10 Most Beautiful Women 2012

Meet the 20 women who were chosen as finalists to compete in the 417 Magazine 10 Most Beautiful Women contest.

Readers nominated 96 women to the 417 Magazine 10 Most Beautiful Women contest. It wasn’t easy (the entries were all impressive), but 417 Magazine staff narrowed the list to 20 finalists who had the perfect combination of both inner and outer beauty.

The first round of voting narrows the playing field to 15 finalists. The second round brings the total down to our winning 10 Most Beautiful Women.

They will be announced in the September 2012 issue of 417 Magazine, and they’ll walk the runway during the fashion shows at 417 Magazine’s Indulge: An Evening for Women event on September 27 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Springfield.

Need a little incentive to vote? Well, these women aren’t just competing for beauty; they’re also trying to do a little good. Each woman chose a charity that’s important to her. The person who receives the most votes during the voting period gets to donate a portion of the Indulge ticket sales to her charity. The winner will be announced the night of the event.

Allison Cash Allison Croghan Chris Mendel Clementine Enger Bentley
Danielle Burkin Grace Canuzo Jennifer Tomb Karen Catt
Kimberly Harrington Kristal Gaines Linda Sue Sparkman Lisa Cox
Marcella Swatosh Meghan Connel Melanie Pulscher Rachel Happel
Robyn Bates Sherrie Johnson Brown Stephanie Weiss Tammy Neil

View the 10 Most Beautiful voting page!

Allison Cash, 35

Occupation: Vice President-Marketing, MADE Drinks Company
City: Nixa
Family: Husband Cody Cash, 12-year-old Chloe, 7-year-old Colin

What is your charity of choice?

Nixa Education Foundation.

Nixa is my hometown, my alma mater and my current residence. The Nixa Education Foundation supports Nixa Public Schools, which is the heart of the Nixa community. The foundation truly is an investment. It is an organization formed exclusively for the purpose of generating financial resources to meet the needs of Nixa Public Schools’ students, faculty and organizations.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

Love. The most beautiful women I know are full of love. They act in love and service to others. There is something about love that radiates energy and warmth from a woman, which in turn exudes beauty.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

Because I have a good friend who is a great writer.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I currently serve as president of the League of Women Voters of Southwest Missouri, a non-partisan group that works to get the community involved in the political process. I also serve on the radio committee for the League and share the responsibility of hosting a weekly KSMU radio segment, Making Democracy Work, with other League members

 I sit on the Nixa Education Foundation board as secretary. Recently, I got together with two lifelong friends, Cami Jenkins and Carrie Boone, to plan Nixa Sucker Day’s first annual Runnin’ for Suckers 5K Run/Walk to benefit the Nixa Education Foundation. I am active in the Food Garden initiative in the Nixa schools as well, working with other community members to start gardens at various Nixa elementary schools.

A member of the Askinosie Chocolate Advisory Council, I advise on marketing strategy and communication planning.

I am a proud supporter of Slow Food USA, Southwest Missouri chapter and was one of the founding members. I support the Doula Foundation of Mid-America through their numerous events including a sponsorship of their annual Friendraiser luncheon. Their mission really touches my heart.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

They drive me to do more. There is so much that can be and is being done. These experiences are rich because of smart and motivated people who are involved. I never once have regretted jumping on board with a group I’m passionate about because I continually meet the most inspiring people. The list of friends I have gained would take up a page of copy, there are so many. I truly enjoy the feeling of making our community work while working in the community.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I currently work as vice president of marketing for MADE Drinks Company, based in Chicago. I joined the company almost four years ago when a former client and personal friend, Charley Snell, decided to start his own organic beverage company. I jumped in with both feet (okay, I stuck a toe in first) and haven’t regretted it a day since I started. Working in a small startup is exhilarating. You never know what challenge awaits you on a daily basis.

What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moment is being called a faithful friend. Knowing that I have made a difference in a moment to someone important to me. Realizing that intention is powerful. I am most proud of my family and friends because if birds of a feather flock together I must be an okay bird.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

Myself. You realize along life’s path that many of the perceived barriers are in your own mind.

What are three words that describe you?

Driven, curious and intuitive

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My voice. My willingness to state my opinions, share with others and seek to learn more.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Candice Bergen. I adored her in Murphy Brown, my favorite show while growing up. I was obsessed with watching it. She was smart, driven and attractive. She was an example of doing what you wanted in life, regardless of your sex.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

Children. Mine and everyone else’s. They are naturally curious, eager and open-minded. Their combination of inquisitiveness, gratitude and presence is truly beautiful. I find them inspiring because of their ability to see things simply. It inspires me to try to knock away all the connections my brain wants to make at certain moments to get back to a more uncluttered view.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

I would tell her the truth in three parts. 1. You are beautiful. 2. Set your own standard of beauty; don’t look to the media to define it for you. 3. Look for true love, and beauty will find you.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

Cheering for my family at baseball and soccer games, enjoying a nice meal, laughing with friends, watching the sunset from our backyard, making s’mores and relaxing.

What is your most prized possession?

Our home. We live in my grandparents’ home that we inherited when my Nanny passed away several years ago. We renovated and expanded so it could accommodate our family of four. It is home in the most heartfelt sense. It is the most precious place in the world to me—the cottonwood trees clapping in the breeze, the barns creaking and popping in the heat, and if the light is just right, I feel my Nanny and Grandpa there smiling at our life. Nothing is better to me than standing in the middle of our space in the heat of summer, soaking in the hot sun.

What is your Facebook status right now?

Love these words. Join me in the pure atmosphere of gratitude. (Hafiz)

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

So easy to answer! To be able to sing well. Adele well. Superstar, belt-it-out well.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

The story is short but a favorite. I once saw Billy Long getting a pedicure.

Head to voting!

 

Allison Croghan, 22

Occupation: Morning Show Co-Anchor at KSN/KODE
City: Joplin

What is your charity of choice?
Homes of Hope in Joplin. It’s an organization created to help rebuild homes for those who lost theirs in the May 22, 2011 tornado.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

I think there are several factors that make a woman beautiful. Confidence, compassion and personality are some of the most important things to me. A smile is always the best accessory!

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist? 

I think it’s important for younger girls to have positive role models to look up to. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference! I’m only 22 years old and I’m involved in my community, driven in my career, living a healthy lifestyle and hoping to make a positive impact on the people around me.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I recently participated in Dancing With The Joplin Stars, which raised money for Art in Public Places. I practiced 15 to 20 hours a week with a professional dance partner for several months before the event. We ended up winning Judges’ Choice, which was very exciting. I’ve also been involved with the Special Olympics Missouri and Homes of Hope in Joplin.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

I was really happy to be a part of Dancing With The Joplin Stars because it was a fun event that benefited an incredible cause. Arts are more important than ever in Joplin because it’s a way to help people get their minds off of recent events. It also gave me the opportunity to work with other people who are passionate about our community.

I also had a blast judging the Polar Plunge in Joplin this spring. Hundreds of people braved cold temperatures and jumped into Shoal Creek to raise money for the Special Olympics, which is another great cause. And of course the rebuilding efforts are very prevalent in the Joplin community, so I have collected donations from friends and family in St. Louis and brought them to Homes of Hope in Joplin. They have a thrift store where they sell items and 100 percent of the proceeds go to rebuilding homes.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I co-anchor the morning show “Hometown Today” on KSN in Joplin. You know when Al Roker says “And now here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods” during the Today Show? That’s me!

What has been your proudest moment? 

 Seeing the people of Joplin come together after the tornado last May. The spirit of the community never ceases to amaze me, and I am so proud to call Joplin home.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

Trying to balance my crazy schedule and still have some sort of social life. Waking up at 3 am every day is harder than it sounds!

What are three words that describe you?

Adventurous, positive, goofy

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My smile! You never know... It could make a difference in somebody’s day!

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Princess Diana. She was just as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. She was very passionate about helping others and made a difference in the world. I loved her style and elegance as well.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

My faith. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and I know that God has amazing plans.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

There’s nothing wrong with being beautiful on the outside, but it’s more important to be beautiful on the inside. It’s important to take care of yourself, treat others with respect, treat yourself with respect, and be the change you wish to see in the world. Your looks might fade, but your impact will last forever.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

I really enjoy traveling and trying new things. I like spending my days off with good family or friends, doing something outdoors and sharing lots of laughs. Plus it’s nice sleeping in past 3 a.m.

What is your most prized possession?

My family. I don’t know what I would do without them! A close second is my mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.

What is your Facebook status right now?

“Good morning, Hometown Today-ers!! I’m back on-air today, so be sure to tune in to KSN from 5:30-7 a.m. for all of your latest news, sports and weather on the tens! See you there. :)”

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

For the sake of my family and friends, I wish I had a better singing voice. I enjoy karaoke, so it would probably help if I could carry a tune.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I love sports! I interned at ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut when I was in college. The first time I ever reported on live television was sideline reporting on ESPNU. 

Head to voting!

 

Chris Mendel, 45

Occupation: Elementary Principal with Springfield Public Schools
City: Springfield
Children: 18-year-old Emily, 21-year-old Joey

What is your charity of choice?

The Kitchen, Inc. One of my favorite Catholic charities is The Kitchen. I have always been moved by its story and how just one individual, Sister Lorraine, was able to make such a positive impact on the lives of the poor and homeless. Because of her efforts, what started as a soup kitchen in the St. Agnes Cafeteria back in 1983 has now evolved into The Kitchen, which is now the largest provider of services for homeless children and families in southwest Missouri.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

Humility, a great sense of humor, love for your family, putting others’ needs first, being an optimist, seeing the good in people, and being a great listener.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I am guessing that the person who nominated me is quite convincing and persuasive.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

As a former teacher and current principal in the Springfield Public Schools for the past 20 years, I have had wonderful experiences working with community organizations and Partners in Education. I think it’s very important to teach our young people the importance of giving back to the community, even in simple ways like asking students to bring 50 cents to wear a hat and then give all the donations to a charity. Or having students donate clothing to The Clothing Bank. Over the years, I have spearheaded or partnered with other staff in raising funds for charities and organizations including The Kitchen, Community Blood Center, Humane Society of Southwest Missouri and Isabel’s House. I also enjoy running in charity 5K and 10K races to help support area organizations.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

It’s always humbling to see how willing children are to give up their allowance for a week or empty their piggy banks for a good cause. Knowing how much we can all make a difference to make our community an even better place is very meaningful for me.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am proud to say that I belong to the best profession in the world, being an elementary school principal!

