Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
WOODLAND, CALIFORNIA (Daily Democrat) - Tara Vittone knows all about the financial hardships a family endures when a loved one gets diagnosed with cancer.
She's been there before.
In 2003, the 36-year-old Woodland housewife's husband, Mark, became ill. Doctors told Mark, 36, that he had pneumonia.
But doctors had misdiagnosed Mark. It turns out Mark actually had Stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma -- a disease which is often mistaken for pneumonia.
As Mark's weight dropped from 250 pounds to 175, the cable splicing technician at AT&T was unable to work and went on disability.
With the Vittones in need of assistance, hospital workers suggested the family to contact the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
"They helped us with co-pays and mileage to and from his appointments," Tara recalled. "It meant a lot when you have barely any income and three children at the time."
Later that same year, Mark went into remission.
Ever since, the Vittones have pitched in to raise funds for the society that they themselves benefited from in their time of need.
Team Vittone has hosted pizza nights and collected change at schools, raising anywhere between $500 to $1,000. But this year the Vittones are going big.
"We've never done anything of this magnitude," Tara said.
'Princess of Hope'
A few weeks ago, one of Tara's two daughters, Isabella, 12, had any idea.
"Mom, why don't we have a beauty pageant in the backyard?"
Although the Vittones, who now have four children, have a decent-sized backyard, Tara said she "didn't want everybody coming into the house."
Nonetheless, Tara saw her daughter's idea as a golden opportunity for a fundraiser -- one that could potential raise $5,000 for charity.
But Tara wasn't sure where she could host an event that could have anywhere from 100 to 450 members in its audience.
Eventually Tara emailed Jeff Kean, executive director of the Woodland Opera House, and the two worked out an arrangement in which the first annual "Princess of Hope" Charity Beauty Pageant could be held at the Opera House on Sept. 18 without any overhead for the nonprofit event.
Part of Kean and Tara's agreement also allows 100 percent of concession sales to go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Each contestant's parents are required to donate store bought snacks, which will be sold at intermission.
"If it works out, we'll do it every year," Kean said of what will be the first pageant ever held at the Opera House. "It's the kind of thing we want to do at the Opera House."
'They're all princesses'
Tara, who is co-directing the pageant with Windylyn Galindo, is shooting for five divisions of 10 girls for the pageant, including:
-a 3- to 5-year-old Tiny Miss division.
-a 6- to 8-year-old Little Miss division.
-a 9- to 12-year-old Jr. Miss division.
-a 13- to 15-year-old Teen Miss division.
-a 15- to 18-year-old Miss division.
All girls that participate are going to earn a crown donated by Coco's of Woodland.
"They're all princesses," Tara said.
K & M Floral & Interior Plant Designs is providing bouquets and stage flowers.
Under Tara's guidelines, contestants under 13 are not allowed to wear makeup.
"I don't want Woodland to have a reputation for inappropriate beauty pageants," Tara said.
Contestants will be judged on good character, charm, poise and natural beauty. So far, Leona Jull, executive director of the Wayfarer Center, and Vince Olvera, of Yolo Post 77, have been pegged as judges.
Tickets ($16 for adults 13 and up, $10 for children 12 and under) go on sale today and can be bought at the Opera House's box office or website at thewoodlandoperahouse.art.officelive.com.
Those interested in entering the pageant can get more information by contacting Tara at 383-5134 or by attending a recruitment event at Jamba Juice, 1897 E. Gibson Road, on Friday.
All proceeds from the pageant will go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which also promotes cancer research.
"We have benefited from (the society). It's something we know the money is going to the patients," Tara said. "You hear a lot about different foundations, but you don't know the money is going to somebody. We have directly benefited from this. So I know it's legitimate."
Copyright 2016 Daily Democrat
Updated 1863 days ago Article ID# 1136071
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society