Thursday, December 27, 2012

Introducing Miss Teen ND International 2013...Grace Sproule

There's something about having that sparkly ornament placed on your head. Ever since I was a little girl I have always dreamt of having the opportunity to hold that responsibility. This past month I was granted that dream, and I can hardly wait to see what this year has in store for me and my fellow "sisters". When I was crowned, I felt something that I never had before. Holding the two girls hands besides me so tightly while we waited to hear the announcement was nothing but a thrill. When I heard my name called, I felt like I just froze. Was this real? As I walked to the center to have the crown placed on my head, I was ecstatic. I found my family in the crowd and gave them one of the biggest smiles to ever be had. It was they who had gotten me to that point. All the shopping, all the conversations about my platform, the interviews and most importantly the never ending love and support that was always there no matter what.

I will never forget after the pageant when my family came onto the stage and my sister asked what my initial thought was when my name was called? At that point I was still just so speechless, and then she said exactly what she had thought. She said she and my family were on the edges of their seats when the words "contestant number 8" were called. She started counting from the start of the line to see who the winner was before they announced the name.  With the runners up previously called, we were no longer in our exact order,so she had a second of disappointment right before they said my name. We have shared a few laughs over this! 

Something that I never thought would happen while competing in a pageant, was how much I would learn about myself. I gained so much more from this than just the crown. I feel that I really grew from this experience, and I can't thank everyone whose helped me enough. I'm so thankful this journey has finally begun for me! 


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Introducing Miss ND International 2013...Taylor Wagner

When my name was called as Miss North Dakota International 2013, I was in complete shock. I don’t even remember walking to center stage to be crowned. I remember that my emotions wanted me to smile and cry at the same time. I also remember one of my judges, Miss International 2012 Krista Wanous, motioning to me to fix my crown, as it was on crooked (probably as a result of my uncontrollable shaking from excitement!).

As the crown was being placed on my head, I couldn’t believe that this moment was finally happening. It was one I have dreamed of for so long, and one I have been working towards for close to 5 years. You see, this was my fifth time competing in the ND International pageant. The first time I competed, I was a senior in high school competing for Miss Teen ND International 2009. That year I received 1RU (to my now best friend & roommate J). I fell in love with this pageant system from the start, and continued to compete every year after that. Over the next 3 years, I competed in the Miss division and received 2RU, 1RU, and 1RU.

Receiving runner-up is a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, you feel honored to have made it that far.  On the other hand, you could almost feel that crown on your head. You were so close. Following each pageant, people would ask me if I was competing again. While it is hard to go back, I always knew that I would compete again the next year. I wanted to achieve my dream of becoming Miss ND International, and I wouldn’t stop until I did. I am thankful that my parents taught me perseverance, and I am also thankful for God’s plan.

Years later, I am a senior at North Dakota State University (Go Bison!) studying zoology, and still chasing after my dream. My dream came true on December 1, 2012 when I was crowned Miss North Dakota International 2013. My advice to anyone out there chasing a dream: chase it until you reach it. I can tell you from experience, if it’s something you really want, the wait is SO worth it. It might make reaching your goal even sweeter.

As the quote says, “Everything happens for a reason.” I also believe that everything happens at a certain point in time for a reason. There is a reason, or many, that my dream did not come true until now. I look forward to the next year as Miss North Dakota International 2013 and discovering all of these reasons.

Years ago, I bought a small picture with a quote written on it. Since then, my twin sister and I have passed it back and forth as we each encountered obstacles, to inspire each other to keep going for your dreams. It has since become my life motto. I will end my first blog with this quote.

“She believed she could so she did.”

Taylor Wagner
Miss North Dakota International 2013

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Introducing Mrs. ND International 2013...Jen Mauch

Mark 9:23: Everything is possible for him who believes. 

I came across that verse a few days before the pageant. I was second guessing myself as to why I was doing this. But I felt then, as I did when my dear friend Carolyn first contacted me, that there was and still is a much larger reason why I am doing this. Our role on this earth is to serve God, we are put here to do his work and share his love with others. We must use the gifts and talents He has given us. I've touched lives already during the beginning months of my journey towards the Mrs. North Dakota International Pageant. I also truly found myself and finally gained my confidence back. I had the amazing love and support of my family and friends. They BELIEVED in me! 

