Miss Tri-Cities to compete for statewide crown next week

Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldJune 27, 2014 

Miss Tri Cities 2014

Miss Tri-Cities, Janae Calaway, will compete in the Miss Washington pageant

SARAH GORDON — Tri City Herald

It's been a whirlwind year for Janae Calaway, the reigning Miss Tri-Cities.

She's made 110 appearances around the state since earning the crown last summer.

She attended Water Follies events, read to children at public libraries, visited children's hospitals in seven states, appeared before the state Senate in Olympia and performed as a dancer.

For her final act, she will travel to the west side of the state this weekend to prepare for the Miss Washington pageant Thursday and July 5 at the Highline Performing Arts Center in Burien.

Is she nervous? A little, she confessed Friday. But she's also excited to move ahead with her plans, which include earning that Miss Washington crown and then the Miss America pageant.

"I am ready for this, despite being a little nervous," Calaway said.

"But no matter what happens, it has been a wonderful year as Miss Tri-Cities. I love living here, and it's an honor to represent the Tri-Cities at the Miss Washington pageant."

In the talent portion of the pageant, she will perform a jazz dance to Queen Latifah's I'm Gonna Live 'til I Die.

Calaway, the daughter of Courtney and Beverly Calaway of Pasco, knew as a child that she would follow in her mother's footsteps and be a beauty queen one day. Her mom was Miss Tri-Cities in 1982.

But when Calaway was 11, that dream of pageantry almost died. An unexplained illness paralyzed half her body even though she had no symptoms of any illness. There were lots of theories as to what caused it, but doctors never did know for sure, Calaway said.

"I was at the library with my sister reading a Where's Waldo book when I noticed my arm felt numb," she said. "Then I couldn't stand and when I tried, I fell. It was a frightening feeling."

She credits a strong faith in God and a determination to overcome the condition, and before long her mobility returned, though her right shoulder still slumps slightly, she said.

"The good part about that is it reminds me to stand straight all the time," she said.

But it wasn't Calaway's own illness that motivated her to adopt the care of children as her pageant platform.

Her best friend was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2010 and the life-threatening situation opened her eyes to the plight of children and the limited treatments for those who have cancer.

It was her friend's strength of character and optimism while being treated for her cancer that inspired Calaway to take up the challenge of fighting for more medical treatments for children.

"More than 35 children are diagnosed with cancer every day in the U.S.," she said, adding that "more than 40,000 children undergo cancer treatment each year, yet in the last 20 years, the FDA has approved only two new pediatric cancer drugs, as opposed to dozens for adults."

Since wearing the Miss Tri-Cities crown, Calaway has earned $27,000 in scholarship money, which she plans to use to finish her degree in speech pathology at Brigham Young University.

Tri-Citians can help her earn another $500 toward that scholarship fund by voting for her Brotherton Cadillac car commercial on YouTube.com.

Once at the site, plug "brotherton cadillac janae calaway" into the search field and the video will pop up. Then click on the "Like" button.

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