CARMICHAELS – During her reign, outgoing 2013 Miss Rain Day Stephanie Mitchell of Carmichaels seized opportunities to give back that were very personal to her.
Each of the young women who has been crowned Miss Rain Day have traditionally selected philanthropies to support during their year wearing the crown. Mitchell chose Toys for Tots, Children’s Hospital and the Wounded Warrior Project to support.
“I started with a toy drive for Toys for Tots and it was truly overwhelming the amount of toys that people donated. It really amazed me by how many people took the time to donate to make Christmas a little brighter for these kids,” Mitchell said.
Next to all of the new people she met over the last 12 months, she holds the service projects most dear.
Earlier this month, Mitchell, and the current contestants vying for the title of 2014 Miss Rain Day, held a three-mile walk to raise funds in support of the Wounded Warrior Project. She said there are many family members going back multiple generations of her family who have served in the armed forces, but it was a specific cousin who inspired her to select this philanthropy.
“My cousin, Justin Mitchell, is serving in Germany. He is an orthopedic surgeon so he gets to see firsthand what these men and women who are wounded go through,” she said. “I also have a cousin who is currently serving in Afghanistan so this was something that really means a lot to me.”
Perhaps even more close to home for the 17-year-old is her most recent endeavor: a book drive for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Coming from a very tight knit family, Mitchell said the hospital has done a lot for her family. She wasn’t born yet when her uncle, Gregg Titus, born two months premature, was helped by the hospital. But, Mitchell remembers clearly the times her young cousin, Garrett Bogucki, 10, also of Carmichaels, needed its help.
“I remember sitting at the hospital when Garrett had his cranial brain surgery and again when he had a severe asthma attack and had to be life flighted there,” she said. “The hospital has given so much to my family. I just wanted to find a way to make the hospital stay a little bit brighter for children there and thought books would be a great way to do it.”
The year went by very quickly for Mitchell. She said it was her family and friends who helped to keep things running smoothly.
“My mom (Becky), my dad (Jim), my brothers (Landon and Michael) and Tricia Ricco Lohr (her dance instructor of 15 years) have been there every step of the way,” Mitchell said. “It was because of Tricia that I was prepared to become Miss Rain Day.”
Mitchell also credited Miss Rain Day Scholarship Inc. board members Amelia Bertugli and Jeanine Henry for assisting her throughout the year.
“It has been a very busy time, but that’s OK because I really enjoyed every minute of it. My advice to whomever is crowned the 2014 Miss Rain Day is to try and take in every moment they possibly can. Your year will be over before you know it,” she said. “One more thing, I was told this last year, ‘Start your scrapbook right away and keep up with it.’ If I could convince them of one thing it would be that and not to do it right before it is due. Trust me, it is very stressful if you wait.”