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— Every day is a struggle for Andrea Thorn, 12, of Vilonia and her mother, B.J. Thorn.

As a baby, Andrea suffered a stroke from over-oxygenation to the brain.

“From that she has cerebral palsy,” B.J. said. “She has problems from head to toe.”

But that doesn’t make Andrea different from most other girls her age. A fourth-grader at Vilonia Public Schools, she loves spelling tests and has lots of friends.

“She lives,” B.J. said. “She just lives, and she’s happy.”

The overwhelming happiness doesn’t take away all of the pain, though.

Andrea will never run around the house playing dress-up in her mother’s high heels.

But when Andrea’s two sisters began to participate in pageants, B.J. saw no reason that Andrea couldn’t join in as well.

The idea came about when B.J. took her three girls to Cindy’s Pageant Dresses in Jacksonville, owned by Cindy Jeffers.

She said she tries to make the dress fittings fun for the girls, and on the day the Thorn girls came in, Jeffers couldn’t keep her eyes off Andrea.

“I put a little tiara on her, and that little girl just lit up,” Jeffers said. “All girls get excited to get dressed up, but there was just something in her. It touches your heart to see a child that happy.”

Jeffers slipped a dress — open in the back to accommodate a wheelchair — over Andrea’s arms.

“And then B.J. and I started talking about how there needs to be something out there for these girls,” Jeffers said.

In a few months, there will be.

B.J. is organizing the first Arkansas Angels Pageant, to be held Saturday, March 19, at Beebe High School, and so far, things are going well.

Jeffers is offering free dress rentals to girls participating in the pageant.

“I’m not planning on renting dresses out for other pageants for that weekend,” she said. “If these girls need a dress and I have one that will fit them, I’m going to donate that rental.”

Jeffers has done several fittings for girls planning to participate in the pageant so far and has noticed a trend — they all light up just like Andrea.

“Even to watch the moms’ faces watching their daughters be so happy is something,” Jeffers said.

Another large sponsorship for the event came from an unexpected source: the Central Arkansas Buckmasters.

“I took the girls and had them accept the check,” B.J. said. “It was so funny.”

B.J. has already hit the street (if you consider Facebook a street) to ask for sponsorships.

“I figured out that I need $25 per girl to make sure they all get a medal, tote bag and a T-shirt,” she said.

And the pageant isn’t just for girls. B.J. said she already has several boys signed up for the Little Mr. and Mr. categories.

“The boys will be escorted out by past Miss Arkansas and other pageant winners,” B.J. said. “The girls will be escorted by members of the military.”

Categories include formal wear, photogenic, biggest smile and biggest hug.

B.J. said competition isn’t really the point of the pageant.

The point is to make everyone feel beautiful.

“We don’t have the luxury of worrying about fake hair and nails,” B.J. said. “We are just praying that their hair grows back after surgery. We have a different perspective on what beautiful is.”

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Print Headline: An Arkansas angel


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  • bjthorn
    January 9, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.

    Each one of the contestants will recieve a crown as well. Thank you Kallie for a great story!