Highland News Leader

Highland businessmen take fight to cancer in ‘Ms. L.O.L. Pageant’

Local models use Minute to Win it Games to prepare for upcoming fashion show

The owner of Heather Pearson Photography hosted a game day for her model team #FLYGIRLS and local pediatric cancer survivors and their siblings. The day is meant to acquaint the group before the Leaps of Love benefit fashion show on Aug. 11.
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The owner of Heather Pearson Photography hosted a game day for her model team #FLYGIRLS and local pediatric cancer survivors and their siblings. The day is meant to acquaint the group before the Leaps of Love benefit fashion show on Aug. 11.

A group of Highland men have banded together for the noblest of causes.

The 12 businessmen will don their finest female garb and compete in the Leaps of Love “Ms. L.O.L. Pageant 2019” to help fight childhood cancer.

The event takes place at 7 p.m. May 11 in the Highland Elementary School auditorium and is live streaming at Lindendall Ballroom in Highland.

Leaps of Love is a Highland organization which helps families affected by childhood brain tumors and the late effects of childhood cancer.

“We do this every five years. We use contestants to help me raise awareness about childhood cancer,” said Traci Riechmann, Leaps of Love president and coordinator of the event. “Cancer is a constant battle.”

The 12 contestants include Jim “Mercedes” Meridith, Chad “Che Che” Zurliene, Ben “Clementine” Eberwein, Brian “Frogetta” Weiss, Steve “Cherri” Carey, Chad “Cheetah” Zobrist, Boyd “Justice” Rinderer, Brian “Breyonce’” Beard, Tom “Hollywood” Switzer, Bill “Isabilla” Sloan, Brent “Marshmellow” Knebel, and Joe “Helga” Horstmann.

They will compete for Ms. L.O.L., Miss Congeniality, and the People’s Choice Award. Of note, every $1 they raise is one vote toward the People’s Choice award. The competition — which initially took place in 2014 — will include the following categories: Miniskirt, Talent and Evening Gown.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing these 12 men compete,” Riechmann said. “Just listening to them the other night — same as the group in 2014 — the bond the men have is priceless. They’ll forever be locked into that.”

As of last week, the group had raised $67,000; Riechmann said their goal is $75,000. The group has participated in numerous fundraisers from bowling events to raffles, and Riechmann is grateful for their efforts.

“I’m amazed at what they’ve done,” she said. “I am so appreciative of them. They have had a whole year of doing different fundraisers. They have gone out to do clinic activities. They’ve gone with me to do presentations. They went with me on (the Leaps of Love) retreats. Anything I’ve asked of them to get the awareness out there … they’ve done more than I could have asked for. It’s been miraculous.”

The inaugural one took place in 2014 with 10 participants. For the 2019 pageant, Riechmann started seeking contestants in January 2018. Within a month, she had 87 nominations.

“I invited all of them to an informational meeting in March (2018) just to come and see what all this entailed, how much time and effort it would require and what I wanted them to do within a year,” Riechmann said. “And 27 showed up; out of them, 20 were committed. We had to process and eliminate the pool down to 12.”

Riechmann said some of the 2014 participants are assisting with this year’s event, including helping with backstage props and providing insight and support for the 2019 field. Additionally, two of the 2014 contestants are emceeing the pageant. However, there is no overlap in contestants — this is a completely different field.

“The 2014 and 2019 men want to team up to keep the camaraderie going,” Riechmann said. “Just the bonds they have made, the contacts … it’s fun to see. They said they’re going to have a reunion after this one. They’ll be together and share experiences.”

Tickets are available at the Leaps of Love office, 1005 Broadway, Highland, or by calling them at 618-410-7212. For more information, people also can text PAGEANT to 71777.

As of Monday morning, Riechmann said approximately 60 tickets remained for the auditorium, which holds 800, and that numerous tickets remained for the ballroom, which holds 500. Ticket price for the live performance in the auditorium is $25, while the live streaming at Lindendale Ballroom includes a cash bar and Optimist pizza sales for $15.

The event also will include a free “after party” for the public where people can get autographs and pictures with the contestants following the show.

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