By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
As if the holiday season doesn’t provide us with enough excitement and to-do lists, it was even more hectic for Lincoln High School senior Darian Darway who was also preparing for a trip to Memphis, Tennessee to represent her school, her community and her state!
Darian was named this year’s Lincoln High School Homecoming Queen and thanks to that title, she and other Homecoming Queens throughout the country were invited to submit an application to America’s Homecoming Queen, an organization based in Memphis that gives these young ladies the opportunity to participate in Liberty Bowl events.
Darian filled out an application which called for a photo, her academic ranking, a list of her community service projects, and her comments about her life ambition.
She received word that she was one of four girls from West Virginia selected to attend this Liberty Bowl extravaganza. Seventy homecoming queens representing 29 states participated.
“We had an orientation, some rehearsals, and got to ride on a float in the Liberty Bowl parade,” Darian stated. “We were all escorted onto the field at halftime by military personnel and got to stay on the field during the halftime entertainment with music provided by the Commodores.”
The girls attending were asked to collect pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House and bring them along. Darian took ten and a half gallon-size ziplock bags full of pop tabs; she was the third largest tab provider!
“The top five queens who brought the most pop tabs were able to personally deliver them to the Ronald McDonald House,” she explained. “We also toured the facility, and it was truly an eye-opening experience! I learned so much about the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.”
St. Jude’s is a pediatric research and treatment facility that focuses on children with catastrophic diseases. They see over 200 patients a day there.
“We were told that their electric bill is $15,000 a month! And yet, their services are free to children who are extremely sick,” she noted. “They pride themselves on letting children have treatment and then go home because it is more comforting than being in a hospital setting.”
The Ronald McDonald House in Memphis serves more than 50 families at this particular location. “I saw many of these families there with their children. They all are fighting similar battles, but when they stay at the Ronald McDonald House, they all interacted as one big family!” Darian added.
In addition, Darian took it upon herself to prepare little gift bags with games, etc. to give to the children there. “I had a lot of support from friends and students at my school making donations for the care packages and the pop tab collection,” she continued. “Because my chaperone and I drove to Memphis and had to take special attire and a gown to wear, there was only room to take 85 of the gift bags, but I have more left over that I plan to take to Morgantown and share with the kids at the WVU Children’s Hospital.”
Her three days in Memphis were exciting and a great experience, she said.
“It was an opportunity to meet and make lots of new friends,” she added. “Probably those who traveled the greatest distance were from California and Montana.”
Later in May, the organization will hold pageants in each state. Darian noted that each state winner will have the opportunity to advance to a national competition where scholarships will be awarded.
“The pageant dates have not been released yet, so I’m not sure if I will be able to participate or not,” she concluded, “but whether I do or not, it was an unforgettable experience to take part in the Liberty Bowl celebration.”