Mikayla Holmgren made history Sunday night at the Ames Center in Burnsville when she became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant.
Holmgren, who also is believed to be the first woman with Down syndrome to compete nationwide, was named the recipient of the Miss Minnesota USA Spirit Award and Director’s Award.
The 22-year-old from Marine on St. Croix, dressed in a royal-blue Jovani gown with a train, shrieked with joy as she accepted the awards.
“You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile and dance,” said Denise Wallace Heitkamp, executive state director, as she read from Mikayla’s nomination letter for the Spirit Award. “You exude the spirit of Miss USA by always being true to yourself and putting others first. You have selflessness, humility and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and excitement in your heart.”
The audience gave Holmgren standing ovations as she accepted the awards.
“I’m so excited,” Holmgren said. “I can’t believe it!”
Kalie Wright of Eagle Bend was named Miss Minnesota USA 2018; Melissa Paahk of Detroit Lakes was runner-up.
Peyton Schroeder of Rosemount was named Miss Teen Minnesota USA.
The contest is part of the Miss Universe Organization.
Among those cheering were Lana Beaton and her 2-year-old daughter Clara, of Grand Forks, N.D. Beaton said she read about Holmgren’s accomplishments and decided to bring her daughter, who has Down syndrome, to the historic event.
“I was overwhelmed,” Beaton said. “I was full of so much hope and joy and excitement for her and our future.”
Mary Lynn Loegering, of Stillwater, brought her 10-year-old daughter, Emily, who also has Down syndrome. Holmgren and Emily are friends; the two were “buddies” at…
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