What has been your proudest moment?

As far as a moment that is career related: When I was named the new principal at David Harrison Elementary ranks right up there with proudest moments. I had the distinct privilege of selecting my own staff, an honor that most principals don’t get to experience since new school buildings aren’t built very often in a community. As far as a personal proudest moment: Seeing both of my kids graduate from Springfield Public Schools and move on to college to explore careers in communications (Joey) and law (Emily).

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

My son has had to deal with autoimmune diseases his whole life. While this has been a tremendous challenge for our family, he has really taught me the meaning of life: How important it is not to take things for granted, how to be resilient, how to not sweat the small stuff and how important it is to build positive relationships with friends, family and co-workers.

What are three words that describe you?

Social, active, reflective.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

I am very blessed to have good health and for that, I am very thankful. When I turned 40 I began a running regimen that I’ve stuck to that has helped me stay focused and motivated.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

My mom, Maureen, and my grandma, Nellie, were the most beautiful women in my eyes when I was growing up. Not only did they give me all the security, love and support that every child deserves, they also helped shape me in being who I am today. I have such fond memories of listening to their stories and would always get such a kick out of seeing both of them crack up—so much so that they would cry.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

The teachers at David Harrison Elementary are my greatest inspiration. They are so amazing. Their tireless efforts in meeting the needs of our students never goes unnoticed. Their vast talents, creativity and willingness to serve our students makes my job very easy. I learn from them every day.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Everyone is beautiful in at least one way. Some women have a great sense of humor. Others are great listeners. Others are great mothers. Some are really athletic. Others are compassionate. Others are extremely loyal. Some are incredibly confident, etc. Find what makes you beautiful and build on that.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

Going shopping with friends and family, getting a pedicure, going on a 4-mile run, spending time on Table Rock Lake, traveling and playing a little three-card poker is always fun.

What is your most prized possession?

My most prized possession would be my family.

What is your Facebook status right now?

Single.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

Being able to do a back handspring.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

A guilty pleasure I have is catching up on my favorite soap opera, The Young and the Restless. People have told me before that I’m a pretty good ping pong player. I have fished in bass tournaments with my dad. When I was a junior in high school my family was vacationing in the Table Rock area and on our way to Silver Dollar City and we were stuck in traffic on Highway 76 (imagine that). My brother, a cousin and I were in the back of a camper, and my brother and cousin were goofing around out of boredom. My brother decided to throw a potato at my face (like a baseball) and my nose ended up laying on the left side of my face, obviously broken. Instead of spending that day at SDC, I ended up having emergency surgery at Skaggs Hospital.

Head to voting!

 

Clementine Enger Bentley, 50

Occupation: Muse
City: Springfield. Navy wife, but settled back to my roots in Missouri and chose Springfield, Missouri as our “Forever Home.”
Husband: Anthony Bentley

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Humane Society of Southwest Missouri. When there is a crisis, this organization is an animal’s voice, advocate and home.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

Everyone has something beautiful about them.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but someone out there must like me.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I’m a Springfield Missouri Dog Training Club Member, and I volunteer as an assistant in the Public Manners Class. I’m a contributor along with my husband for the Cox Health Foundation. I use part of my tooth~fund for a local animal hospital to help cover cost of procedures or medications that may help out a pet owner that can’t quite cover the expense. I’m also a Siamese Cat Rescue financial contributor and a Quit Net online volunteer (a smoking cessation website).

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

It just makes me feel good.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am a Renaissance woman. I’ve had to wear many hats being married to a Navy man. Currently I am recovering from sarcoidosis, a somewhat rare auto immune disease (don’t worry you can’t catch it!). I have done everything from working in a kennel to being a research assistant at the Military’s Medical School in Bethesda, Maryland, where I cried every Friday, because I was the demise of many rats… um… going to Minnesota, so to speak. I worked at a private school called Pathways in the Washington, D.C. area as a one-on-one teacher for students with disabilities. I really loved this job and I was good at it, and I never came home crying.

What has been your proudest moment?

March 12, 1999 at 6 p.m., when I became Mrs. Anthony Bentley at 39.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

Graduating and being one of the 17 students out of the entire UMKC University schools (I was in the School of Biological Sciences) to be a Vice Chancellor Honor Recipient. What makes this so special to me is I have a genetic disorder right on the cusp of Fragile X, and it made me autistic. I don’t think anyone really thought I could or would do it. I graduated in 1997 with a degree in biology and a minor in German language. I was 37 at the time.

What are three words that describe you?

Silly, loyal, amazed.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My internal organs, including my lungs, because Sarcoidosis almost destroyed them.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Minnie Mouse! I love the way she smiles and talks to her husband Mickey, and I am fascinated how her stocking feet melt into her beautiful shoes.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

I love how thunderstorms smell when they are rolling in. I am inspired by how my meow-meows, our Siamese littermates Liesl and Edel, curl up together. I am inspired by how Rudy (my service dog) knows how to get me out of buildings and how the top of his head smells like bologna. I am inspired by wind in the branches… You see, I could go on and on.

How do these things inspire you?

They make me feel alive!

 What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Highly overrated, and what is considered beautiful is constantly changing. So the best thing anyone can do is stand up straight, be polite and mean it!

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

 I’d spend it with Anthony, Rudy, Liesl and Edel watching a scary movie.

What is your most prized possession?

I don’t have an answer to that, and I know that people and pets aren’t possessions, but if there was a fire in the house and I had to get out suddenly I would:

1. Wake up Anthony

2. Tell him to grab Liesl and Edel

3. Rudy would probably be already barking and nudging me or Anthony

4. We would move like a stealth bomber outside. Oh, and can’t forget Rupert, our fish. So knowing my husband, he would go and grab the fish bowl for me. And then the fire department would come and everything would be right as rain.

What is your Facebook status right now?

Married.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

Wings to fly.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

When Anthony was stationed in Great Lakes Naval Hospital, I took ground school and took flying lessons. I had to stop taking lessons because this is when I developed the Sarcoidosis and began chemo for it. So I know how to take off and fly; I just don’t know how to land. If I ask you if you want to go flying, you better say “no!”

Head to voting!

 

Danielle Burkin, 28                               

Occupation: Project Coordinator, Mercy Clinic; Children’s Ministry Assistant, New Beginnings Fellowship in Hollister
City: Ozark          
Husband: Nick Burkin         

What is your charity of choice?

Operation Christmas Child. It’s the world's largest Christmas project, and it brings joy and hope to needy children around the world through gift-filled shoeboxes and the Good News of God's love. Since 1993, more than 94 million shoebox gifts have been delivered to children in more than 130 countries.

I love this project of Franklin Graham’s organization, Samaritan’s Purse. By filling a shoebox with items totaling less than $20, needy children around the world are given what are often their only personal belongings. This shoebox filled with items as simple as a toothbrush and toothpaste or soap often arrives to children who receive these items for the first time in their life. Most importantly, every child that is given a shoebox through Samaritan’s Purse hears about the love of Jesus. Such a small and simple donation makes such a difference in the life of a child who has nothing.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

Since God created beauty, I can’t think of anyone better to define it. He never uses the outward physical appearance to determine beauty. In fact, God told Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I nominated two of the most beautiful women I know for this contest. So when I received the message from the magazine, I was expecting to be able to tell them all about the two people I had nominated. When they informed me I was the one nominated, I was floored and humbled. I guess my words were not as eloquent as others, because both of the women who I nominated were far more deserving than I.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I volunteer as children’s ministry assistant, women’s committee member, and website coordinator for New Beginnings Fellowship in Hollister. In these roles, I design stage sets, head up stage and church design and production for vacation Bible school, prepare for children’s and women’s retreats, assist with the church website design, and teach Kindergarten through second grade Sunday school. There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to use my creativity to bring God glory, and ultimately tell others about the most important person in my life: Jesus. I am so fortunate to serve alongside a church full of some of the most selfless volunteers and loving church members. They mean so much to me, and I can’t imagine my life without them. My heart overflows with joy just thinking about them.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

To use the words of Rick Warren, I was made by God and for God, and until I understood that, life never made sense. Only in God, did I understand my true origin, identity, meaning, purpose, significance and identity. Without Christ my life means nothing.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I work part-time as project coordinator for Dr. Keith LaFerreriere and Dr. Matthew Kienstra. I am so blessed to work for such two amazing physicians and people. They allow me to use my creativity and passion to complete marketing projects and plan and design events and projects for the office.

What has been your proudest moment? What are you most proud of?

I know this sounds cheesy, but I am truly married to the most amazing husband a girl could ever ask for. There are many fine men out there, but I am beyond blessed to be married to one of the kindest and most selfless men of God I know. He truly is my better half, and I am so proud and honored to be able to call him my husband.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

The biggest hurdle I have had to overcome has been myself. The internal battle of insecurity, self-doubt and the drive toward perfectionism destroyed me. I was consumed with self, and that struggle to find self-worth lead me down the road of depression, bulimia and fear. But through Christ’s grace, He has shown me that my identity and purpose comes from Him alone, and that His plan for me is far greater than my own. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

What are three words that describe you?

Purchased by grace.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself? Why?

My two front teeth were knocked up into my gums after getting hit by a car while crossing the street in high school. Because I was wearing braces, they were stabilized enough not to fall out. Dr. Powell and Dr. Becker were able to slowly bring them back down over time with the braces, and now you would never know. So I’d have to say that my favorite feature is my smile because it is a constant reminder of how fortunate I am.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, because they are the epitome of classic beauty

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

The Bible. It inspires me to be more than I could ever be on my own. Through the Lord’s grace, He continues to perform work on me, and “his grace to me was not without effect.” No one provides a more perfect demonstration of God’s love and grace than Jesus. He died on the cross for me, and I will never come close to being perfect, but my biggest heart’s desire is that my life will resemble his more and more every day, and that one day I will hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

I love to go antiquing and flea market shopping. The whole process of finding something old and renovating it to create something new and beautiful is thrilling to me.

