Miss Kentucky on Alzheimer’s support, representing the Bluegrass, preparing for 100th year of Miss America

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 12:36 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - On June 19, Haley Wheeler of Clay City was crowned Miss Kentucky 2021. Wheeler will now compete for the Miss America crown later this year.

Wheeler won the Miss Bowling Green preliminary pageant to earn her spot on the Miss Kentucky stage. She said she considers Bowling Green her “second home” as she is a two-time graduate of Western Kentucky University. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Communication Disorders, minor in American Sign Language Studies, and her Master’s Degree in Speech Language Pathology. Wheeler says she knew from a young age she wanted to work in healthcare, and then a relative’s diagnosis further cemented her desire to do so. “I had watched my great grandpa fight Alzheimer’s at a young age, and go through therapy, and I didn’t really understand it at the time, but then when I shadowed in my sophomore year of college, it really kind of reaffirmed what I wanted to do,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler’s platform is A Stitch of Hope: Alzheimer’s Awareness. “It initially started as a passion project to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s disease. My great grandpa passed away when I was 15 years old, and that kind of really impacted me in a way that I didn’t realize at the time would come full circle...so I now seek to bridge gaps between the youth of Kentucky and elderly people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, through volunteerism and using the talents that maybe some people would consider that make them a little bit odd, and use those to embrace the world around them and impact elderly people.”

Wheeler said winning Miss Kentucky and now preparing to compete in the Miss America pageant is a dream come true. “I’ve dreamt for a long time, since I was little and watched my first Miss America, to get up on that stage and represent Kentucky at the national level.” In the meantime, being Miss Kentucky is Wheeler’s full-time job. She’s the official spokesperson for Kentucky Proud and the Department of Agriculture and makes public speaking appearances. She’s also preparing for her time at Miss America in Mohegan Sun, Connecticut in December 2021, which includes polishing her performance for the talent portion of the contest. “I’m a vocalist, so I’m singing everyday in the car, in the shower, to my friends, to my neighbors, to the chickens that live next door to me. They probably don’t like it,” she said with a laugh.

This year marks the 100th year for the Miss America Scholarship Pageant. Wheeler said, “In 1921, a 16 year old girl won when it was just a swimsuit competition. Now, look at how far it’s come and it’s such an honor to be a part of that 100th year class. I’ve already been communicating with the girls I will be competing with, and they’re just the sweetest and just really the brightest and best that America has to offer. So I’m really excited to meet them and get to compete with them.”

Wheeler said there’s a lot to look forward to when it comes to her reign as Miss Kentucky and her experience at Miss America. “It’s so cool to get to represent that on a national level and just to be that girl from Eastern Kentucky that grew up not really thinking that these things happened to people where I was from, and to get to say you know what, this can happen, and to inspire little girls that may be in the same position as me.”

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