MY WORD: Special idea from special sisters

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By Duanne B. Puckett

Kate Schaefer has won awards in art. Claire Schaefer has won awards in dance and beauty contests.


They wish every student had the same opportunities, especially since Claire remembers only one time seeing children with special needs competing in a contest in which she participated.

Their wish has come true because of their own efforts.

These two sisters have worked out arrangements with the Shelby County Fair Board to have an art contest and a Miss Sensational Pageant for students identified with disabilities.

My great-niece Emme is thrilled!

Even though she has Down’s Syndrome, this 11-year-old has quite a personality, has developed a professional pose when pictures are taken, is a social butterfly at Painted Stone Elementary and participates in the high school dance camp each summer.

“All my dance friends thought of Emme when I mentioned the pageant,” Claire said with a smile.

Emme smiled when I told her about the pageant. She already has her dress picked out, has thought of a classmate to be her escort and has given consideration about what questions she wants to answer.

Claire thought of such details in the application process so that the contestants would be comfortable on stage – and that each would be a winner: receiving a sash and tiara.

Claire is a freshman in the Accelerated Academy at Shelby County High School, where Kate is a sophomore and member of the Young Leaders Institute.

“Our life is a breeze compared to theirs [children with disabilities],” Claire said.

She wants it to be a breeze on the night of the pageant – June 14 at 6 p.m. in the JR Bradley Barn at the fairgrounds.

Claire grinned real big when she recalled her own pageants, “I have seven crowns, lots of trophies and one that is three feet tall that I remembered wanting to sleep with.

“That is why no one will leave empty-handed. I want them to feel as I did. It will make them feel accomplished and raise their self-esteem.”

Kate said she felt accomplished in the sixth grade when she was inspired by a friend to try her hand at art and realized she had a knack for it – after some hard work. “I didn’t have a natural talent but after studying books and practicing, I was hooked,” she said.

She has tried her hand in all art forms – painting, drawing, sketching, woodworking, pottery, making jewelry  – “I may not be an expert in all but I have been exposed to all.”

She entered the Shelby County Fair art contests as well as events at school and even at the Shelby Artists on Main, where she brought home second-place.

She said she was eager to accept her sister’s invitation to coordinate the art showcase for special-needs children. “They also have their own mindset and can do this too,” she said. “Everybody has a talent and should be rewarded for it.” That is why every participant will receive a ribbon.

Artwork will be displayed at Floral Hall June 11-14.

Entry deadlines for both events are at the end of the school year. Parents received information from their child’s special education teacher, or they can contact miss.sensationalpageant@gmail.com

Said Claire: “We want to be the change the world sees.”


Duanne B. Puckett is the public relations coordinator for Shelby County Public Schools. She can be reached at Duanne.Puckett@shelby.kyschools.us.