The pageant weekend was absolutely amazing, at that point I knew I had already grown and experienced so much more than I would have had I not entered. I met some of the most amazing women and made some wonderful friends! And I was so honored to sit across from all of the judges, and to meet Sarah Bazey, Mrs. International 2013 and Kristin Wanous  I decided by Friday night that it really didn't matter if I walked away with the crown on my head, the true crown is in my heart. I made a conscious decision to just soak in every moment of the weekend and enjoy it. 

My mind was full of many things that weekend, from every pageant detail to the following Monday when my daughter was scheduled to have surgery on her leg....not knowing for sure what the doctors would be removing from her leg. 

When my name was announced as Mrs. ND International 2013 I had an unbelievable amount of emotion going through me. The photo of me being crowned truly captures those emotions. When I see that photo, I can honestly remember how I felt at that moment. I am so blessed and honored to be representing our great state.

Two days later our daughter's doctor came to tell us after a short surgery that the mass they removed from her leg was simply some scar tissue. I just continue to realize how blessed we was really a surreal few days. 

I will end with one of my favorite quotes from a young man we came across one evening at TJ Maxx, "It's not always about the destination, it's about the journey."

Friday, November 30, 2012


I wrote in my bio page at the beginning of this year, “Opportunities don’t come with their value stamped upon them (Maltbie Babcock).” Little did I know just how right I was in this prediction. Sitting here writing this final blog I don’t even know how to go about summing up my experience as your Miss Teen North Dakota International 2012; but I’m going to give it my best shot. Looking back on it, the entire experience honestly feels a little selfish…now just hold on, let me explain… amidst the act of giving back to others we sometimes forget about the repercussions those experiences will reap upon us. I learned so much more about myself during my reign than I ever anticipated I would. I learned that it's okay to let your confidence shine through, it isn't regarded as self-arrogance, or being conceited, it simply helps show everyone the real you. I think that was the biggest obstacle I faced when preparing for the state pageant; delving deep down and finding out that I was completely and 100% comfortable in the skin I'm in, and that that is exactly what helps make you look beautiful in the eyes of others. I also learned that what you do with your time here on Earth really matters, and that we impact each other to an extent more than we will ever know. I have a best friend who never used to wear her seat belt in the car. I told her I wished she would wear her seat belt all the time; however the one thing I asked of her was to at least wear it whenever I was in the car, because she really mattered to me. While I was at Nationals I received a text from this best friend; she told me she now wears her seat belt every time she’s in her car, not just when I’m riding with her; and she said she does it because of me. She told me that the little things I do make a difference in not only her life, but in everyone else’s. As I read, and re-read her text I realized that I was accomplishing exactly what I had set out to, and I felt a sense of fulfillment.
The moments throughout this year that really impacted me were ones that, in the scheme of things, probably seem miniscule to any outsider looking in. It was during these times I felt as if my soul was on fire and I could finally understand why God graced me with this title. These experiences won’t make sense to just anyone, but they are what makes each Queen’s reign special. We each have these little moments that we will cherish for a lifetime.
I would have to say the night I was crowned probably is the epitome of my collection of little moments. About this time last year I vividly remember a phone call I had with my aunt. It happened the second I got in my car after I was crowned. I said to her, “Jared was with me tonight, I could feel him there with me, and he was proud of me.” She told me I was right, and that everyone was proud of me. I can’t begin to thank my support system enough for ALWAYS being there for me. I also can’t thank my aunt, uncle, and cousins enough for allowing me to spend my year sharing Jared’s story and the importance of the Graduated Driver’s License Law, and what it meant to our family. I struggled a lot this year with some guilt; I didn’t think it was fair that I was here and Jared wasn’t. One of my hardest times dealing with this was in Chicago at Nationals. My Aunt Debbie came all the way from California to support me and my guilt had reached a whole new level. As I sat and questioned why I was even there, I was reminded that it was okay to hurt a little sometimes, but that in the grand scheme of things, I couldn’t change what had happened in the past. I was told that I was doing a good thing by sharing my family’s pain and struggles so as to prevent the very same pain being inflicted upon anyone else. That is what Jared would have wanted. My aunt herself told me this, and  I wish I could express what it meant to me having her in Chicago; I honestly can’t even put it into words. I am far too blessed with the amazing family I have. They are some of the strongest, most admirable people I know, and they challenge me to be great every single day.
My blog, along with my reign, is coming to an end. And although the thought of ‘passing on the crown’ is a tad bittersweet, I know that it’s time to let the next Queen embark on her own journey. This reign has helped me grow tremendously as a person and none of it would have been possible without the amazing International Pageant System, my lovely directors, my knowledgeable coaches, trainers, friends, family members, and even those crazies who call themselves my fans! You are the reason I’ve grown to be the person I am today, and for that I am forever thankful.

