“A Shining Light for Inclusion”

Let’s be honest. You have to be beautiful to be a Miss USA pageant participant.  And, Mikayla Holmgren is beautiful – inside and out.

Holmgren is the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant – and possibly the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in the Miss USA pageants.  And, she is showing the world that having special needs can be beautiful.

Although Holmgren wasn’t crowned Miss Minnesota USA, she did earn two major awards – the Director’s Award and the Spirit Award – and a standing ovation from the crowd.

“I didn’t expect it,” Holmgren said. “I was crying on stage when they told me my friend surprised me with a beautiful note to help me win the Spirit Award.”

Pageant director Denise Wallace Heitkamp read Holmgren’s nomination letter, “You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile and dance. There is nothing normal about you and why be normal when you can be great? You have never wanted special privileges, but to always be treated like everyone else. You exude the spirit of the Miss USA by always being true to yourself, putting others first. You have selflessness, humility and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and excitement in your heart.”

“Mikayla’s enthusiasm, as you can see, has motivated us as a staff and her positive presence made her an outstanding contestant,” Wallace Heitkamp said.

Holmgren said she wants the world to know that her Down syndrome “does not define” her. “With your help, I can help break through walls,” she said.

“I’m just really excited, the pageant is out in the world and people are going to know about this,” Holmgren said in April. “I want to do this, on my own and I’m really, really proud of myself.”

Holmgren began dancing at age 6, and, in 2015, was crowned Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing.  The Miss Amazing pageants are beauty pageants especially for constants with disabilities because “Girls with disabilities can and do accomplish amazing things.” She said when she got an application in the mail for Miss Minnesota USA, she begged her mother to let her do it.

Holmgren is an inspiration and a glowing embodiment that, if children – with special needs and without – are provided opportunities to develop positive attitudes toward themselves and others who are different from themselves, no challenge is impossible.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from my 30 years of owning and operating Fitness for Health, a state-of-the-art, therapeutic fitness facility helping people of ALL abilities reach their full potential, it is that embracing and honoring people’s differences supports and allows children and teens with special needs to succeed and allows them to see just how beautiful – inside and out – they truly are.

In my opinion, we each need to search for a person’s strengths and find the positive in each person and value the contributions he/she makes to make ALL of our lives better and more beautiful.

“I hope to continue dancing.  I want to teach art to young children. And, I would love to model.  I want to live independently and continue to be an advocate for inclusion. I want to be a light shining for acceptance,” Holmgren said on Facebook in October.

You are a true hero to many women with disabilities.  And, I applaud Miss Minnesota USA  for showcasing your beauty and fearlessness to the world.

About Fitness for Health:

A finalist for About.com’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Special Needs Resource in the D.C. Region and Washington Family Magazine’s Best Special Needs Program and Special Needs Camp in the D.C. area, Fitness for Health, founded by Marc Sickel who also suffers from ADD, specializes in creating personalized, therapeutic programs for children with a broad range of special needs:

  • Down Syndrome
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Gross motor delays
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Pervasive developmental disorders
  • ADD/ADHD/LD
  • Developmental and physical disabilities
  • Confidence and self-esteem issues
  • Emotional disturbances and anxiety disorders

At Fitness for Health, you get a complete team—including pediatric fitness specialists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists—working together to create a full-service plan of care that’s expertly tailored to your child’s developmental, skill and comfort levels while providing fitness for kids. As a parent, you’re involved every step of the way.  Learn more about our therapeutic exercise, occupational therapy services, and physical therapy services today.