With autism taking center stage at the Miss America Pageant 2013 in Las Vegas, Miss Montana, Alexis Wineman, was in the spotlight for overcoming her own struggles with that condition. Overshadowed, but no less important, was Miss Alabama’s contribution to the autism world.
Miss Alabama 2012, Anna Laura Bryan, was awarded first place and a $6,000 scholarship for the pageant’s Quality of Life award, in recognition of her platform, called P.A.W.S. for Autism – People and Animals Working Side-by-side.
This award goes to the contestant who best demonstrates a strong dedication to improving the quality of life for others in their volunteer and community service efforts. Candidates must show a significant level of commitment, project creativeness and substantial results in the lives of the recipients.
Anna spent two years raising awareness about the need of children with autism to be able to take their service dog to Alabama public schools, something only blind or deaf children could do at the time. Her efforts culminated in a bill, which she wrote, that allowed service dogs for all kinds of needs to be allowed into public schools. In June 2011, Governor Robert Bentley signed the bill into law.
The dogs help facilitate a child’s social interactions, and to make her point, Bryan took a student and autism dog with her as she competed for the Miss Alabama title. She also helped the organization seek nonprofit status.
The Alabama legislature commended her for her efforts.
“WHEREAS, Miss Anna Laura Bryan brings to the Miss America competition her noble platform, “Paws for Autism,” in which she advocates rights for autistic children; her laudable goal is to provide scholarships for financially struggling families who want to obtain an autism therapy dog; she promotes Wilderwood Service Dogs, an organization in Maryville, Tennessee, that specializes in a variety of neurological disorders and trains service dogs that help individuals manage their symptoms; commendably, she has raised money for autism with fundraisers; and
WHEREAS, with much dedication and persistence, she worked for the passing of legislation that allows students to bring not only autism service dogs, but any type of service dog to school; the bill she wholeheartedly poured her energy into became enacted into Alabama law in 2011;”
See the actual bill here.
According to Alexis Wineman, Miss Montana, who overcame autism to take part in the Miss America 2013, the two became great friends during the pageant.