What is your most prized possession?

I would have to say that my most prized physical possession is my wedding ring. It symbolizes so much to me: the love of my husband, our life together, and the blessing of the Lord who gave me so much more than I deserve or could ever ask for.

What is your Facebook status right now?

With hubs, getting breakfast before he leaves for Colorado. :( Sure will miss this man of mine. — at Lola's Pastries and Eatery.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

The gift of entrepreneurialism and leadership; I very much admire people with those gifts. It takes a lot of talent and hard work to see a vision from concept to completion, and I admire anyone who is able to accomplish that.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I am a horrible driver. During my years as a student at College of the Ozarks, I plowed over two stop signs. One of my parents’ favorite stories to tell people is that as a teenager I informed them that I was so thankful that I didn’t have a “blind spot” because I had “good eyes.” However, if you know me that probably doesn’t surprise you.

Head to voting!

 

Grace L. Canuzo, 39

Occupation: Operations Director at Healing Hands Chiropractic & Diagnostic Clinic
City: Springfield
Family: husband Dr. Kevin Hatfield, D.C.; 15-year-old Brooke; 8-year-old Blake

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Special Olympics Missouri. I would like the same athletic opportunities for normal people be facilitated generously to children and adults with disabilities. Having been extensively involved in sports as a soccer mom, I have become more sensitive to children with special needs and their parents who dream of having the same opportunity and experience for their children. Additionally, in honor of my mother who has worked for the state for 13 years, I would like to help the under-represented members of our community—the disabled. She's taught me to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves and to treat others with respect, fairness and equality. Sports offer more than basic technical skills. They cultivates values such as patience, determination, teamwork and trust for example, that people with special needs need to be equipped with in order to live a fruitful life just like you and me.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

There are so many different cultural perspectives on what makes a woman beautiful, and if we are to factor in the media's ultimate standard of beauty, which is to look paper-thin and highly-finished, then we would be much more confused and misled. Being beautiful goes beyond the physical attractiveness. I find a woman beautiful when she is comfortable in her own skin, when she fights for the greater good and is dauntless as a catalyst of change in the arenas of parenting, politics, relationships and humanitarian efforts.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I define my own success as a woman, as a mother, as a partner and as a human being. Undoubtedly, there are thousands of attractive women in the community. However, when it comes down to goals and vision and vim and vigor, I see myself as a force to reckon with. In the past, it was my ability to compel others to exceed company expectations that gave me the corporate credentials. Today, it is about my capacity to be in the forefront of responsible parenting and civic leadership that gives me the extra one degree of separation from other successful professionals.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I am a member and supporter of Essence and W.I.N foundations, advocating for the success of battered women and neglected children of America. I have added a new focus in 2012, and that is helping the Springfield U8 Soccer Team. This group of young talented players need help in securing sponsorships and in being able to raise funds for the Disney ESPN World Championships in August 2012. In February, I volunteered to spearhead the aforementioned efforts. It is such an honor for us Greene County residents to have young champions of sports hailing from the Missouri Ozarks.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

It is fulfilling as a Christian to have helped someone leap from being a victim to being a victor. I always encourage those I have helped to pay it forward: If every human being commits to helping another human being in need, this world will be filled with love and happiness. No one would feel abandoned and despondent.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am the Operations Director for Healing Hands Chiropractic & Diagnostic Clinic, ensuring order in all aspects of the business. The clinic has been around for over 13 years in the same location, hence I'm glad to be a part of a small practice that has been serving Springfield for many years.

What has been your proudest moment?

One of my proudest moments would be when my daughter (6 at the time of my sister's death) comforted me with her words, “Mom please understand. Everything happens for a reason and sometimes it's not clear to us why. Only God knows.” I stopped from crying and reproaching God.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

I am a firm believer that God does not assign obstacles that we cannot overcome. However, the hardest hurdle I had to overcome was the untimely passing of my one and only sister, Jessica, who died with her unborn baby of vehicular manslaughter on June 19, 2004. Such tragedy left her three very little children (at the time 4, 3, and 1 year old) to go on in life without her. Nothing and no one could bring my sister back, but God granted me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

What are three words that describe you?

Tenacious, ambitious, empowering.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My feet are my favorite feature because I love shoes. My feet can rock 5-inch stiletto heels and boots for hours! It’s a skill.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

I had a skewed version of being beautiful as a child. My mother to me was the most beautiful woman growing up. Although people would always comment on how my sister resembled my mother and I my father. I was sort of bitter about it growing up until sports came into my life, shifting my focus from aestheticism to athleticism.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

When I was 5, my mother had me memorized the poem Invictus by William Earnest Henley. Ever since then, I have been reciting this poem in times of weakness and despair. This poem reminds me that no matter what situation I am in, I will be able to emancipate myself from it because I am my own CEO.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

My advice to a young girl would be to embrace who she is, as that is reflective of her gratitude to the Lord's kindness and her trust in Him. Generally speaking, when you are comfortable in your own skin (self-acceptance), being beautiful on the outside is the least of your worries. When your inner beauty or soul is healthy, it makes your physical appearance strong, your charisma inviting, your functionality as a human being positive, and your life worth living.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

I would spend half of the day meandering in the bookstore to search for Oprah's favorite picks. I would peruse antique shops and flea markets. And last but not least, I would shoe-shop. A woman can never have too many shoes!

What is your most prized possession?

As a soccer mom, my most prized possession is my H2. This 7,000-pound truck is big enough to keep us all safe and to haul everything and everybody (including pets!) when going to practices and tournaments in town or out.

What is your Facebook status right now?

I'm usually at a sports-related event or gabbing about it.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

Tailoring. I'd like to be able to weave my fashion ideas together and into reality on my own.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I attended a leadership seminar a few years ago and had a wardrobe malfunction when I stood up and sort of walked around to acknowledge people prior to receiving my award. Nobody was brave enough to tell me right away that my back zipper was open, exposing my thong. Then two years later, I attended another leadership seminar. Inside the elevator, I met a gentleman who had seen me at the prior seminar. He said loudly, “Hey remember me, I'm Joe!” I looked puzzled, as I didn't remember him clearly. He then said, “That's okay. I remember you and your purple thong when your zipper broke,” he chuckled. Mind you, we were not alone in the elevator. I thought it was kind of rude, so I handled it the best way I could by retorting, “It was Victoria's Secrets, and the color was lavender, meaning light tint of violet. Thank you very much.” I sashayed out the elevator with my head help up high.

Head to voting!

 

Jennifer Tomb, 33

Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist, Springfield Public Schools
City: Springfield
Family: Husband Eric Tomb, 10-year-old Kaylei

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. There are so many organizations that give so much to our community, but the one I choose to support is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. After taking part in Team-in-Training in 2008 and raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I have learned that I have a passion for helping others like myself who have fought or are currently fighting cancer and other diseases. I believe in supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s mission to help children with catastrophic diseases regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Every child and their families deserve a chance to battle disease without the immense worry of how to pay for the large hospital costs. My current goal is to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and run in the St. Jude Marathon in December 2012.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

I believe a beautiful woman shows inner beauty in her daily life. She helps others in need and within her community. I believe a beautiful woman is humble and embraces life.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I believe I can show people that helping others and living life with a positive attitude makes you a beautiful woman. I strive to make a difference in peoples’ lives and embrace life each day. I believe this makes me a beautiful woman.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I work with the Nixa Band program as their color guard instructor. Also, I have raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and American Cancer Society.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

While working with the Nixa Band program, I get to work with so many talented individuals and for a director who not only is a great leader but who truly cares about his students and community. Even though I have lived in Springfield most of my life, I feel like I am a part of the Nixa community, as well. Nixa feels like home to me.

Raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society was a great goal of mine. Through Team-in-Training, I was able to raise money to help advance cancer research. Also, a portion of money raised for LLS is directly given to patients to help offset some of their necessary costs such as medicine and transportation to receive treatment.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am a speech-language pathologist for Springfield Public Schools. I believe I was meant to work in this field because I love helping people of all ages learn to communicate. Communication is the basis for everything we do, and being able to help students and adults gain independence and confidence in their ability to have a conversation with ease, tell others what they want, or share stories and feelings makes me feel like I’m making a difference in peoples’ lives. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moment occurred the day I graduated with my master’s degree in August 2002. I was a new mom and overcame hurdles associated with juggling motherhood and going to school. The moment I walked across that stage at Missouri State, I looked up in the direction where my 15-month-old daughter was sitting and thought, “I wouldn’t have this any other way.” She helped me become a centered and focused student. I knew I had become the person I was meant to be—a speech-language pathologist and a mom.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

The biggest hurdle in my life that I have overcome has to be my fight with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2007. My daughter was 5 years old, and I was in a fairly new relationship with my now-husband, Eric. With the help of Eric, my greatest support and twin sister, Melody Kessinger, and so many family members and great friends, I fought Hodgkin’s lymphoma with a determination I never knew existed. I became the strongest version of me I have ever seen. I feel blessed and strive to be the best version of myself each day of my survivorship.

What are three words that describe you?

Determined, dedicated, caring.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My favorite feature is my nose. I used to dislike my nose when I was a kid. In fact, when I was in fourth grade I remember covering it up with my hand while I sat in class because I thought it was huge. I was embarrassed and wished I could have a straight nose like other girls in my class. Now, I embrace my nose because it looks my mom’s nose and it reminds me of my Filipino heritage.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

When I was younger, I thought that Whitney Houston was the most beautiful woman. She reminded me of my mom because she was a beautiful singer and had warm, brown skin. She was a gorgeous singer, and I adored her music. I don’t think there was a song I didn’t like!

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

My favorite source of inspiration is my daughter. She amazes me every day, and she exhibits qualities that I wish I had. She has passion for many things, including dance. She is considerate and wants to help everyone. She is also inquisitive and a great conversationalist. She inspires me to work hard and become a better mom.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

My advice is that being beautiful is more than your appearance. Women who are truly beautiful know how to embrace life and the people around them. Beauty is shown by the gifts and time we give to others and how we try to make life a better place for the people we love and for people on our community.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

I love spending time being a mom, wife and friend. On my time off, I like being a dance mom and driving my daughter to her activities. I love hanging out on the couch and watching movies with my husband. Some days, I am fortunate to have time to hang out with my best friend and twin sister and just do nothing at all.

