiastic standing ovations following Fred’s performance, attendees were encouraged to participate in the raffle and shop at Kendra Scott and the bake sale during a brief intermission.
The highly-anticipated talent show followed a intermission where contestants were judged on entertainment and performance value. Acts included cheerleading, Irish step dance, “Hot Crossed Buns” on the recorder, color guard, American Sign Language, singing, an art showcase, violin and lip syncing to High School Musical’s “Bop to the Top.”
Tobia and Tills then presented Maggie Tronoski with Alpha Sigma Tau’s Sister of the Year award. Members’ praise for their president was compiled into a video and played for Tronoski and the crowd.
Finally, Tobia and Tills announced the winner. Fourth-year pharmacy student Violet McMullen won Miss Duquesne.
“It was surreal. I did it for fun so winning was kind of crazy,” McMullen said. They credited their win to their talent which was a color guard routine to Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer.”
Other contestants received additional recognition. Megan Carnahan won top fundraiser, Jenna Pierce won the people’s choice award and Emily Gierczynski won Miss Congeniality.
“Having so many organizations doing things for Mia and in Mia’s honor gives Mia strength in this whole thing,” Kyah Thompson said. “Everywhere that Mia turns, there is someone there to tell her story of how strong and courageous she has been in her fight.”
Editor’s note: Photographer Hannah Kern and News Editor Megan Trotter are members of Alpha Sigma Tau.