Students gear up for Mr. and Miss Gervais Pageant March 10
As February passes into March and winter slowly gives ground to spring, that means it is pageant time in Gervais.
The annual Mr. and Ms. Gervais Pageant is coming up this weekend, and the eight contestants and two coordinators have been busy practicing and raising money for Doernbecher Children's Hospital for months in anticipation for the final evening of festivity.
But the pageant, which will be held at Gervais High School on Saturday, is just the culmination of an experience that annually bonds a select group of Gervais seniors together in an effort to raise money for Kids Making Miracles — the program that began as a simple coin drive nearly three decades ago and has since raised more than $10 million for Doernbecher thanks to the efforts of students like those at Gervais.
"Taking our trip up to the Doernbecher Children's Hospital was a pretty cool experience," said pageant contestant Neal Sigleer. "I personally hadn't been up there before, but I've had family members go through those kind of things in other areas. Going up there, checking the place out – it's a very welcoming place."
Sigleer, along with pageant members America Betancourt, Chase Bichsel, Natali Herinckx, Monica Montalvo, Jafeth Casas, Madison Steinlicht and Gabriel Lucas, as well as pageant coordinators Abigail Saalfeld and Alejandro Contreras, visited Doernbecher earlier in the year to get an idea of how the money they raise is used to improve the lives of children every day.
"We got to go through all the major points in the hospital that we are affecting," pageant director Deb Holum said. "Areas that they wouldn't typically get to see."
Doernbecher isn't just a hospital for children, it's also a home and a school. Many patients receive extensive treatment there and are unable to leave, so Doernbecher brings a slice of the home life into OHSU for the patients to experience. Whether it's a classroom for kids to stay current with their work at school or room for siblings to visit for extended periods, the hospital is there to make an unpleasant experience as nurturing as possible.
"The tour basically is to let these young people know that the task that they're doing is amazing and what it brings to that hospital," Holum said. "So they're not just out here putting on a show and dancing; this is a personal growth for them to be a part of something that is so big and so amazing — so much greater than themselves."
Many of this year's pageant contestants have grown up intimately familiar with the Mr. and Ms. Gervais Pageant, which began after the passing of Gervais student Jovita Reyes in 2000. Reyes was a patient at Doernbecher, and ever since, select seniors at Gervais High School have been picked by staff members to help raise money and put on a show for the community to attend each spring.
"I've had two siblings that have been in the pageant itself," Saalfeld said, noting that her older sister Naomi was a contestant last year. "Last year I was her wardrobe, which was really cool because I got to see the background and how it worked."
Others are new to the experience, but have quickly come on board.
Contestants open the evening with a series of group dances choreographed by former pageant winner Anastasia Snegirev, then take turns in a variety of skits, talent performances, a question-and-answer segment and more. They are also judged on how much money they have raised leading up to the event, which has brought in more than $200,000 since the pageant's inception.
It's a grind for all involved, who are often dividing their time between school, athletics, jobs, extracurricular activities and family in addition to their pageant commitments. But in the end, nearly everybody walks away with an experience they'll remember.
"(My step-brother) told me just to take advantage of the time you get here," Steinlicht said. "It's a lot of fun — one of the most fun experiences I'll ever have."
The 2018 Mr. and Ms. Gervais Pageant will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at Gervais High School.