Signing Off,


Monday, November 26, 2012

Time To Say Goodbye...

Well, the time has come. It is officially my last week as Miss North Dakota International 2012. It is a sad moment as I think about the year and how fast it has gone, but then I am happy for everything I have accomplished. I have grown so much as a person over this past year, and doors have opened for me that I may not have found if it wasn’t for the crown. I have so many people to thank for making this year one I will NEVER forget!

I first and foremost need to thank God for allowing me this wonderful opportunity, without Him nothing would be possible. Thank you to all my sponsors! I have to thank all my family and friends who have supported me throughout this year, especially my parents! Without them, I would have not been able to pay for nationals and have such a great year. I want to thank my sister queens Ashley and Olivia as well. They have supported me throughout my journey, and I have made lasting friendships with them. I also need to thank my pageant coach Suzy Bootz. She taught me so much, and I was prepared for nationals because of all her coaching. Lastly, I want to thank my directors Kathy and Allison. I cannot begin to express how much they have meant to me this past year. I would have been so lost preparing for nationals if it wasn’t for them. THANK YOU! The instant that I was crowned, I gained a pageant family I will always have!

On the bright side, I am so excited for this coming weekend. I cannot wait to meet the contestants and get to know them. More importantly, I am so excited to crown the next Miss North Dakota International. I know whoever it is they will make North Dakota proud! My advice to her is to take in every single moment during her year and cherish it, as well as jump at any opportunity possible!

I have had such an amazing year and I cannot believe that the time has come to close this chapter in my life and move on. I have many great things to look forward to. In May, I will be graduating with my Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and have my Registered Nursing license. I will continue working the ALS Association both on a national and local level, and advocate for ALS patients and their families. It is my goal to continue fundraising so that I can see a cure take place in my lifetime. I couldn’t be happier with my life and where God is taking me!

My last piece of advice, which I know I have said before, is to have FAITH and remember that EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON…JUST BELIEVE!

Love always and forever,
Miss North Dakota International 2012
Erica Lemna

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Appreciation for the Great Outdoors

Now that the hunting season is in full swing (and because I am an avid hunter), I thought it would be appropriate to share a little bit about my true love for the outdoors and appreciation of my hunting experiences thus far. There is no better way to explain this than by sharing an article written by my incredible father. This article was submitted to Safaris Club International, where they publish a monthly journal highlighting international hunts and information about the great outdoors. Enjoy!

