‘They saw her making magic’: North Dakota gets its first Miss America



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By Jamie Kelly editor@willistonherald.com Sep 12, 2017 

Miss America
Newly crowned Miss America 2018 Cara Mund celebrates during the 2018 Miss America Competition Show at Boardwalk Hall Arena on Sunday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Donald Kravitz • Getty Images for Dick Clark Productions

There have been other Miss North Dakotas in the top 10. There have even been Miss North Dakotas who were named Miss Congeniality.

But until Sunday, a Miss North Dakota had never been named Miss America.

So when Cara Mund was crowned Miss America on Sunday night in Atlantic City, it was the culmination of years of work on her part, and it was also a high point that comes after decades of work by volunteers at the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization.

And those volunteers are pretty excited right now.

“It’s a little surreal right now, to be quite honest,” said Debbie Richter, president of the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization.

Richter, along with Kathy Jones, the organization’s executive director, and Renee Rogness, a board member, were in Atlantic City all last week to Mund compete in the preliminary rounds of the competition.

Richter said you could see the way the judges in the preliminary rounds reacted to Mund, and she was worried at first about the celebrity judges, who handle the final round. But they saw the same thing.

“They saw her making magic up there,” Richter said.

That magic has been on display for a long time.

Marilyn McGinley has been involved with the Miss North Dakota pageant since it came to Williston in 1986. As a past president, she’s seen Mund compete for years.

“She will be a tremendous Miss America,” McGinley said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better Miss America.”

Now that Mund has won the coveted crown, she’s getting prepared for a whirlwind of activity, Richter said.

After ceremonially dipping her toe in the ocean on Monday morning, she was off to New York for a series of talk show interviews. Then it would be off to Los Angeles. It will probably be three months before she’s home again, Richter said.

The Miss North Dakota organization is going to hold a homecoming event for Mund, Richter said, but the details are still up in the air as they work with the national pageant and Mund’s suddenly jam-packed schedule. Where and when are to be decided, but it’s going to be big.

“We have lots of ideas,” Richter said.

Richter and other board members weren’t the only ones in Atlantic City to see Mund. Her family, college friends, even a professor from Brown University, where Mund earned her degree, were all in the audience. So were three Forever Miss North Dakotas — previous winners — and Lizzie Jensen, this year’s first runner-up.

That doesn’t count the people around North Dakota, and around the country, who were watching the broadcast pageant and cheering from home.

“She had a huge, huge support team,” Richter said.

Mund was asked on stage about how much scholarship money she’d earned from participating in pageants, and the total came to $45,000 — before she won the $50,000 scholarship for taking the Miss America crown.

“That’s all from North Dakota,” Richter said. “It really tells of the importance of the money.”

One honor that might be overshadowed by Mund’s big win is that she was also first runner-up for the Quality of Life scholarship. That honored her platform, “A Make-A-Wish Passion with Fashion.”

For the last 10 years, Mund has organized a fashion show that raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It started when she was 14 and had several friends who were sick. One died on Mund’s 14th birthday, and because the family requested that memorial donations go to Make-A-Wish, that sparked Mund’s interest.

Another friend was in the process of getting her wish granted, but needed more money. So Mund put on a fashion show with the goal of raising $1,000.

She ended up bringing in more than $2,500. Because it was so successful, Make-A-Wish asked her to keep putting it on. Even when she was attending college in Rhode Island, she’d spend spring break in North Dakota to put on the show.

Now she’s raised more than $78,000 and helped fund wishes for 23 children in North Dakota.

McGinley was particularly impressed by Mund’s impact and the dedication it took to run such a program for a decade.

Supporting young women like Mund is what’s kept McGinley and other volunteers part of Miss North Dakota for so long.

“It’s a wonderful organization to be involved with,” she said. “I just can’t say enough good things about our organization.”



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