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May 1, 2003

Miss America 1995 recounts God's gifts

From: Calhoun Times, GA - May 1, 2003

Karen Shaw

Heather Whitestone McCallum is living proof that "anything is possible." The 1995 Miss America shared her testimony of overcoming a disability and achieving her dreams to the hundreds of attendees at the Second Annual Gordon Hospital Community Prayer Breakfast held at the First United Methodist Church of Calhoun. "I feel honored to be here and to believe that Jesus is my Savior," she said. "I know that Jesus died for my sins and accepted me as God's child." In introducing McCallum, Gordon Hospital's Ed Moyer explained that at 18 months of age, McCallum was rushed to the hospital with a dangerously high fever from the Haemophilus influenza virus. She was only hours from death when the doctors administered powerful antibiotics that saved her life. But several months later, Heather tested profoundly deaf in both ears. The doctors concluded that this was a result of the virus, the antibiotics, or both. McCallum, an Alabama native now residing in Atlanta, said she credits God for giving her the desire to be a ballerina, which led to her being crowed Miss America. "When I graduated from high school, I wanted to be a ballerina," she said. "I believed God wanted me to be a ballerina ? it was my lifelong dream." On her belief in God's will for her life, McCallum told her mother that she was going to join a ballet ministry. But her mother had other plans for her. "She told me that I have to get a college education," McCallum said. "I knew I should obey my parents." McCallum then entered Jacksonville State University in Alabama, but soon learned that ballet classes were not offered there. "I asked the Lord, why did you give me the desire to worship you through dance by sending me to a college with no dance class?" she said. But she felt God telling her to just have faith and trust in Him. McCallum told the Biblical story of Joseph's dream and how he overcame many obstacles to achieve the dreams God gave him. "Because of his positive attitude, he became a ruler," she said. "As long as you have faith in God and believe anything is possible, God will provide for you and bless you more than you can imagine." It was at college that she met the first runner-up Miss America of 1979 and the journey for her dream began. McCallum was able to use her God-given talent of dance to help her win the crown when danced to the music of a Christian song in the talent portion of the pageant. "I witnessed through dance to 40 million people live on television," she said. "God will bless you more than you can ever imagine." It took a year for her to prepare her dance routine for the pageant, she said. "I listen to the music first and feel the music on the speakers," she explained. "Then I count the numbers of the music and memorize the numbers." Some seven years after receiving the crown, McCallum received another gift from God, she said. On August 7, 2002 she received a cochlear implant at Johns Hopkins Hospital, a device that allows her to hear. On Sept. 19, the device was turned on for the first time "I could not believe how little I heard," she said. "(With hearing aides) I thought I heard the birds, the sirens, the music pretty well, but there is so much more sound than I realized." McCallum said she decided to receive the implants because of her two sons. "My boys kept asking questions like what is that sound?" she said. "I'd say, 'Sweetie, I don't know what you're hearing.'" After receiving the implant, she heard what she had been longing to hear. "(God) let me hear my boys," she said. "We were in the basement reading 'Goodnight Moon' and I heard the first two words of my son." Contributors to this year's breakfast were North Georgia National Bank, Atlanta Gas Light Company, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Leazer, and Billie Jean Erwin. Also during the breakfast, musical selections were provided by the Southern Adventist University Quintet, Bel Canto, and Penny Ray. Scripture readings were provided by Sara Barton of Calhoun High School, Melissa Amyx of Gordon Central High School, Keith Bowman of Georgia-Cumberland Academy, and Shannon Taylor of the Home School Association. Interpreters for the deaf were Sandy Morgan and the Rev. John McDonald.

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