“It had already been a long journey but the rewards were starting to stack up. The three of us sat on the steps outside our cabin going through our gear in preparation for tomorrow’s hunt. Down the boardwalk stood the rest of the camp, watching the evening sun reflect off the calm waters and stealing glances our way. When I realized I didn’t have duct tape, I asked my two hunting partners to check with the other hunters to see if they had any we could borrow.  I watched with a happy heart as the other hunters scrambled, dug and came up with an assortment of duct tape all too pleased to help out. Guess it didn’t hurt that my two partners were my identical twin 12 year old daughters. “Red carpet treatment isn’t so bad”, I thought.
That location was Leaf River Lodge, Quebec as the girls and I enjoyed one of the best weeks of father-daughter time possible. Although we took caribou, we also reconfirmed what makes a truly successful hunt. The barometer of success included the kill. But most of all, it included the value of spending quality time with those who are closest to you. How can you explain what it means to be with your daughters, influence them by listening and visiting as you watch the sun disappear and the stars explode over the tundra? How can you explain the “I love you dad” good night coming from a sun burned beautiful little red head that just shared a phenomenal day of caribou hunting and trout fishing with her dad? The answer is that you can’t. It is like trying to wrap your hands around the entire experience knowing full well when you try to explain to someone else, it will never be perceived the way you experienced it. But - most important - in the heart of your hunting partner, you have shared in a way that most people never will.
In a different way I did the same thing at another location with a different daughter. Amie was 12 years and had just finished her swim season. There was literally no time to make things work with swimming and basketball overlapping and school mixed in. So, I did the logical thing and made it work. We drove from Minneapolis to Fargo where I picked up my loaded suburban and headed west. Montana was our destination as we looked forward to a short eastern Montana white tail hunt during Thanksgiving break. This time, there were no stars and the temps were much different but yet the experience was the same. We sat in a ground blind, heavy snow falling and deer moving. Between sandwiches and snacks, we were busy stuffing hand warmer packets anywhere on Amie we could all the while visiting about school, boys, swimming and family. Amie made a fantastic and memorable 175 yard shot on her first white tail but I am certain that when she looks at that mount she will talk about the snow, the visits, her and I sharing a tiny little cabin and the entire experience as much as the shot she made.
Since those days we have been fortunate to hunt internationally as well as hunt our back yard of Minnesota. I recognized a long time ago the value of trust in the relationship between my daughters and my wife and I. I knew early on as a parent that the window of time to build a loving trusting relationship wasn’t when they were 16 but early on in their childhood. Hunting, fishing and the outdoors helped make that happen for all of us.
Trust came because we took the time to make it happen. When Amber, Ashley and Amie were old enough to walk, they came with my wife Lynda and me as we headed to the woods. There were no international hunts on the horizon at that time, just a dad and mom who took the time to map out a hunting day that would be marginalized by napping, bathroom breaks, snacks and tummy aches. Gradually those day trips turned into trips with more substance. Noon campfires with deer dogs cooked over the coals, redheads helping find the grouse that we collected to bundled freckled faces making way too much noise in the deer stands. Along the way, dad answered a million questions as the three girls asked an equal amount. As they grew, so did our relationship. In time, they completed gun safety and started participating in the shooting sports themselves. We buddied up early in our hunting careers as I enjoyed teaching and listening to their excited and rapid breathing after they pulled the trigger. While they were my “little ones” they deserved answers to the questions they asked, many of them about the woods, the animals. And of course they never tired of asking the famous “Why?” question.
In due course, they ventured on their own, starting with deer season, where they were literally around the corner from me where I worked hard at trying to “will” a deer to show up and a shot to happen. Through much persistence, they stayed on me with requests until finally they carried their own backpack so they could shoot and gut their deer. They wanted to learn how to skin and they did along with butchering. In time, the three of them racked up a pretty impressive list of harvested trophies. But over time, they reached other milestones any father would be proud of.
No matter whether the hunting was at our deer camp or in a foreign country, they enjoyed the entire experience. Soaking up the culture, asking questions of those who lived in a different land and being there for more than the hunt was their modus operandi. They recognized the good fortune we had to be able to experience family hunting trips to various destinations. While they reveled in the story of a Kudu that slipped by them for most of a day, but was finally their trophy just before dark, they talked with just as much passion about the sunsets, the PH and the variety of animals they took pictures of. They also were keen enough to realize how lucky they are to live in a country like ours. Their growing maturity was evident as our discussions changed from the million questions to questions about poverty, race and the blessings they sometimes took for granted.
As our family turned pages of the atlas and future trips became photo album memories I am amazed at how our time has slipped by. Closing my eyes I can replay precious moments of any one of our excursions. Everything from Amie and I sitting over a blazing fire sipping hot chocolate after being snowed out on a spring bear hunt to Amber, Ashley and I reliving their first deer as we re-enacted the event. I can also recall some pretty significant discussions about marriage, raising children, boys as well as listening to major young lady issues.
More than anything however, I can look back at a time in my life where I know sharing this type of experience really made a difference. The twins are now 24 and Amie is no longer my teenager. The work world has found a place for the twins and Amie is in her third year of college. There is no turning back and trying to do the things we have done. It’s a good thing I’ve bonded with my girls, because it would be too late to try to start now. Young men have entered the picture evident by the fact that a wedding is planned for next year with others to follow. Dad is finding his time he spends with his daughters is on a collision course with competition.
Some people in my situation may think the twilight years are coming too fast. Those trips that used to require a suburban loaded with gear and gadgets now can be done in a truck with much less planning. I tend to look at it differently. There is no greater legacy in our lives than our children. There is no investment larger than our kids. Strong relationships are only strong because of trust and love. Take one out and you have nothing.
There are two things I take from my journey thus far. One is that I have an exceptional bond with my daughters. Close does not begin to describe our relationship. As a family we talk daily and fight hard to make time off work to our advantage. If the world stopped today and we had to depend on each other to survive, we would have it made.
The second thing is that most of this would not have happened without our participation in the outdoor world. There are two categories of people who will interpret that comment. One group will understand as they reach back into their minds and think about the sunsets they have enjoyed with their kids, the first flushing pheasant, or the value they placed in looking across the campfire at the face of their son or daughter. That group will understand the impossibilities of conveying that message to nonhunters or those who don’t experience the outdoors.
The other group will be those who never had the good fortune of learning what the outdoors can do for them or refuse to open their minds to that possibility. They will be short on facts and long on opinion. If you look closely, however, you will likely also find they are missing something in their personal life – a special bond that has never been introduced and special time never shared. As they carve their legacy they will be able to fool many people but they won’t be able to fool their children or themselves.
As for me, I am looking forward to round two. Sure, being able to fit in a short trip or two with my busy girls will be a priority. But in the meantime I will be patient. Someday, if I am lucky enough, I will get to repeat the process with another little hand or another freckled face. This time, however, they will be grandkids influenced by their grandparents as well as parents who grew up loving the outdoors. That’s a combination anyone should be proud of. I’m looking forward to it.”

