South Carolina has become known for its beauty pageant winners over the years. Headlines have ranged from a former Miss South Carolina Teen USA rambling about U.S. geography to the current Miss South Carolina's extreme weight loss. But there's more to these pageants than meets the eye.
Each of the 48 contestants in the Miss South Carolina Scholarship Pageant have a platform. For Miss Hilton Head Island Maegan Garner and Miss Colleton County Rice Festival Samee Cannon of Beaufort, those platforms hit close to home.
Miss HHI pushes for helmet laws
Name: Maegan Garner
Platform: Helmet laws
Maegan Garner originally got involved in pageants in the hopes of winning scholarship money for college. But something happened along the way that changed her life forever.
On Nov. 19, 2010, Garner was in a collision that ended in a motorcyclist losing his life. He was not wearing a helmet.
Since then, Garner has worked to educate people about the importance of wearing helmets.
"The most important thing is your head," Garner said. "It controls the rest of your body, so you have to protect it."
The 23-year-old Greenville resident who was crowned Miss Hilton Head Island on Jan 28, has made helmet safety her platform in the Miss South Carolina Scholarship Pageant. Garner is the first Miss Hilton Head Island in 16 years.
She speaks at schools, churches, bike rallies and other events to encourage people to wear helmets not only on motor vehicles, but on bicycles and horses, too.
"Anything that's faster or bigger than you, you need to take precaution," she said.
Garner has partnered with Harley-Davidson of Greenville and Greenville Hospital System to raise money for research and care for victims of head trauma. She's organizing a poker run to benefit the head trauma unit at the hospital. She joined the bicycle safety group Safe Kids Upstate to distribute bicycle helmets to elementary school students in Greenville.
She's also working with a legislator in Greenville to get the law changed in South Carolina. She said right now anyone older than 21 years old does not have to wear a helmet on a motorcycle or moped. She wants the law to require all ages to wear helmets.
The Miss South Carolina Scholarship Pageant will be held Tuesday through Saturday at the Township Auditorium in Columbia.
"This is my third trip to Miss South Carolina," Garner said. "We're hoping the third time is the charm."
Beaufort contestant backs organ donation
Name: Samee Cannon
Platform: Organ donation
As a little girl, Samee Cannon dreamt of one day becoming Miss South Carolina. Now that dream might come true.
The 20-year-old Beaufort resident won the title of Miss Colleton County Rice Festival in March and now is in the running for the state crown.
Cannon said after she won the festival pageant, she had to come up with a platform for the statewide pageant.
It didn't take her long at all to decide. Since her older brother, Sean Cannon, has been waiting for a liver for the past 10 years, she knew organ donation would be her pet cause. At age 26, Sean is in stage three of incurable liver disease.
"We really, really need to expand the knowledge on (organ donation)," Cannon said. "We're just trying to get the word out ... so everyone can be an organ donor."
She said there are so many misconceptions about organ donation. Some people think if an organ donor is dying that EMS or a doctor won't try as hard to save his or her life. She said that's completely false.
Cannon said another misconception is that having the organ donor logo on your driver's license is enough. She said it's important to tell family members and friends if you wish to donate your organs.
"When push comes to shove and you're in the ER, they aren't going to take the time to look for your wallet to see if there's a little symbol on your driver's license," she said. "You need to have people there to tell them this is what you want and this is how you want to do it so that it happens."
Cannon encourages people to register at www.donatelifesc.org. She said the hospitals can easily pull up your information if there is no one around to speak on your behalf.
"Even if I don't win ... I'd still love to get the word out about how important it is to be an organ donor and how everyone should do it," Cannon said. "It truly saves lives. ... I hope for a day that there isn't a list that they have to wait on, that there's just so many available organs that whoever needs one can get it at that time."