Miss America Cara Mund said Saturday she had seen the difference that Make-A-Wish makes in the life of people struggling with health problems.

Mund, 23, promoted her favorite cause Saturday at the Denim & Diamonds Gala in Jamestown.

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Mund is not only the first Miss North Dakota to win the national crown, but the first to promote Make-A-Wish as her platform.

“It still seems like a dream,” she said. “but I am grateful to be back in the state.”

Denim & Diamonds raises money for JakeStar, an organization that funds safety training for youth on all-terrain vehicles and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Dakota.

Make-A-Wish grants wishes, such as trips to Disney World or other places, to children facing critical illness and their families. It is funded through fundraising and volunteer efforts.

“When they are facing the toughest time in their life,” Mund said, “Make-A-Wish makes their life a little brighter.”

"When they are facing the toughest time in their life, Make-A-Wish makes their life a little brighter.

MISS AMERICA CARA MUND

Mund said she first learned about Make-A-Wish when she was 14 and two of her classmates battled cancer. That year, Mund organized the Make-A-Wish Fashion Show in her hometown of Bismarck. That event has run now for 10 years and raised almost $80,000 which has granted 23 wishes, Mund said.

During the Gala, Mund shared the stage with Ryder Schlafman-Hieb, an 8-year-old Jamestown girl who had traveled to Disney World in Florida as her wish last February.

Ryder said the entire trip was exciting.

“When I heard about it, I was like ‘Yes,’” she said.

Ryder said the weather in Florida was a little too warm for her last February, but thought everything else was fine.

“You could eat ice cream anytime you want,” she said. “Even in your pajamas.”

The fourth annual Denim & Diamonds Gala sold out of tickets with about 200 people in attendance.

“Having Miss America here is a big plus,” said Laura Shockman, organizer of the event. “Especially because she is from North Dakota.”

It all came together because of Mund’s support for Make-A-Wish.

“We actually contacted her because of her platform,” Shockman said. “What a great opportunity.”

Mund said her trip home to North Dakota was brief. By Monday, she will be visiting veterans in the Washington, D.C., area as part of a USO show.

“It is always an honor to be back in North Dakota,” she said. “I had opportunities to compete in pageants in other states, but I wanted to represent North Dakota.”

Mund said she considered it a victory to have been asked a question about Make-A-Wish on stage during the Miss America finals.

“I thought I probably wouldn’t win but I could talk about Make-A-Wish on stage,” she said.

Billi Jo Zielinski, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish North Dakota, said the organization still needs volunteers to help with its programs.

Information about Make-A-Wish North Dakota is available at www.northdakota.wish.org.Information about JakeStar is available at www.jakestar.org.

knorman@jamestownsun.com (701) 952-8452