~ Ashley Voigt

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Wonderful Month

October has flown by so fast which is sad because it is my favorite month! I had my birthday early this month and I had a great time. My friends and I went to the movie Pitch Perfect and then out to dinner. I then spent the rest of the night working on nursing homework. School for me is going great! The homework load is intense, but we are almost done with this semester and it feels great! It is going to be May before we know it and I will be graduating.

ALS Awareness has slowed down a little. The walks for North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota have come to an end for the year, but planning will be beginning soon for next year. I am already excited to get fundraising again and plan for the walks. My mom is still fighting stronger than ever, and I miss her every day. I have not been able to make it home since September, and I was only home for a few hours. I will be going home for Thanksgiving and I am so excited! I am also excited because I always go black Friday shopping and I know that will be a blast.

Here is a wonderful quote to get your week started:
“Be a fruit loop in a world full of cheerios.”

Love Always,
Miss North Dakota International
Erica Lemna

Twas the Night of all Hollows Eve:

Happy Halloween!

I’m sure you are all  eager to don your costume of choice for Halloween 2012 and eat endless amounts of candy…however I just wanted to bring to mind a couple of safety tips for the big night. Halloween is the third most dangerous day of the year when it comes to car accidents. According to media reports the number of children on the streets DOUBLES during this time of year! This means there will be twice as many pedestrians to watch out for, majority of them wearing dark costumes, many times easy to miss. By keeping in mind a couple of basic tips everyone is able to enjoy themselves and still stay safe! Be sure as drivers you are aware of the increase in pedestrians and take extra precautions in stopping at crosswalks and slowing down, especially in residential areas! For all you participating in the trick-or-treating be sure you are wearing some light colors mixed in with your costumes! Also stay in familiar areas and carry a flashlight.

While many children are busy participating in the usual festivities there are also adults who are in search of spooky entertainment. This is where majority of the problems come into play. One of the major concerns during holidays like this one is the increase in the amount of drunk drivers on the roads. The increase in pedestrians mixed with an increase in intoxicated drivers is what leads to the dangerous statistics presented earlier in this blog. According to some officials, “More than 30 people have been killed in crashes during the past eight Halloweens, and 2,200 have been injured. An astounding 40 percent of these accidents involve alcohol.” For this reason I urge everyone to take every precaution in staying safe this Halloween, and to remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Designate a driver, use public transportation, or call an alternate ride; the repercussions of an accident aren’t worth it! One destructive decision could change your life forever. Be smart. Be safe!

Until next time,

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Double the Fun

Greetings everyone!! This is Ashley and Erica. We are excited to jointly give you an update on our last two appearances (although we have deeply missed our other sister queen Olivia). October 12th was UND’s Homecoming parade. We were involved in a way that matched our personalities very well. Instead of sitting in a car waving at the crowd as we slowly moved by, we went by foot! We were able to greet others with hugs and pictures and personally deliver candy to people of all ages. It was such a blast!

