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Hampton Roads Community News

“My disability is my BEAUTY. My disability is my STRENGTH. My disability is ME.”

Twenty-six-year old Miss Blake A. Edwards of Chesapeake, VA, took the stage in the windy city of Chicago, IL, and shined like the star she is!

Miss Blake rose to the occasion as she won the title of 2017 National Miss Amazing Miss 1st Runner Up in Chicago, IL, on August 6, 2017. Over 30 generous sponsors, including her church family, Mt Hermon Baptist Church, Norfolk, VA (Pastor Steve Lewis), provided financial support for her to participate alongside 100 other gifted women from 30 states. She was also favored by an anonymous $300 donation, which came from a gentleman who was touched by a write-up in the Chesapeake Clipper.

It all began in April 2015, when Blake participated in her first pageant, Miss Abilities Chesapeake, VA, which was sponsored by Chesapeake’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism – Therapeutic Recreation department. Family and friends excitedly gathered in the lavish Chesapeake Conference Center to celebrate 13 young ladies and women with special abilities, physical and mental challenges. The beautiful contestants radiated while receiving tiaras and trophies after competing in casual and evening wear, interviews and talent competitions.

Little did Blake’s family realize she would be crowned the overall winner, Chesapeake’s 1st-ever 2015 Miss Abilities. It was a breath-taking experience for the entire Edwards family and it sparked something great inside Blake! From that moment, she sought to follow her heart’s dream of competing in other pageants, meeting new friends, sharing her infectious smile and celebrating others with special needs. All the while she told me, her mom, Rev. Donita Edwards, she was “on her way to Hollywood to dance with the stars!”

Since then, she participated in the 2017 Winchester, VA, Miss Abilities Pageant, which is founded by Mrs. Jessica Edwards. Their organization gives females with disabilities an opportunity to build confidence and make a difference in their community by hosting annual pageants and numerous community service events. There, Blake was awarded the title of 2017 Miss Abilities Princess in her age division.

Currently, Blake represents the state of Virginia as the 2017 Miss Amazing Miss Queen; awarded April 2017. To date, she has participated in three local pageants and one national pageant. While awaiting her next pageant, she works part-time at Milestone Development Center, praise dances at local churches and is a member of her church’s flag team.

With all of Blake’s accomplishments, there is a serious side to her special ability. Though high functioning, she was diagnosed at birth with trisomy 21, Down syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Downs “continues to be the most common chromosomal disorder; 1 in every 700 babies is born each year with it.”

Individuals with Down syndrome are at higher risk for hearing loss, sleep apnea, ear and eye diseases, congenital heart defects, delayed physical, mental and language development, shorter life expectancies and numerous other symptoms in the body. Many families adjust well, usually with support; however, one can only imagine the acceptance issues these individuals and families commonly face.

The pageants have helped Blake immensely. Each time her eyes light up on the stage, her family sees the plan of God unfolding in her life. Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

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Part of Blake’s testimony is that at age 2, she was still not walking (due to low muscle tone), but I asked God to help my baby to walk and He did it. She never learned to ride a bike because her muscles weren’t strong, and her equilibrium was unbalanced. Now she’s become a praise dancer winning pageants with the gift God gave her.

• When her 2nd grade teacher told our family she’d never read or write, God sent a specialist to show that Blake was a whole-word learner and taught her to read. Blake has now written a book entitled, “My Name is Blake,” which I hope to publish by the end of the year.

• When Blake was alone on the playground, because other children did not want to play with a little girl who was “different,” her younger sister, Blaire, would run to her side and push her on the swings.

• When Blake had asthma attacks in the middle of the night, the Holy Spirit would tell me to open the Bible and breathe life into her baby.

As a mom, I just want others to know that sometimes when we think we have gotten the short end in life, maybe we are not focusing with the eyes of God. It never occurred to me 26 years ago when the option of abortion was offered to me that I would. I can’t image a life without her heart of sunshine and the eyes that sparkle with excitement as she introduces herself, to everyone, “Hi, my name is Blake.”

By Rev. Donita M. Edwards

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