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franklin county times

Mitchell living her dream

Russellville native Madeline Mitchell, the reigning Miss Alabama USA, finished as the second runner-up in The Miss USA Pageant this past Sunday in Las Vegas.

The 2007 Russellville High School graduate got her start in pageants at Russellville’s Sweetheart Pageant when she was only in the sixth grade and she used her pageant experience over the last ten years to claim the third highest spot in the Miss USA pageant.

“When they announced that I was part of the top eight I was ecstatic, but when they announced that I was in the top four, I almost fell over,” Mitchell said. “Considering they haven’t had a Miss Alabama USA get in the top five in a long time, I feel a sense of accomplishment because my goal was to do the best I could and I think I did that.”

Mitchell’s parents, Suzanne and John Mitchell, were there for every step of their daughter’s journey and made the trip to Las Vegas to support her.

“We are all just so proud of her,” Suzanne Mitchell said. “She worked so hard, even after she got out there. I went to rehearsals every day and you just couldn’t believe the work that goes into all of it.”

“I just think this has been a real good experience for her and will open up doors for her later in life,” John Mitchell said. “It was great to be out here to support her. They even came to get me and Suzanne when she made the top four and escorted us down to the front. It was sweet to see her up there living her dream.”

During her Miss USA Pageant journey, Mitchell was able to participate in many once-in-a-lifetime experiences from being featured on an episode of “Good Morning America” to eating dinner with Donald Trump.

“We had appearances every day and went to great places like Chef Kerry Simon’s restaurant, KGB Burgers, where we made burgers and cotton candy,” Mitchell said. “We also had pool parties and media appearances and went biking through Red Rock Canyon, which was a great experience.

“But my favorite experience was my appearance on ‘Good Morning America.’ That was awesome.”

For Mitchell, the whole Miss USA experience was truly a miracle since she was told by doctors in September 2008 that she might never walk again after she sustained life-threatening injuries in a car crash.

Mitchell lost control of her vehicle on her way home from Tuscaloosa and crashed into a ravine where he car caught fire. Mitchell might not have been able to make it out alive had it not been for Gary Llewellyn, a Wal-Mart truck driver who came up on the scene just seconds after the wreck.

Mitchell was on a respirator for 12 days, sustained 30 scars all over her body and had to use a wheelchair for two months.

“One of the scariest thoughts I’d ever had was thinking I’d never realize my dreams,” Mitchell said. “The first thing I asked my parents when I woke up in the hospital was if I was going to be able to compete in the Miss Alabama USA pageant that year and they just kept saying ‘One day you will.’”

As Mitchell said on a taped interview during Sunday night’s pageant, ‘no’ didn’t mean ‘no’ for her and she made up her mind that she would one day achieve her pageant dreams.

After several long months of physical therapy, Mitchell said she was finally able to regain the strength she had before her accident and dove back in to pageant training with a vengeance. In November, that hard work and dedication paid off in the form of a crown – Mitchell was crowned Miss Alabama USA 2011, which for her was a dream come true.

Ever since her win in November, Mitchell has trained and worked towards Sunday’s pageant, and she has received tons of support from the people of her hometown.

Mitchell’s Facebook page was covered in well-wishes and good-lucks leading up to the pageant and even more congratulatory comments after her second runner-up finish.

“Maddie, you looked wonderful tonight. You have made everyone in Russellville so proud,” RHS graduate Abbigale Voyles said.

“Congrats,” Russellville resident Chelsea James wrote. “So proud to say you are from Russellville! You looked beautiful and represented Alabama very well!”

Mitchell said all the support from her friends and her family have meant so much to her.

“It makes me feel happy to be where I’m from,” Mitchell said. “Everyone has been so supportive. I’ve received so many phone calls and e-mails telling me I did a great job representing Alabama and Russellville. It’s been nice.”

So now that the Miss USA Pageant is behind her, the reigning Miss Alabama USA has many different things looming on the horizon.

“I’ve actually had several different offers already with TV, modeling and acting, so something like that could be next,” Mitchell said. “I’ve also still got a year of school left, so we’ll just see. This has opened so many doors. I’ll just go where God leads me.”

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