What is your most prized possession?

My most prized possession is my Livestrong bracelet. It may seem silly to place importance on a yellow plastic bracelet, but I held onto this bracelet throughout treatment waiting for the right moment to wear it. Once I began wearing it, I have worn it every day only taking it off when I shower and sleep. It reminds me of my strength as a survivor and of the many survivors who fight this fight each day. I wear it proudly.

What is your Facebook status right now?

Perfect running temp for a 3 mi run J

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I would love to be able to sing well in public. My husband, Eric, loves to sing and willingly sings karaoke when we go out. I have been known to sing with friends, but I get so nervous! Just once I would love to step up to a mic and belt out a Beyonce song without hesitation.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I have been a color guard instructor since I was 18 years old. I absolutely love working with young ladies and have made it my mission to help high school girls become independent problem-solvers and gain confidence that will help them in every aspect of their futures.

Head to voting!

 

Karen Catt, 46

Occupation: Founder of Ellis Fund; Mary Kay independent Beauty Consultant
City: Saddlebrooke
Family: Husband Larry Catt; Ellis (died 1994); stepchildren 31-year-old Jennifer, 29-year-old Jeff and 21 year-old Jon

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

The Ellis Fund. The Ellis Fund is important to me because I started it in memory of my son, Ellis Beam, who died in 1994 of cancer. The Ellis Fund helps pay non-medical expenses for families who have a child with cancer who are living in southwest Missouri. One of our main goals is to give people hope during a difficult time in their lives. I have personal experience and proof that there is a good reason to believe life will be good again.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It can be the kindness in her eyes, the heart that shares compassion, the hand which wipes away a tear, or the smile that brings out laughter. How you have treated someone else will influence how they see you as beautiful.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I think I was nominated because I made a difference to someone’s life, and the volunteer activities I have helped with impact a variety of ages and concerns in our community.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

Currently I am the founder of The Ellis Fund, the committee chair for Camo vs. Cancer, and volunteer with The Zo Charity Golf Tournament, Female Leaders in Philanthropy (FLiP), American Cancer Society Jr. Cattle Baron’s Ball and recovery meetings at Taney County Jail. And I am an active member of Fellowship Bible Church.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

It feels like a fresh start for me each time I see the spark in someone’s eyes when they either see a new way of life or at least a glimmer of hope that they are going to be okay through this tough spot.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I use the profits from my Mary Kay business to support the non-profit, The Ellis Fund. In my cosmetic business, I help other women feel beautiful about themselves with skincare and building self-confidence. And for The Ellis Fund it is my responsibility to raise funds, discover what financial help our families need and then negotiate the best way to fill those needs.

What has been your proudest moment?

I would say the Ellis Fund because it was rather scary to give up my comfortable life to begin something I knew would have some hard emotional hits for me. Add to that I was stepping into a position where people are depending on me as I am figuring out how to help them. What keeps me going is simply reflecting back to my needs years ago and the gratitude I still carry with me today.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

I had to throw several lifelong conceptions out of the window then go through some huge emotional rearrangements, and finally I realized God was giving me everything I needed to take care of such problems all along. I had just been looking through the wrong window. (This is paraphrased from another source.)

What are three words that describe you?

Hope, radiant, practical.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

I have lived a phenomenal life, which has shaped my personality, and met the most fantastic friends along way. I really like people, and their quirks.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

I always wanted to meet Diane Sawyer or Barbara Walters because I thought they lived a glamorous life and were respected for being intelligent with successful careers. I wanted to know all about the world and interview those famous people. I still watch every interview either of them airs.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

The outdoors (skiing, hiking, four-wheeling). I am inspired when I take a challenging trail, stop to admire beautiful scenery, and just wonder at how it all flows.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

“Do not confuse the girl you are today with the woman you can become tomorrow.” This is what I used to share with girls of the Inside Out program of the Greene County Juvenile Justice Center.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

Walk my dogs, go hiking or four-wheeling, read a good book curled up on the couch in our library, cook up something in the kitchen that fills the home with a delicious aroma, and kiss my husband goodnight.

What is your most prized possession?

Books! I am sort of possessive about them. Especially the biographies.

What is your Facebook status right now?

I just posted a picture of the quilt my girlfriends made for me.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I wish I could sing: I’d like to give the world a Coke and sing in perfect harmony… (You’re humming along aren’t you?)

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

Two comments from my husband: “You are a bit rough around the edges with a gooey caramel center.” He often says, “Things happen in Karen’s world that don’t happen in anyone else’s.” The stories are great, but too long to print.

Head to voting!

 

Kimberly Harrington, 37                                   

Occupation: Commercial Real Estate, Davis Property Management LLC
City: Springfield
Family: Husband Patrick Harrington, 7-year-old William, 4-year-old Preston

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Developmental Center of the Ozarks. The charity I would choose would be Developmental Center of the Ozarks (DCO). They help children and adults with disabilities maximize their abilities in their day-to-day lives, as well in the classroom and future career opportunities. DCO re-enforces their confidence, self-control, independence and self-esteem. One of the most powerful things they do is give the parents and family a sense of normalcy and hope. I’m not sure that the staff at DCO realize how empowering they are to these families. The unknown that future parents face when first finding out their beautiful baby has a disability is devastating and heart breaking. DCO’s purpose and mission is important to me (and my husband, family and friends) because William, our oldest son, has a disability. He suffered an in utero stroke, leaving him with the clinical diagnosis of left side spastic hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

I believe a beautiful woman is measured in how she handles adversity. It takes a blend of compassion, faith, humility and confidence all tied together with grace. That is beautiful to me.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I am honored by this gesture. I believe each of us is put on this earth for a greater good. If I have made a positive impression on one person, than I am living the life the Lord has intended. Being a finalist is a reflection of my parents’ guidance and faith.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

DCO and YMCA. I have chaired the White Party Committee for DCO for the past three years. I have chaired the YMCA’s annual auction for the past two years.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

Both organizations have unbelievable standards to achieve their missions for our community. It has been an honor to work with these organizations and help them with the fundraising that is so critical to aid them with their missions. I feel that I get as much, if not more, than I give to them.

Tell us what you do for a living:

First, I am a wife to my best friend, Patrick. Secondly, I am a supportive and loving mother to my beautiful, yet ornery, boys. My day-to-day duties require me to wear many different hats. For the past 13 years, my profession has been with Davis Properties, a commercial real estate company here in Springfield. Examples of my responsibilities include buying, selling, leasing and renovating commercial real estate. I work with lenders, accountants, attorneys, appraisers and title companies. I also review financials, insurance policies, payroll, audits and accounts payable. Our company would not be where we are today without the outstanding guidance and vision of Warren Davis. I have to tip my hat to our staff’s exceptional dedication to the company, and I appreciate them immensely. Without the support and love of my husband, I could not balance motherhood with my career.

What has been your proudest moment? What are you most proud of?

 My proudest moment was giving my mother the memory of birth. With the birth of our first child, the doctor allowed her to be present. This might not seem like a big deal to many but it was the greatest gift I felt I could give her. I was adopted and this was something she had never experienced.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

Finding acceptance in the unknown and handling it with grace.

What are three words that describe you?

Loving, gracious, and sunshine (that is what my mother has always called me).

What’s your favorite feature about yourself? Why?

I love to smile. I love to smile at my husband, my children, my family, my friends. But the best time to smile is when you might be looking at a complete stranger. You don’t know the path they have walked that day but everyone deserves to feel accepted and appreciated. The next time you see someone, simply smile. It warms the heart.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman? Why?

My mother. She raised me to always know beauty is within.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

Music is so powerful. Before graduating from Drury I was a dancer for more than 16 years. I never feel as free as when I’m dancing. I do dance like no one is watching.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Beauty is in your heart and witnessed through your actions.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

Snuggled up in the morning with my boys… all three.

What is your most prized possession?

My family is the most important thing in my life. If I had to choose a worldly possession, it would be the home I share with my family.

What is your Facebook status right now?

I am really bad about making time for Facebook. If I were to type a status right now it would be: Spring has come. Hallelujah! It’s almost lake time.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I would love to have the ability to shoot hoops with my husband, but basketball’s not my game. One would need to be able to dribble the ball to play the game, and I can’t even do that.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

When I was in kindergarten, I got sent to the principal’s office for saying a bad word. The school called my father to approve disciplinary action for me (keep in mind that back in the early ’80s parents could allow the principal to give spankings with a paddle). So my father asked what was said and the principal answered, “Give them Hell.” My father chuckled and explained to the principal that was our family motto. I did not get the paddle that day, and I will never forget the strength that motto has provided me. I now know this was my father’s way of teaching me to be strong, stay true to myself and never let others dull my shine.

Head to voting!

 

Kristal Gaines, 30

Occupation: Marketing Consultant at WCA, Waste Corporation of MO, Inc.
City: Republic
Family: 13-year-old Quinten, 6-year-old Jozlyn

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Women in Need (WIN). I choose this organization because I believe in its mission: “A not-for-profit organization designed to improve our local community by providing Women In Need the opportunity to enhance their self-esteem. We pledge to provide resources necessary to enable Women In Need to become women of strength, and provide reinforcement as they develop the qualities of compassion, professionalism, and motivation which will lead them to the path of success.”

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

I truly believe that beauty comes from within: kindness, appreciation, good character, attitude, good sense of humor, generosity, honesty, trustworthiness and a friendly smile. I think all of these things help a woman be confident in who she is, and that confidence comes out as beauty. A woman comfortable with who she is, is a beautiful thing.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I think I possess the qualities I listed above. I have a huge heart (that I wear on my sleeve), and I’m willing to help anyone who is willing to help themselves. I feel that everyone is beautiful in their own way. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I am an ambassador chair with the Republic Chamber of Commerce. I absolutely love the city I live in! I recently started a 12-week Citizen’s Police Academy in Republic as well. I belong and involve myself with several other organizations throughout the city of Springfield for my job. I am also in the early stages of developing a pet food bank for the citizens in Republic (and surrounding areas).

