Delaney Robertson is a 15-year-old teen from Little Rock that enjoys lifting the spirits of individuals with special needs.
“Every minute is rewarding,” said Robertson, who is a volunteer for the Angels Pageant System, a pageant for individuals with special needs.
“These kids don’t get to feel like they’re incredibly special very often, but when the entire audience starts clapping for them, they get an awesome look on their face. To be beside them while they feel like that is very rewarding.”
Robertson has a history of competing in pageants and won two titles when she was younger. Because of her passion for pageants and love for community service, the Angels Pageant System seemed like the perfect way for her to give back. She often dresses up in her vintage pageant attire and crowns the winner of the Central Arkansas Angels Pageant.
Robertson has been volunteering with the pageant for three years.
Organically, the program, called Arkansas Angels Pageant System, was exclusive to the state. Since Robertson has been involved, it has expanded into 20 states and is now called the Angels Pageant System.
When Robertson got involved, there were about 80 participants. This year there are more than 200 in central Arkansas alone.
The pageant was created in 2010 by the mother of a young girl, Andrea Thorn, who had cerebral palsy. Thorn wanted to participate in pageants, just like her identical twin sister, so their mother created the pageant for individuals with special needs. Thorn passed away when she was 15.
Today, Robertson and the other pageant volunteers have created the “Pay it Forward” campaign in Thorn’s honor to raise awareness about the pageants.
“Anyone from age zero to 99 is able to participate,” Robertson said. “The oldest participant I have met was a little over 70 years old.”
In addition to volunteering with the pageant, Robertson volunteers at Camp Aldersgate and iCAN! Dance.
Robertson helps out with activities and games at Camp Aldersgate’s camps, including weekends during the school year and the weeklong summer camps. She said she enjoys making sure the campers have a good time.
“They get a week that is just about them, and they get to be around kids in society that have the same problems they do,” Robertson said. “They are all the same in one another’s eyes. They get to do things at Camp Aldersgate that ‘quote (unquote)’ normal kids get to do. A lot of times in their life, their disease can define them, but they don’t even have to mention that they have anything different about them when they’re at camp.”
Robertson enjoys giving back to others but has also gained a lot from her volunteerism.
“It lifts me up a lot too,” she said. “I can be in a bad mood and I come back home from camp, and I am not the same person when I come home.”
Robertson also devotes two days a week to iCAN! Dance, a statewide dance program dedicated to children with special needs.
“My dance buddy is Madison, and she has cerebral palsy,” she said. “Madison is one of my favorite people in the entire world. Being her dance buddy is very rewarding and we have fun.”
Robertson would like to continue helping others in the future by becoming an occupational therapist when she gets older.
“I job shadowed an occupational therapist last spring and I loved it; I didn’t want to leave. It would be great to just help others as a job each day,” she said.
Robertson’s mother, Aimee Robertson, is very proud of her daughter’s passion for volunteering.
“I love to see that helping others is what makes my daughter happy,” she said. “There is nothing that makes me more proud as a mom. This is what life is all about. She is smart and beautiful, but best of all, she has a heart of gold.”The 2014 Central Arkansas Angels Pageant is June 14 at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church. For more details about the pageant system, visit www.angelspageantsystem.com, call 501-412-3994 or e-mail email@example.com.