Kristen Privette and her family know what it’s like to see a loved one struggle with the devastation caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, a disease that causes loss of memory and other cognitive abilities. Privette said her family was the caregiver for her grandfather, who died of the disease in 2008.
Privette, who lives in Fort Mill, also worked as a nursing assistant at The Ivey, a memory wellness center in Charlotte. She said many families act as caregivers for their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s.
“I saw firsthand the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that their family members endured just from showing up and trying to be good spouses or good children while they take care of their parents or their spouse,” she said. “They give countless hours of unpaid volunteer time.”
Privette, a mom of three, is hoping that by taking the stage in the South Carolina Strawberry Festival Pageant in Fort Mill Saturday, that she can bring awareness to Alzheimer’s and the toll it takes on families. Privette is running in the Ms. division.
“The biggest thing that individuals living with Alzheimer’s struggle with is that they feel like they are forgotten and they are not being heard,” she said. "The biggest part of my platform is being a voice for those who may not have a voice anymore.”
The pageant is 7 p.m. on Saturday at Fort Mill High School. Contestants are judged in three categories: interview, fun fashion and evening gown.
Now an official preliminary for the Miss South Carolina USA Pageant, the Strawberry Festival Pageant this year was open to contestants from across the state, said Alissa Ilacqua, last year's Teen Miss Strawberry Festival queen.
For this year's 24 contestants, the pageant isn't just about getting a crown, but an opportunity to promote a cause that holds a special place in their hearts.
“It’s all about the cause,” said Janine Bents, last year’s Ms. Strawberry Festival queen. “The best part of it is hearing what they’re passionate about.”
Jeorgia Powell, 17, of Fort Mill, is hoping the pageant will help her support veterans struggling with PTSD. Powell’s father, grandfather and uncles are veterans. Powell is running in the Teen division.
“It’s very dear to my heart,” she said.
Powell said her grandfather’s brother, who suffered from PTSD, took his own life.
“I know it’s a struggle to get in touch with VA hospitals to get help for anything, especially PTSD,” she said. “I just want to help families whose loved ones have taken their lives because of it and also help the veterans who have PTSD and can’t get the help they need.”
Lexington resident Katherine Pickens, 20, said she is enjoying the opportunity to make new friends and encourage others to go after their dreams and be their own cheerleader. Pickens is competing for the Miss title.
“I’m promoting that you can do anything you want to do and that it’s OK to have dreams and turn those dreams into visions,” she said.
Want to go?
The S.C. Strawberry Festival Pageant is 7 p.m. on Saturday at Fort Mill High School, 225 Munn Road E. Crowns will be awarded in Teen, Miss and Ms. divisions. Winners participate in the festival, May 4-5 in Fort Mill's Walter Elisha Park.