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

I enjoy helping out within my community. I feel it gives you a sense of human compassion and allows you to see that there still is good in the world. To that end, I think we are responsible for making good. A lot of people wait for the good to happen. Or they think, “Someone else will do it.” We all have to participate if we want our world to be a better place. I want my community to be the best place it can be for my kids, my friends and my family. I’m willing to do my part to make it that way.

Tell us what you do for a living:

My title is marketing consultant, which technically means I specialize in waste reduction, and I design and implement recycling programs. However, what I really do is rent out big blue dumpsters to businesses and contractors. Needless to say, I talk a lot of trash!

What has been your proudest moment?

Proudest moment: Winning Business of the Year from the Republic Chamber of Commerce. Most proud of: My two children. They amaze me with their kindness and can always make me smile (and test my patience!). I am proud of how close we are as a family. We love spending time together.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

Being a single mother, hands down. Being active in my community, having a career, and maintaining the busy life of two little ones is challenging and rewarding at the same time. There are days that I work off pure exhaustion.

What are three words that describe you?

Giving, creative, ambitious. 

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

I would have to say my smile or my eyes. I think that you can tell a lot about a person by both.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Julia Roberts. Her smile is contagious.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

I find inspiration in more things than I can count. But nature really inspires me. I would say nature humbles me. I love to be on the river. The beauty of a river is that it’s continually moving, never stops, is always changing and adapting. It nourishes nature around it: plants, animals and people. We can learn a lot from nature if we are willing to stop and notice.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Be true to yourself no matter what others try to tell you. “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”—Christopher Robin 

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

If the weather cooperates, a day at the river with my kids, dogs and friends would be ideal. 

What is your most prized possession?

My camera and pictures. I love being able to look back on the memories that I’ve created.

What is your Facebook status right now?

A quote of some kind. I am a huge quote fan!

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I would love to play the piano. I find it very soothing.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I enjoy traveling and love a good road trip! I love the feeling of being anonymous in a city I’ve never been before.  I want to visit the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

I would also love to live outside the city limits and start a hobby farm, and take care of as many animals as I’m able. Animals have an unconditional love like no other. 

Head to voting!

 

Linda Sue Sparkman, 33

Occupation: Receptionist
City: Mt. Vernon / Branson
Family: Mike Dillon, 13-year-old Melinda, 9-year-old Makayla, 6-year-old Anthony

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a nationwide voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer. Donations Contributed to ACS are in honor of My Mother Delores (Brown) Woods, Grandmother Nova (Leath) Brown, my cousins Melissa Wilson and Angie Brown, and everyone who has heard the word cancer.   

It was established in 1913. The society is organized into 12 divisions of both medical and lay volunteers operating in more than 900 offices throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. A sword is the symbol adopted by the American Cancer Society. Its activities include providing grants to researchers, running public health advertising campaigns and organizing projects such as the Relay For Life and the Great American Smokeout. It operates a series of thrift stores to raise money for its operations. Notable endorsements include the 4K for Cancer, a 4000-mile bike ride from Baltimore to San Francisco.  A study in 1994 showed that the American Cancer Society was ranked as the 10th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

I believe God has made all women beautiful inside out. I believe a woman is beautiful if she takes pride in herself and what god has given her, and if she has dignity, integrity, honesty, loyalty and dedication to God, family and friends.

Why do you think you’re a 10 most beautiful women finalist?

I believe people can see my soul shine through my eyes. I am a charismatic and sophisticated lady, I’m thankful for what God has given me, and I take pride in myself. I love life and all of my family and friends.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

Christian Associates Foundation, Hope Center, youth group activities, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Make a Wish Foundation, community area clean-ups. I love to volunteer my time and donations to organizations in our 417 community.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

I love make people happy. I am a giving person. I love to give to others and help them out as much as I can.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am the receptionist for the Mt. Vernon, Missouri veterans home in Lawrence County. I am also a licensed barber and cosmetologist.

What has been your proudest moment?

Having the opportunity to play volleyball at College of the Ozarks in Hollister and playing for state championship four years straight in high school at Purdy.

I am most proud of my life and my three children God has given me. The roads he has chosen for me and the challenges he knew I could overcome. I have learned to not follow the path of others, but to make my own road and let others follow.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

You can spend a lifetime with someone and truly never know them unless they open their spirit and soul to you. And most don't if they don't when you first meet them. I've learned the hard way: “Guard your heart.” Proverbs!

What are three words that describe you?

Character, integrity, classy.

Character is what you do when no one is looking.

Integrity is who you see when you look in the mirror every morning.

Classy is the elegance of being a woman.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My athletic ability. You can do so much more in life with dedication, strength and the discipline you achieve while you condition and train your mind and body.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Princess Diana. Princess Diana was an elegant, intelligent, beautiful lady. She walked with dignity and pride and carried her self gracefully. She is the most beautiful lady I have ever seen inside out.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

God, my parents and my children have guided me through life and have always stood by my side. The biblical scripture is the most inspiring to me because it was written thousands of years ago, and it pertains to all of us today.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Imagine yourself doing what you love and loving what you do. Being happy from the inside out, experiencing your dreams wide awake, being creative, being unique, being you and changing things to the way you know they can be so you’re living the life you always imagined.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

I love riding the Harley Davidson to Eureka Springs, having lunch at the Balcony Restaurant, riding to the Crescent Hotel to enjoy the tulips in the spring and seeing the rays of sunshine through the Thorncrown Glass Chapel. I also like horseback riding at Dogwood Caynon Nature Park, watching the sunset glistening across Table Rock Lake from the pontoon, riding the Seadoo to a rock cliff and jumping off and sitting in the hot tub when its snowing outside while icicles form from my hair. I like watching Melinda, Makayla, Angelina and Anthony laugh and play all day in the swimming pool at home and watching the kids ride Wildfire at SDC and the Kalani Towers water slide at White Water. I like going on the zipline at the Inspiration Tower at sunset, watching my garden grow and flowers bloom, seeing a red bird in remembrance of my grandmother Nova Brown, photography, running on the white sands of Panama and riding with the convertible top down. And I love the chance to go on the Honor Flight April 17, 2012 with our veterans. 

What is your most prized possession?

My life! Also a picture of John Lennon with his autograph and a doll in a red velvet dress my grandmother gave to me when I got out of the hospital.

What is your face book status right now?

My status would say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” if it was active.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I would love to go on stage at the supper bowl and sing like the beautiful Whitney Houston.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I grew up on a dairy farm in Barry County. Growing up in the middle of 150 acres meant a lot of hard work. Hauling hay, cutting wood, cutting ice in the winter, picking up walnuts and milking cows were part of my daily chores in Purdy, Missouri.

Another story: One memorial day in 1984, a drunk driver crossed the center line in Viola, Missouri and hit a little 6-year-old girl and her family’s vehicle on their way to church. She was in critical condition with internal bleeding, a crushed lung, a broken jaw, broken ribs and shattered teeth. The 6-year-old was given another chance at life, and that little girl was me.

Head to voting!

 

Lisa Cox, 44

Occupation: National Sales Representative and Trainer for Silpada Designs Sterling Silver Jewelry Company
City: Springfield
Family: Husband Steve Cox, 20-year-old Megan, 16-year-old Amanda Jane

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Lost & Found Grief Center. Lost & Found helps children and their families that are in crisis from the loss of a loved one. It helps them put the pieces back together, so they can get up and put one foot in front of the other each day and regain a sense of a “new normal” in a household that is grief-stricken from its loss.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

 When a woman is happy, she radiates beauty. Finding that happiness is what makes someone beautiful. Everyone’s happiness comes in different forms, and so does beauty.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

Because I have super sweet friends…

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I am very involved in Lost & Found and have been on its board of directors for three years. I also donate jewelry and do fundraisers with my Silpada Designs Sterling Silver Jewelry Company for any organization that needs to raise money including many schools, CASA, BCFO, Isabel’s House, GYNCA, The Kitchen, The Discovery Center, GHS Tennis and Football and truly anyone who asks!

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

Giving back to the community that supports and takes care of our local families is truly the best thing we can do. As individuals, we can never do enough to help support all of these amazing organizations. If you can’t give money, then give your time.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I sell and recruit for Silpada Designs Sterling Silver Jewelry Company. I started in 2000 and have built a nationwide team of amazing women! We have so much fun!

What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moment was when I was named 1 of 13 Founding Leaders in the Silpada Designs Company! I am most proud of my beautiful daughters and my wonderful husband of 23 years.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

Losing my father long before it was his time.

What are three words that describe you?

Happy, energetic and determined

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

I love to walk and do yoga and exercise, so I am grateful for my feet!

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

My mother because she had the biggest, sweetest heart. That along with her beauty was something to look up to!

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

I am inspired by other successful women. Coming from a family of girls, I love to see women excel in their businesses and goals.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Be yourself, exercise, be disciplined, love yourself and take care of the one body you were given.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

 Outside, being active in the sun and preferably by the ocean.

What is your most prized possession?

My golden doodle, Bella. She is amazing.

What is your Facebook status right now?

It’s about silver jewelry! Of course!

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I would love to be able to sing!

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I was raised in California. I spent lots of weekends on the back of a fishing boat deep sea fishing, and I never get sea sick!

Head to voting!

 

Marcella Swatosh, 39

Occupation: 6-12 Principal Norwood School until June; Assistant Superintendent at Sparta starting in July
City: Ava
Family: Husband Chris Swatosh, 10-year-old Reagan, 3-year-old Brock, 3-year-old Grant

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

The Jacob Yeates Foundation. It was founded by Jacob Yeates’s parents. Jacob Yeates was killed in a car accident November 25, 2006. He was 17 years old. He loved to help others with a friendly smile and a helping hand. After his accident, his family found that he had been helping many of his classmates with needs that they had. The foundation was set up to continue his spirit of giving and showing someone that they were loved and someone cared about them.

The purpose is to provide grant money to school districts, so they can help children in their district with school-related financial needs. The school districts have been able to help children with shoes, glasses, field trip fees, school pictures, coats, club dues, a yearbook and many other items that a child needs but many times cannot have or participate in because of financial limits.