The following day we greeted beautiful brides and their friends and families at the front door of the Ramada Plaza & Suites Crystal Ballroom for the annual Bridal Fantasy Show! The event was full of positive energy, happy brides, fashion shows, dancing and various vendors ready to discuss their products and services that compliment every part of a wedding day. We were even there to witness the lucky bride and groom to win the $20,000 grand prize!

One of the highlights about the international system is being able to attend events together and share wonderful memories as sister queens.  And this weekend definitely encompassed that!

All our love,
Ashley and Erica

Catching Up:

Hello All,
I know it’s been a little while since you’ve heard from me; and let me tell you college life is keeping me busy! My classes have been going really well and just the other day I met with my academic advisor to discuss next semester…I can’t even believe so much time has flown by already. Since arriving on campus I have not only gained an appreciation for comfortable walking shoes… I’ve also joined an intramural volleyball team and a sorority! Joining Kappa Kappa Gamma has been one of the best choices I’ve made so far. The connections I’ve already made with the girls have been more than I could ever ask for. The Kappa house is my home away from home and I’m so thankful for that. The Greek community in general is so strong here at the U, it was a way for me to shrink the campus down from the astonishing student population of 50,000 +. Along with making lifelong friendships we, as a Kappa chapter, get to participate in some pretty amazing philanthropy work. Our philanthropy is called, Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and works to promote literacy in children. It was founded in 1966 and provides 4.5 million children with 16 million new, free books to encourage reading motivation, family and community involvement, and the excitement of choosing new free books to enjoy. I am super excited to be able to add to my philanthropy work, especially when it revolves around something I LOVE; reading! I can’t wait to see the amazing things our Kappa chapter will accomplish throughout the year!!

Until next time,

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I have had a great couple weekends! A couple of weekends ago, I had the amazing opportunity to be on the field at the Minnesota Twins game to help receive a check made out to the ALS Association! It was so much fun, and I felt very blessed to be a part of the check presentation. It was my first time at the Target Field and I really got to see it from such an amazing spot, right on home plate! My cousin drove down with me, and we were unable to stay for the entire game because we drove back the same night. The next day, I got to ride in my hometown Enderlin North Dakota’s Sunflower Days parade. My uncle has a Chevy Camaro convertible and he let me use it for the parade. My sister got to drive the car, but I had so much fun throwing out candy and seeing familiar faces in my hometown.

                Last weekend I was back in the cities for the Minneapolis Walk to Defeat ALS. My amazing roommate came with me and we got to also do a little shopping the night before. Saturday morning was freezing, and of course I was not thinking and didn’t have enough to keep me warm. I still had so much fun volunteering and seeing familiar faces from the Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota ALS Association office. I was interviewed by a local station and that was very fun as well! Before I knew it, my roommate and I were back on the road heading back to Grand Forks.

                This weekend has all been about studying for some difficult exams I have this week. Nursing school is keeping me very busy, but I love every minute of it! I miss my family lots and I can’t wait to see them over Thanksgiving! My mom is doing well, and I talk to her as often as I can. She is such a fighter and I know that I can make it through anything in my life because she has fought through more than I ever have or will.  I miss my pageant sisters Olivia and Ashley as well as my directors Kathy and Allison. They are my family as well, and I can’t wait to see them!

Love Always,
Miss North Dakota International
Erica Lemna




Inspiration Has No Boundaries

The Fargo Quota Fashion Show and Silent Auction has a history of worthy causes and inspirational messages. This year is no different. In its 58th year, the event will be held at the Ramada Plaza Suites Crystal Ballroom on October 11th, 2012 (Silent Auction beginning at 5:30pm and Fashion Show starting at 7pm). Quota means “we share” and it is a world-wide organization that links its members of all ages, occupations, and nationalities, in a sisterhood of service and friendship. It offers its members opportunities to help those in need within their community, grow personally and professionally and make a difference. Quota is proud to announce that Jayden and Wyatt Miller, who were nominated by Beyond Boundaries Therapy Services, have been selected as this year’s recipients for the funds raised!

