Miss Weber County 2020-21, Abigail Laing, said she joined pageants as an adult so she could receive scholarships to attend college. Years later and still in pageants, Laing is grateful for the lessons she has learned while in pageantry.
Winning over $14,000 in scholarships provided by the Miss America organization, Laing never had to pay her way through school. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
For the past six years, Laing has been participating in the Miss America Organization and training to become Miss Utah. Her end goal is to climb to the top and become Miss America.
It has been tough, though, to continue pageantry and volunteer work during a pandemic. When Laing was crowned Miss Weber County 2020 on Oct. 19, 2019, she had no idea what was coming. Because of the pandemic, Laing will be staying with her current title for 2021 as well.
However, Laing is still working and volunteering in her position in any way that she can, including shoe and clothing donation runs.
Laing has also continued advocating for her cause for organ, eye and tissue donation.
The inspiration for “The Gift of Life — Pass it On” came when her cousin, Quincy, was a senior in high school who, instead of sending in college applications and attending prom like the average 17-year-old would, was dealing with kidney failure.
Four years ago, Laing’s dad donated one of his kidneys to save his nephew’s life, and the transplant was successful.
Because of that simple act of kindness and humanity, Quincy is now graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Brigham Young University, is headed to law school in the fall of 2021 and was also married a couple of years ago.
“We all die,” Laing said. “All of us come with an expiration date, but that doesn’t mean that our lives and our influence for good have to expire with it.”
According to the Health Resources & Services Administration’s website, organdonor.gov, over 107,000 men, women and children are on the national transplant waiting list as of Feb. 2021. Seventeen people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.
Laing has advocated for checking off the “yes” for organ donation on one’s driver’s license or state ID, so if one is ever in a place where they might be able to donate their organs after an accident, the person is able to do so.
“So many people get to have extra time with their kids and grandkids,” Laing said. “They get to go to college, get married and live a life because someone was selfless enough to say yes.”
Much of the time, there are myths and misconceptions around organ donation, which is why people hesitate to allow their bodies to be used as a lifesaver for the living.
“My mission is to provide people with correct information,” Laing said. “And once you have that correct information, whether you say yes or no to organ donation, that’s fine. As long as you know the truth.”
Laing has also been working on a video project called #shopsmallwebercounty.
Because COVID-19 has taken its toll on small businesses, Laing has been working with business-owners. Having visited 15 local businesses so far, she interviews the business owners so they can share what they do, how the pandemic has affected them and to assure the public that they are safe to come into their store.
Learning the emotional background of the shop is what helps draw customers in, according to Laing. By doing this, she hopes that she can help some of her favorite local shops get back to normal, at least a little bit.
The Miss Weber County website featured Laing in an article in 2020. There she mentioned her personal experience with fighting, survival and the dedication of her strength.
As a premature newborn, Laing was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit. Waking everyday with headaches, which can easily turn to migraines because of her juvenile myoclonic epilepsy has made her a stronger individual.
In the article, she said, “Each day was a fight to survive. Experiencing adversity is by no means easy, yet it has made life an adventure.”
Since 1921, the Miss America Organization, not to be confused with the Miss USA competition run by the Miss Universe Organization, has stated their mission is to help young women between the ages of 17 and 25 find success through social impact, scholarships and personal confidence.
The Miss America Organization gives the women involved an opportunity to learn to speak in front of an audience and use their talents to make changes in their community. It provides them with a platform and resources needed to get help their community.