This foundation is important to me not only because it is in memory of a great young man but because the foundation is based off the spirit of giving back to students. I have been able to see how this foundation directly helps students in our school and it truly makes a difference.

 What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

I believe that a woman’s actions are what make her beautiful, and it’s what’s on the inside, and in her heart. It’s also how she contributes back to the world in a small or a large way.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I am a finalist because I am blessed and humbled to be nominated by my 10-year-old daughter who believes that I am beautiful because of what I do to help others. I think as a mother that is possibly the best compliment that I could receive—that my daughter believes in me and what I do.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

• This past year, I along with our staff developed the First Annual Make a Difference Day at Norwood School. Students in grades six through eight stayed at school that day and made ornaments to be given to nursing homes for Christmas, and they wrote letters and cards to veterans. Our students in grades nine through 12 volunteered that day and went to nursing homes and senior centers, and helped with the Angel Tree Program. Our seniors planned, cooked, hosted and served a dinner for senior citizens at the school.

• As principal, I see many students in need. Our motto at Norwood School is “Every Child, Every Day, Whatever it Takes” and I take that to heart. I try to do what’s best for students. Doing “whatever it takes” is by far not the easiest solution or quickest fix to the problem. I try to listen with my heart, and if there is a need I try to quickly help. I also believe that it is crucial that students participate in extracurricular activities in order to feel like they are a bigger part of something and that they also have great memories of high school. I financially try to make sure that students have money to buy basketball shoes, have their hair done for prom, money to get into a ballgame, lunch bills paid, graduation items, clothes for students, as well as meeting parent needs. I also do all that I can to make sure that all students participate in graduation. It’s one of the biggest highlights of their lives, and they need to be a part of it.

• I work with local agencies such as law enforcement to ensure that students who are struggling receive help such as drug rehabilitation, places to live, food stamps and a chance to start over. Students always know that they can be honest with me, and I will find them help.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

These experiences are the reason that I went into teaching as an occupation—to make a difference. I can’t explain the feeling you get when you get to see the results of helping a child. It can make all the difference in their lives and the direction they choose to take. One positive relationship with a student can change the world.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I impact students daily and try to help make a difference in their lives. I try to remove all barriers that might hinder learning and try to ensure that students have a great school experience.

What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moment was when Norwood School was recognized by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as being a 2010 Gold Star School (only 1 of 6 schools in Missouri). It meant that all of the hard work and effort that the students, staff, community and school had placed into being the best academically was finally being recognized and acknowledged. Our school had committed to being focused on individual students and making sure that we did whatever it took for students to improve and achieve, and the award meant that we had finally excelled.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

My biggest hurdle to overcome has been when people are judgmental of children or don’t want to give 100 percent to kids. I see good in all kids. I believe that people should give with an open heart and not judge what people do with it, once it has been given. Being judgmental holds people back from what they could really accomplish.

What are three words that describe you?

Focused, compassionate, motivational.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My favorite feature would be my sense of humor. I love life and laughing. I enjoy the planning and carrying out of the jokes. I love people. I have a theory that if you don’t love going to work every day, then you have chosen the wrong occupation.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

The most beautiful women to me have always been my four sisters and my mom. They are some of the kindest, strongest, most compassionate, hard-working people that I have ever met. My family has always taught me that beauty starts with your heart and how you treat others, and I am blessed to be surrounded by women who exemplify that characteristic.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

My favorite source of inspiration would be all the kids who I’ve been blessed to work with for the past 16 years. I enjoy hearing from each of them and hear how their lives have been successful. I love meeting their spouses and children. It inspires me to continue making a difference by working with kids.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

My advice to a young girl about being beautiful is to just be “you,” and be compassionate of other people. Don’t let other people determine how you should be. Do the things in life that you want to do, and be the person that you want to be—not what other people want to mold you into.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

My favorite way to spend a day off is with my husband and children doing the little things in life, such as going to the park, having a picnic or hanging out at our house. Those are my favorite memories of childhood, and I want my children to have those same memories.

What is your most prized possession?

My most prized possession would be “Pa’s quilt” that my husband had made for me this past Christmas. My dad passed away of a massive stroke in January 2011, and I was devastated. My husband had the quilt pieced together with shirts that my dad had worn over the years. It’s my favorite thing that I have in my home, and I love covering up with it after a long day. It makes me smile because it holds so many memories of my dad.

What is your Facebook status right now?

“Finished Education Week today with a great K-12 Assembly with staff dressed as super heroes. I'm blessed to work with staff that continues ‘to do whatever it takes for students.’ Even better, my daughter is still speaking to me after the assembly.”

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I’m always amazed to see students at school and people at church who can sing and play musical instruments. I would love to be able to sing or play a musical instrument. It’s an amazing talent.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

People would be surprised to know that I met my husband in my classroom—and no he wasn’t my student. I was working as an English teacher and yearbook sponsor, and he used my classroom in the evening to teach college-level law classes. I stayed one evening to tell whoever was using my classroom to not erase the board or bother with items on my desk. To make a long story short, when he walked into my classroom, I suddenly didn’t care about the board or the items on my desk. We went on a date later that week, and, well, the rest is history.

Head to voting!

 

Meghan Connell, 41

Occupation: Director of Gift of Hope, Inc.
City: Kimberling City
Husband: Chad Connell

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Gift of Hope, Inc. This charity provides food to eat on the weekend for children who have shown signs of hunger on Monday mornings during the school year. It also provides life’s essentials to families, such as rental, utility and food assistance to those in need.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

A beautiful woman is sincere, caring and gives selflessly to those she encounters.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I am so blessed and humbled to be recognized as one of the “10 Most Beautiful Women” finalists! I would say that I am a finalist because of the incredible opportunity I have been given to be a part of feeding children and helping families that need it the most in Taney County Missouri. I also am surrounded by beautiful women in my family and my friends, who I look to for inspiration.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I am involved with several organizations in my community, in particular those that help families in need: Forsyth Boys and Girls Club Advisory Committee, Branson Lakes/Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau Membership and Funding Advisory Council, Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation Taney County Board of Director, Branson Lakes/Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau Non Profit Committee and Branson Tri-Lakes Kiwanis Club Board of Directors, and Advisory Council for the Tri Lakes Area United Way.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

I am in awe and inspired by the compassion and consideration of the organizations I am involved with for those less fortunate in our community.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am employed by National Enzyme Company to coordinate the charity it created (Gift of Hope, Inc.). It created Gift of Hope, Inc., in the early ’90s to help those in the community who needed assistance with food, warm winter clothes, utility assistance, rental assistance or Christmas gifts. As Director, I apply for grants, coordinate fundraisers and work with counselors and teachers who identify hungry children in eight schools in Taney County. Gift of Hope provides supplemental food for those hungry children to take home with them each weekend to eat during the school year. One aspect of my job offers me the opportunity to help families during the holiday season by going Christmas shopping with them to not only to purchase food and winter clothing but also to get Christmas gifts for them and the children. This experience is deeply touching to think that Gift of Hope was able to bring joy to a family that otherwise would not have anything on Christmas.

What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moment was when funding was secured to provide food for children in all of the Taney County schools. I am most proud of being a part of the “big picture” and working with volunteers, organizations and businesses that have made this possible. In addition to that, I am most proud of the day that I married my soulmate, my husband Chad!

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

It was a life changing decision to leave my family’s business at Connell Insurance to get back into the nonprofit sector, which I feel is my true calling. The hurdle since then has been FUNDING for all of the incredible projects Gift of Hope coordinates!

What are three words that describe you?

Passionate, loyal, involved.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

I don’t think that I have a favorite “feature.” I do think that I can say I have never met a stranger.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

I thought my mother was the most beautiful person on earth, and I still do. She is stunningly beautiful on the outside and in. She is an incredible role model and always cared for others before herself.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

I am inspired by others who give their time and talent selflessly for the betterment of others. It gives me inspiration to help in any way possible especially when it comes to children. My religion and faith inspires and guides me every day!

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Be humble, be gracious, enjoy every moment of your life and always find humor in life’s experiences.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

A day on Table Rock Lake with my husband, family and friends. And going for a long run through the Port of Kimberling Marina and campground. I consider this my “therapy.”

What is your most prized possession?

It is not a physical possession per se, but it is the love and support I have from my husband, family and best of friends.

What is your Facebook status right now?

Not sure what means... Sorry, I am not much of a Facebook person. I have one though!

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

Wow, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one! I wish I were more mathematically inclined.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

Deep down, I am really an “old soul.” I love to spend time with my grandma and older generations because of their stories of life. My grandma has a great scene of humor. Ever since I was little, when I worry about what my hair looks like or if I am wearing the right thing, she has one of the best sayings that I have always taken to heart: “Don’t worry. Nobody is lookin’ at you anyway.”

Head to voting!

 

Melanie Pulscher, 42

Occupation: Corporate Services Officer at Great Southern Bank
City: Springfield
Family: Husband Michael Pulscher, 22-year-old Jordan Tucker, 22-year-old Damien Pulscher, 23-year-old Jaron Robbins

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Hospice. My charity of choice at this time would be Hospice. My recent experience with an aging friend, has opened my eyes to the importance of this organization. They assist not only those near the end of life, but also their family members and friends. Hospice employees and volunteers are assisting in so many ways to provide comfort to my friend. They even helped her schedule something that she has apparently wanted to do her whole life, pierce her ears! With their help, she was able to get her ears pierced at age 83. She is so proud!

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

Inside beauty comes from a woman who has the ability to be true to her heart, be genuine in all circumstances, while having compassion for others and empathy for other’s circumstances.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

Because my mom nominated me. I’m sure there are many that deserve it more than I.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I have donated money and time to a variety of organizations including the Salvation Army, Ambassadors for Children/Kid’s Closet, The American Red Cross, Nami, The Victory Mission and others. In the last year or so, the majority of my focus has been on a community organization called Alanon. This is a support group for friends and family members of those who suffer from addiction, a serious disease. Also, in July of 2011, an aging friend of mine became seriously ill and was juggled from residential care home to hospital and back. Her immediate family lives in California, so I visit as often as time allows. My experience with her has opened my eyes to the value of the Hospice organization and what it offers to all of us and those close to the dying process. My husband and I also share a support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We recently donated two lots for the St. Jude 2012 and 2013 dream homes.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

Each experience has touched me in unique ways:

I receive a satisfying feeling from donating to organizations, especially when I know that the funds are well spent. Last fall, my husband and I had the privilege to tour the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and housing facilities. It was amazing to see the good that they are doing and how far-reaching and well-run this organization is. From the time St. Jude opened in 1962, it has helped push childhood cancer survival rates from less than 20 percent to more than 80 percent, and more specifically one particular form, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, from a 4 percent to a 94 percent survival rate.

