Before Ronnie Goodnight took the stage, she greeted friends with a smile and warm, enthusiastic hugs.
She talked with a reporter and posed for photos.
She charmed Kadlec staffers and local celebrities, including a KNDU anchor and the reigning Miss Tri-Cities and Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen.
She didn’t seem nervous. Not one bit.
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In fact, she seemed pretty excited.
“(I’m going) to sing! Firework by Katy Perry!” she told the Herald. And, “there’s friends! And songs!”
Ronnie, 11, of Richland, was taking part in the annual Sparkle & Shine pageant at Chief Joseph Middle School in Richland.
Organized by Kadlec’s therapy services department, the pageant for special needs children has become a beloved tradition — something contestants, relatives, Kadlec officials and community members look forward to.
For Ronnie, the Sparkle & Shine has been a major confidence booster, said her mom, Ericca Goodnight.
At her first pageant a few years back, Ronnie was nonverbal. “But from that day on she started talking. And she won’t stop,” Goodnight said with a laugh.
Her heart swells with pride when she sees her daughter on stage.
“Watching her get to be a princess for a day — it’s always great,” Goodnight said.
The program runs a lot like a traditional beauty pageant, with judges and sashes and crowns.
But at Sparkle & Shine, there are no runners-up. Instead, everyone wins, with each participant awarded a personalized title such as Miss Delightful or Mr. Entertainer.
And while the contestants get the chance to show off a talent, they don’t perform it live. They’re videotaped ahead of time to take the pressure off, and the videos are shown during the event.
This year’s seven contestants ranged from 5 to 21 years old, with talents from telling jokes to dancing and riding a bicycle.
Lisa Braudrick, supervisor of Kadlec’s therapy services, came up with idea for the pageant after watching a documentary about Abbey Curran, Miss USA’s first contestant with a disability.
The first Sparkle & Shine was in 2014. It’s open to girls and boys.
“It’s really about them gaining confidence and self-esteem, building relationships and showing off what makes them sparkle and shine,” Braudrick said.
She added that, “the stories their families tell — it’s so moving. It’s very inspiring.”
Susan Kreid, a Kadlec Community Board member, was part of this year’s panel of judges, whose job it was to dole out encouragement.
She’d served on the panel before and was delighted to be back again, she said.
“It’s (the contestants’) time and they shine. They really do. They just shine,” Kreid said.
Even before she walked across the stage, Ronnie already was shining.
She wore a lovely blue dress, her hair curled into perfect ringlets. When she talked about her talent, she couldn’t help it: She sang Katy Perry’s name.
Ericca Goodnight said Sparkle & Shine is a great program, and she hopes it gets even more attention and support.
“All of these kids involved — every last one of them is special. And they have so many obstacles,” some visible and some not, she said.
Through the pageant, maybe “we can put some light to it — pretty much shine some light on it and say, ‘they’re just like everybody else.’ ”