Trent Ernst, Editor
On January 2, Simone Van Heerden received the letter she’d been hoping for weeks.
That was the day the 15 year old Tumbler Ridge student was accepted to the Miss Teen Canada pageant. “I was so happy,” says Van Heerden. “I was ready to go to the competition right there. I told every one at school, I posted it on facebook… I even bought high heels so I could figure out how to walk in them.”
Van Heerden always dreamed of being a model. She loves dressing up. She learned about the opportunity from another Tumbler Ridge Secondary student, Braiden Chalifoux. “Braiden grew up with the girl who won last year,” says Van Heerden. “He showed me the site, and I thought, ‘wow, what a great opportunity.”
So Van Heerden went onto the website and applied. She says the contest isn’t a traditional beauty pageant, though there are those elements. “Our mission is to give every Canadian teenage girl the chance to step up into the spotlight and show the world her own kind of beautiful,” says the website. “Our commitment is to set the highest standards of competition versus other pageant systems. We want to make sure that every girl who enters the contest has the opportunity to learn, grow, challenge themselves, and engage with a higher purpose for a chance to express her individuality, transform and realize her true potential, represent her country and take an active role in her community.”
As a result, many of the contestants do not conform to a standard definition of beauty, though many still do.
And, says Van Heerden, there is a strong focus on giving back. So as a condition of being accepted, Van Heerden has to raise money for a charity, in this case, Cardiac Kids.
Cardiac Kids is a volunteer group. Their goal is “to raise much-needed funds for children who are suffering from congenital heart disease,” says the website. “1 in 100 Canadian children are born with a congenital heart defect and more than half need surgery to survive. More than half of the patients who require surgery are under one year old, and almost a quarter are less than a month old.”
So Van Heerden has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Cardiac Kids. All the money she raises there will go to support the children and staff at the cardiology ward at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Of course, the fundraising also plays into the pageant. For each $100 she raises, says Van Heerden, she will get an extra bonus point. And, if she raises the most money in the province, she will be “fast tracked” to the Miss Teenage Canada pageant and get 70 percent off her entry fee.
But first, she says, she needs to participate in the Provincial Pageant, which will be held April 2 and 3 in Vancouver. To get there, she’s also trying to raise money to pay for the trip down to Vancouver, plus the entry fees. She’s managed to raise over $400 so far.
And what happens if she wins? Van Heerden says the prize is $40,000, and she’s already planning on giving half of it away, to the community and to charity. “If I win the pageant, I will also go to Africa to help the kids over there, as well as traveling around doing modeling stuff.” Van Heerden, who is originally from South Africa, says she looks forward to going back to Africa.
The winner will also be given a chance to compete in the Miss Teen Universe pageant, and will travel around the world representing Canada, as well as to raise awareness for Free the Children, another Charity supported by the contest.
Links to her gofundme campaign can be found on the Tumbler Ridge News website and facebook page.