Then, there are those experiences that have touched me in more personal ways. My experience with Alanon is one of them. This has been a life-changing experience for me. I cannot express how Alanon and sharing our experience, strength and hope can help improve the quality of life for those experiencing the pain of loving someone who suffers from addiction.

 Another very personal experience is the recent dealings with my aging friend. Being a part of her life for the last 16 years, we have a close relationship. Being beside her during this last year in the residential facility, but especially while she’s been on hospice, has awakened a desire in me to comfort those who are aging and lonely or close to death. I feel that I am presently being called in that direction.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I have been in banking for 20 years, with Great Southern Bank for the past 10 years as a Corporate Services Officer. Basically, I am a relationship manager for corporate and business banking deposit customers. Helping my customers every day is rewarding, and I absolutely love it when my job calls me to step up to a ‘think outside the box’ solution to offer my customers.

What has been your proudest moment?

I am most proud that I have overcome the difficult experiences in life and that I have become the person that I am today.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

The challenges that my children have faced. Every mother hurts when their children do.

What are three words that describe you?

Sincere, empathetic, determined.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

I think outside of the box, I’m creative. It has allowed me to be flexible in my thinking and has helped me to find solutions that might not be readily visible. This quality can help in all areas of life.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. As a child, I loved her because she was lovely, colorful, strong and had a beautiful voice. Today I realize she also stood up for what is right, and she learned the best lesson of all: That happiness is where the heart is, not somewhere over the rainbow.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

People, both those who give back to the world in some exceptional way and those who have triumphed over difficult obstacles. I also gain inspiration from everyday reminders of God’s greatness: Nature, answers to prayer, finding comfort in faith.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Always be kind and reach out to others, especially those who others are not being kind to. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right; your heart will tell you. Strive to be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling and find someone you can trust and admire that you can share your fears with.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

On a beautiful day, I’d spend it outdoors driving my convertible or relaxing in a quiet place at the river or the ocean. On a rainy day, I’d be sleeping in with the window open. Also, reading a good book or finding a bargain on something I love.

What is your most prized possession?

The necklace that my husband had made for me. It has a diamond that he gave me, a diamond that my deceased father gave to my mother (from her wedding ring), and a diamond that my deceased Great Grandma Grace gave me from her wedding ring.

What is your Facebook status right now?

Honestly, it’s blank. I usually just check out everyone else’s.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

A beautiful singing voice.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

Last fall, I bought a 1986 Dodge Camper Van, complete with 60,000 original miles, stove, sink, refrigerator, toilet, bath tub/shower, and much more! It’s amazing. I’ve camped in it many times with friends, sisters, or just by myself for some quiet time. But, always near a river. I call it “Mel’s Funky Town Doll House”. I love it, and I’ve had so much fun, not only camping but just watching people’s expressions!

Head to voting!

 

Rachel Happel, 30

Occupation: Missouri State University, Instructor (Psychology Department); Compass Counseling Services, LLC, Clinician; The Child Advocacy Center, Inc., Contracted Employee
City: Springfield
Family: husband Nathan Happel and two “dog children” 5-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Baxter

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

The Child Advocacy Center. The charitable organization of my choice is The Child Advocacy Center, Inc. (CAC), in Springfield. The CAC provides services to children who are alleged victims of abuse and/or witnesses to crimes and their families. The Springfield CAC sees over 1,000 children each year, which is an unfortunate reality, but child abuse is a huge problem in all of the United States and around the world. Two of the important services we offer are forensic interviews and medical exams, and these services are always at no charge to families. I have been a part of this organization for nearly six years, and the children we serve are resilient, inspiring and amazing. It is awful that children are victims of abuse, but Springfield is very fortunate to have wonderful services, like the CAC, for children and their families, should they need them.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

I think that there are many things that make a woman beautiful. Physical beauty can be one characteristic, but physical beauty doesn’t leave a mark on the world in the same way that inner beauty does. I think that confidence, strength and generosity are three very important attributes of a beautiful woman. Someone who possesses those attributes can be a positive role model to young women, and I find that to be an extremely important task.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I am honored to be nominated! I believe I was nominated because I have made it a priority to give back to my community for the last nine years working with several organizations. I have dedicated my life to fight against child abuse and better train those who want to work with abused children and their families. I hope I have made a positive impact in children’s lives because that is what truly matters at the end of the day.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I have been a volunteer victim advocate with The Victim Center in Springfield for the last nine years and have volunteered more than 10,000 hours with the agency. The Victim Center is a comprehensive victim services organization that provides prevention education, 24/7 crisis intervention, counseling and support to victims of violent or sexual crimes. Additionally, I have been a volunteer grief group facilitator at Lost & Found in Springfield for a total of nearly three years. Facilitators assist the group coordinator and interact with the children or parents. This volunteer activity provides an opportunity to help mend the hearts of grieving children and families. Lost & Found serves more than 200 families per month.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

The Victim Center is very close to my heart because it is a wonderful organization that has provided meaningful services to so many individuals, and being a part of it has been motivating and inspirational. I started volunteering for The Victim Center in 2003 and this experience is what solidified my career goals to continue work with abused children and families, so I feel that I owe a lot of where I am today to The Victim Center.

Lost & Found has a more personal meaning to me, as my father died when I was 9 years old. Lost & Found would have been such a wonderful resource for my family. Grief is an unfortunate experience that many of us go through and being able to help families through their own grief experience is very rewarding. Commemorating our loved ones is such a wonderful way to remember them, and Lost & Found is a great organization for children and families who have lost a parent, sibling, grandparent, etc.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I definitely stay very busy! I am a full-time instructor in psychology at Missouri State University, so I teach courses including Introduction to Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Psychology of Child Abuse and Exploitation, Psychology of Childhood, and others as needed. I stay very involved on campus with my colleagues and students on various projects, research, et cetera. I am with a private practice, Compass Counseling Services, LLC, where I provide psychoeducational and therapeutic services to children, adolescents, adults and families. Lastly, I spend a few hours each week at The Child Advocacy Center, Inc. assisting with services or testifying in court on behalf of the children I have forensically interviewed.

What has been your proudest moment?

Personally, I am very proud that I finished a marathon (26.2 miles) before I turned 30. Professionally, I am most proud of the graduate certificate in forensic child psychology at Missouri State University that I helped create and currently help maintain. This program supports current and future professionals working with children in a forensic setting by providing the education and information necessary for protecting the integrity and reliability of child interviews in criminal and civil cases. Training is such an important aspect of improving the experience of children and families who go through the criminal justice system in some way.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

Something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember is learning to take care of myself, too. Being in the mental health field, it is very easy to take care of others, even at the expense of ourselves. As I grow professionally, I am learning to say ‘no,’ and take some down time every now and then.

What are three words that describe you?

Motivated, compassionate, enthusiastic

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My favorite feature about myself is my compassion because it is what keeps me going in a stressful profession by helping provide a voice to those who are silenced by child abuse victimization.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

When I was a child, and now, the most beautiful woman to me is my mother. My mother has had a tough life; she lost her husband at age 32 and mother at 36 and raised three daughters on her own while working full-time and finishing her master’s degree. She is a fighter that always supported my sisters and me and always helped us to achieve our dreams. She is inspiring to me in so many ways, even as an adult.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

My favorite source of inspiration is the children and families I work with and for. As I mentioned in an earlier response, the resiliency of children is amazing and to be able to help them get through a terrible situation is very rewarding. Also, seeing justice occur for these families is motivating and inspiring because it communicates to our community that we will not tolerate the mistreatment of children. I never forget how important advocacy for children is.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

I would tell a young girl that being beautiful is not only about physical appearance, but also about confidence, generosity and humility. Inner beauty is something that can inspire others and can make a difference in our communities. I would also tell her not to succumb to pressures to fit a certain mold but to be herself and embrace who she is.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

A day off? What is that? Just kidding. I enjoy shopping, finding recipes on Pinterest, watching The Food Network and E! and trying to relax.

What is your most prized possession?

My most prized possession is my wedding ring. My husband supports me and helps bring me back to sanity when things get stressful, overwhelming or exhausting.

What is your Facebook status right now?

“Don't let something that doesn't matter cause you to lose something that does.”—Author Unknown. There is a lot of negativity on Facebook, so I try to put positive messages and quotes on there when I can!

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I wish that I could play softball. I have always been able to run, but it is ugly when I am given a bat or glove.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

One thing about me that people may not realize is not only have I run three marathons, but I ran two 14 days apart. I became Marathon Maniac #4391. That means, at the time, I was one of 4,000+ individuals in the United States who have met certain criteria associated with marathon running!

Head to voting!

 

Robyn Bates, 47

Occupation: Self Employed, Unique Beginnings LLC
City: Springfield
Family: Gary Robinson, 22-year-old Bailey Bagby, 25-year-old Ambyr Bagby, 26-year-old Brynn Bagby

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Boy Scouts of America, The Ozarks Trails Council

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

Integrity, personality, intelligence, sense of humor, generosity, caring about others.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

Wow, I don’t know. I hope it is because there is someone out there that nominated me that thinks I have the attributes I listed above.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I have been a member of Junior League in the past and helped get Isabel’s House started. I was co-chair for the United Way campaign while working at the Springfield News-Leader and have read to children at Weaver Elementary through the local literacy program. Currently, I just chaired an event for the Boy Scouts, the First Annual Scout Jubilee, which will help our local Ozarks Council. I’m already working on the event for next year.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

I have really enjoyed being able to help the children in our community learn to read as well as become better citizens.

Tell us what you do for a living:

Gary Robinson and I have just started up a business that will be working with a local company, Mostly Memories, to help Missouri schools raise money.

