IM this article to a friend!

April 22, 2003

Former Miss America to speak at Prayer Breakfast

From: Calhoun Times, GA - Apr 22, 2003

The first Miss America with a disability will bring her message of "Anything is Possible" to local residents. As the Community Prayer Breakfast keynote speaker, Heather Whitestone - Miss America 1995 - will join church leaders, local youth, and vocalists in celebrating the National Day of Prayer in Calhoun. The May 1 event is free and open to the public and begins at 7:30 a.m. at First United Methodist Church of Calhoun, in the Thomas J. Brown Activities Center. You must RSVP by calling 602-7800, extension 2257. "Gordon Hospital is excited to bring this wonderful event to the community for a second year," said Christie Carlson, hospital spokesperson. "Last year's event was rescheduled because of the tornado in Calhoun, so this day marks a significant anniversary for our town. Even through the destruction, the community came together. We want to celebrate that spirit." On Sept. 17, 1994, Alabama's Heather Whitestone was selected as Miss America 1995. During her year of service as Miss America, she focused her efforts and activities on motivating our nation's citizens to achieve their dreams through dedication, commitment and hard work. As she delivered her message, "Anything is Possible," throughout her term, Whitestone sought to inspire individuals to achieve their goals through the S.T.A.R.S. program (a five-point approach for personal empowerment). As Miss America 1995, Whitestone traveled an average of 20,000 miles each month and spoke in a different city every other day. She has spoken to business corporations, non-profit organizations, churches, and government, including the FBI and CIA. Whitestone was the first woman with a disability to be crowned Miss America in the pageant's 75-year history. She lost her hearing at the age of 18 months when she was rushed to the hospital with a dangerously high fever, the cause of which was later diagnosed as the Haemophilus influenza virus. According to the doctors, she was only hours from death when they administered two powerful antibiotics that reduced her fever and saved her life. With the doctors' assurances, her relieved family took her home believing that their once energetic toddler would be back to normal within a few weeks. After a few months, it became painfully obvious that there was a problem when Whitestone's mother accidentally dropped a pile of pans on the kitchen floor and Heather, who was playing nearby, did not even flinch. At the Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., she tested as "profoundly deaf" with no hearing in either ear. Her condition was concluded to be the result of the virus, the antibiotics or a combination of both. Whitestone believes that the biggest handicap in the world is negative thinking and that people handicap themselves by concentrating only on the negative instead of the positive. She was inspired by her family to work hard and never quit trying. On Aug. 7, 2002, John K. Niparko, M.D., surgically implanted heather with a Nucleus 24 ContourTM cochlear implant at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. On Sept. 19, when the device was turned on for the first time, she embarked on yet another journey, entering the world of sound. She decided to get the cochlear implant because she wanted to hear her family's voices, make further strides in achieving her goals and experience the hearing world. With the implant, she plans to raise awareness among the hearing-impaired community about the opportunities available for improving speech and language. On Sept. 19, Heather returned to Johns Hopkins to be fitted with the external part of her cochlear implant, the ESPrit 3G ear-level speech processor, and have the device turned on for the first time. When her Nucleus 24 Contour cochlear implant was activated, she experienced overwhelming emotion as she realized she was hearing sounds more clearly than she had before. Her performance with the cochlear implant is expected to continue improving over time. Heather resides in Atlanta with her husband, John McCallum.

©2002 . All rights reserved.