Jayden and Wyatt are precious twin boys who were put into foster care by the Miller family when they were 9 months old. The boys arrived with a long list of appointments and health problems, but they were up for the challenge. At one time the doctors advised the family that the prognosis for one of the twins was that of a vegetable status; however, with miraculous recoveries and unconditional love, he has grown into a healthy and energetic little boy. His brother has also overcome difficult hardships in his young life. Among many other needs, he has a sensorinerual hearing loss with a condition so sensitive that he may completely loose his hearing, depending on the hit or fall he takes. The family attended about 430 appointments within their first year of fostering the boys. With the extra care, intensive therapies and constant support from the Miller family, the boys have overcome multiple obstacles.

The most incredible part of this story is this. Despite all of the adversity the Miller family has endured financially, emotionally and physically caring for these boys through foster care, they made the decision to adopt them to officially become a part of their family. How incredible is it to know that although there will be continued appointments and scares, their act of love outweighs any hardships that lies ahead. The Miller family reminds us of why we have been created on this planet in the first place…to love unconditionally. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all.

I will be there as the event’s MC. But this event is extra special for a personal reason. This family has blessed my life since the day I began providing speech-language therapy services for the twins over two years ago. They have been such a joy to all who meet them and I am honored to help in any way I can. Please consider supporting this family through a donation, both monetary donations and silent auction items are being accepted. Please email Dani at if you have a donation or would like to attend this evening packed full of fun (only $20!)!

Checks can be made out to Quota International of Fargo. Please mail donations to:

Beyond Boundaries Therapy Services
c/o Dani Helgeson
3001 11th St. S.
Fargo, ND 58103

Thank you for your time and generosity,
Ashley Voigt

Celebrate My Drive


Just this past weekend I was given the unique opportunity to #celebratemydrive at the local mall in Minnetonka, MN. There were drunk driving simulators, texting and driving simulators, roll-over simulators and lots of interactive booths and contests. State Farm puts on this event every year and it occurs in multiple states/cities. The experience was so fun and I was even given the chance to contribute my own personal driving views in a video that is being put together (link soon to come). It was great to see lots of local high schools coming out for the event, learning about driving safety and entering to win one of the many grants awarded to the schools.

This is a link showing a video of Scotty Mcreery thanking everyone for coming out to the celebrate my drive event and pumping everyone up for teen driver safety week (third week in October). Check it out for more info on the different events nationwide that State Farm put on September 15th!


Until next time,

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SLP Facts!

Last week I had the privilege of speaking about my wonderful job to a captivating audience made up of preschool teachers and daycare staff members. I presented information on the disorders Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) target, why early intervention is so important and of course, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library! There are many people who are aware that SLPs work with children who have difficulty producing a specific sound. However, our scope of practice encompasses much more than that! We provide assessment and treatment for individuals ranging from infants through geriatrics in a variety of settings. We offer services for those whose speech, language, cognition, fluency, hearing, voice or swallowing abilities are affected. 

While sharing this information in detail, I gave examples of specific developmental milestones adults should listen for. Because I primarily work with little ones, I wanted to share a few simple, yet valuable facts with you:
®    The sounds that children typically first develop are /p, m, h, n, w/. Children should be able to produce these sounds correctly in all positions in conversation by the age of three.
®    A one year old child should be using vocabulary up to 6 words (other than mama and dada) and by the age of two, their expressive vocabulary drastically increases to 200-300 words.
®    Children should be using 2-3 word utterances at two years old, communicating their wants and needs purposefully and more independently.
®    By age three years old, your child should be consistently using the pronouns your, she, he, we, my, me, I and it correctly in conversation.
®    At four years old, we should be able to understand at least 75% of their speech.
References: Lanza, J.R., & Flahive, L. K. (2008). Guide to Communication Milestones. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems, Inc.

Another piece of information that is critical to a child’s development is literacy. Children develop literacy skills long before they are able to read (just as we develop language skills before we begin speaking). This is why the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is such a priceless tool families can use to facilitate growth and development.

The point of sharing a few specific facts is this. There are certain “red flags” that children can present where professionals can identify but may be overlooked by others; therefore, I would strongly encourage you to always ask questions. Speech, language and communication are the foundation to learning. Early signs of difficulties in these abilities are a very significant predictor of later literacy difficulties. Asking a professional about your concerns is extremely important because the earlier you address your child’s weakness the sooner progress can be made!

Happy first few weeks of school!
Ashley Voigt