What are you most proud of?

To see my daughters turn out to be young women that have all of the attributes I believe make a beautiful woman.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

The death of my husband last year and starting my life all over.

What are three words that describe you? 

Confident, planner, happy.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My smile. Because when I use it someone always smiles back.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Sophia Loren, because she always seemed to have so much confidence in herself.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

My children. They make me want to be a good role model for them to show that life can be tough, but if you work hard and try and take care of those around you, good things will come to you in the end.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Beauty is all within. If you are strong and confident and kind to others, you will be beautiful on the outside as well.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

If the weather is warm, then I’d like to be outdoors doing anything: boating, hiking, biking, et cetera. If the weather is cold, then a good book by a warm fire with a glass of wine is great.

What is your most prized possession?

Well that’s tough because I have learned that material things don’t really matter that much anymore, but I guess I would say the pontoon boat I just bought to spend weekends at Table Rock.

What is your Facebook status right now?

“Driving thru Kentucky. It's 88 degrees, this is just April 1st right?”

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

To play the piano. Always wanted to take lessons and just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I have a phobia about going into a new store or place I haven’t been before. Every time I drive by it I think, “I would really like to go in there,” but I can’t seem to make myself until its not new anymore. I know strange.

Head to voting!

 

Sherrie Johnson Brown, 51

Occupation/company: Singer/songwriter/speaker, MCBS Ministries, LLC. I work with Grammy award winning Vocal Consulting Producer Kim Wood Sandusky in Nashville, TN
City: Springfield
Family: Husband Mike Brown; children Mandi, Sheena, Haley and Chad; step-daughters Kayla and Lindsey

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Show Hope Organization. This is important to me because a loving family with a strong cornerstone is the most important thing in a child’s life. Children are very precious, and this organization provides medical assistance and many times saves an orphan’s life. Show Hope then helps place them in loving homes.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

A woman full of life with an inner joy that overflows as she keeps a balance of taking care of others as well as herself.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

I’m still trying to answer that question myself! I’m very humbled and honored to be chosen.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I’ve served as a worship leader on the praise team, choir and other positions at Ridgecrest Baptist Church. I’ve served in the Springfield Public Schools, PTA executive committee. Currently my time is filled with recording, traveling, and working with MCBS Ministries.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

I love being a mother and have always enjoyed being involved in my children’s lives and helping children in our community as well. Serving in the Music Ministry is an awesome experience and blessing. Sharing my life with others in order that my testimony and songs might strengthen and provide hope for others.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am a recording artist/singer/songwriter.

What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moments are when I see my children succeed.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

Surviving Brain Surgery, losing my mother to lung cancer, and recently being diagnosed and cured of lung cancer.

What are three words that describe you?

Loving, compassionate, strong

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

My mom. When I was a child, she was always happy and smiling.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

My favorite source of inspiration is God and music. Through all my trials and tribulations, God has been my solid foundation. My passion for music and my desire to help those in need is my inspiration to write songs.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Love who you are and stay beautiful on the inside, and you will be beautiful on the outside. Eat your veggies and drink lots of water!

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

Walking on a beautiful white beach.

What is your most prized possession?

A little ruby ring that my grandmother gave me before she passed away.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

Playing the piano.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

When I was in grade school, I went on a float trip on the Eleven Point River and was pulled out of the canoe by a tree branch that got caught in my hair, and I went flying through the air! My dad jumped out of the canoe and swam upstream to save me while all the canoes crashed into a big pile of rocks!

Head to voting!

 

Stephanie Weiss, 34

Occupation: Owner, Ella Weiss Wedding Design, LLC
City: Springfield
Family: Husband Christopher Weiss, 4-year-old Ella Marie, 1-and-a-half-year-old Lillian Harper

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Junior League of Springfield. The Junior League of Springfield would be my charity of choice. It is a great organization; it helps our community in so many ways. I feel especially passionate about its signature project, Isabel’s House, the Crisis Nursery of the Ozarks. Isabel’s House provides a refuge for children whose families are in crisis and who are suffering from abuse or in danger of being abused. It’s a safe haven for those who are most vulnerable in our society and a place where families can get the help they need to get back on track. I believe that children are our future and fostering strong healthy families is the key to that future.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

I think self-confidence is so important. It’s hard to look or feel beautiful without it. That and good pair of shoes.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

Well, my first clue was the huge grin on my husband’s face when I came home and told him about the nomination. There’s nothing better than having your husband as your biggest fan after eight years of marriage.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

I am an active member of the Junior League of Springfield, which is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership. Since 1959, JLS has contributed more than 1.3 million volunteer service hours and more than $4.6 million to the community. On average, our members donate more than 20,000 hours of volunteer service annually to the community. This year I am serving as the chairperson of our 53rd annual Charity Ball, one of JLS’s largest fundraising events. The proceeds benefit the Junior League and the many charities it supports.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

I feel blessed to have had the opportunities I have had in my life, and Springfield has been so good to me and my family over the years that I really enjoy the opportunity to give back when I can. Although my work with the Junior League can be time consuming, it is rewarding. There is no doubt I get back more than I give. Also, I think it sets a very important example for my kids to see their mom giving back to the community.

Tell us what you do for a living:

I own and operate Ella Weiss Wedding Design, which is a bridal boutique in downtown Springfield. We sell bridal gowns and accessories, rent tuxedos and coordinate weddings and special events.

What has been your proudest moment?

Without question my two proudest moments are the days my beautiful daughters were born. I am so proud to be their mom. I’m blessed to have such smart and beautiful little ladies. They are the best part of my day.

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

My biggest hurdle would probably be starting and building my own business and the sacrifices it demands.

What are three words that describe you?

I found this question really difficult to answer so I consulted with my husband, to which he responded:

Compassionate

Perfectionist (which explains why I coordinate weddings)

Stubborn (of course he would say this)

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

I like being left-handed. I was the only lefty in my family and liked being different.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Without a doubt, my mom was the most beautiful woman to me and still is. Not only is she beautiful on the outside, but she is the most caring and selfless person I know. She is my role model and also a fantastic grandmother.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

People who spend their lives helping others; they encourage me to be a better person. One source of inspiration in my life was my doula, Ginny Ross, she touched so many lives and made an impact on each of them in the short amount of time she was with us.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Be confident and true to yourself. Love yourself and trust your instincts. I think that true beauty resides within, and if a girl or woman is confident and loves herself that confidence and love will shine through and others will see that as true beauty.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

I don’t get much time off, so when I can I relish spending quality time with my kids.

What is your most prized possession?

My husband teases me about this, but right now it has got to be my IPhone. I am obsessed with Pinterest and can’t live without it.

What is your Facebook status right now?

Ella and I loved Springfield Ballet’s princess luncheon! Great job Caitlin!

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

The ability to sing. I can’t carry a tune.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

Some things that always surprise people about me are the fact that I love horror movies and the fact that I picked my husband up in bar.

Head to voting!

 

Tammy Neil, 42

Occupation: Licensed Professional Counselor
City: Carthage
Family: Husband Greg Payne, 18-year-old Adrienna, 17-year-old Makenzie, 9-year-old Bradley, 1-year-old Laken

What is your charity of choice, and why is it important to you?

Thompson Foundation for Autism

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

God created each of us just exactly the way He wanted us, so it’s hard not to feel beautiful when you keep that in mind. I believe self-confidence, humility and a kind heart makes a woman beautiful.

Why do you think you’re a 10 Most Beautiful Women finalist?

Because my husband thought I should be. I have taken pride in my family, education and business sense. I believe God has allowed me to be successful, and I enjoy giving back.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations?

Community Support Services: We provide homes and care for adults who are developmentally disabled. I have served as a member of the board of directors for seven years, served as past president, and have acted as an advisor on autism.

Counseling: I often provide pro bono counseling services for local law enforcement personnel, as well as many others who would not have been able to get help otherwise. The experience has been especially gratifying following the Joplin tornado of 2011 in that I was able to do a small part in helping the community recover from an unimaginable tragedy.

How are those experiences meaningful to you?

There have been times in my life when I have needed help, and there was always someone to help me, so it feels good to be able to help others. I have learned that just when I start to feel sorry for myself, I look at what someone else is going through in their lives and realize that I have so little to complain about. Seeing progress in an individual who is going through a traumatic event or perhaps a lifelong disability is rewarding. It certainly puts things in perspective!

Tell us what you do for a living:

I am a licensed professional counselor

What has been your proudest moment?

One of my personal goals that I have achieved is to fly solo as part of my pilot training. However, I am most proud of my four children and that I have their love and respect. I am crazy in love with them. I am so proud of each one and feel so very blessed to be their mother!

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

I have ADHD. Going to college for 10 years, sitting still, paying attention… what I was I saying? Oh yeah, well, it was tough at times!

What are three words that describe you?

Compassionate, loyal, silly.

What’s your favorite feature about yourself?

My inherent affection for my children. Through my counseling practice, I have seen some horrible and sad deterioration of bonds between parents and children, and I believe that my relationship with my own children is strong enough to weather any crisis.

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman?

Not any famous person. I remember thinking that a woman from my church named Priscilla was beautiful. She was the sweetest woman who always smiled and never uttered a bad word about anyone.

What’s your favorite source of inspiration?

The Bible. A few years ago, I read the Bible all the way through in chronological order, and it was a wonderful and enlightening experience. It gives me guidance on how to live and raise my children and how to be a Godly wife.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Beauty is something that truly does come from within. Beauty is certainly not just about physical appearance and does not need to meet anyone’s expectations other than your own. It is about taking care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. It is about being loyal and honest, having dignity, and having empathy for others. A beautiful girl is one with a sweet spirit and is not judgmental.

What are your favorite ways to spend a day off?

With my husband and children at the lake with no phones!

What is your most prized possession?

Photos and notes from my husband and children. I love going back and reading notes each one has given me throughout the years.

What is your Facebook status right now?

Believe it or not, I have been able to successfully avoid Facebook and do not regret it in the least.

If you could have one talent that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I wish I could play the piano like John Tesh or Elton John. When I play a song, it never seems to sound like theirs!

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

Ringo Starr came to my 30th birthday party.

Head to voting!

 

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