The 7-year-old Gabriela, wearing the crown and sash she won in the June 22 pageant, distributed toys donated by pageant contestants.
“When children are sick, we want to help them get better,” Gabriela explained about why she wanted to donate toys to the pediatric unit at TMC for Children. She also distributed beanbag animals in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
It was a poignant homecoming of sorts, since the second-grader was born at Tucson Medical Center, and spent 12 days in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit after being born premature.
Gabriela had a chance to visit the bed she was in when she was little more than a handful, and gave a stuffed dog to a tiny boy.
“Wow! You get to wear a princess crown! Some girls are just so lucky,” exclaimed registered nurse Pauline White, while Gabriela’s mother, Melis Bustillos, confessed she and Gabriela’s grandmother couldn’t resist trying it on.
Gabriela told the nurses she was there “to help our community,” but also noted she’ll be going to Disneyland soon, since she’ll represent Arizona in her age division at the national competition in Anaheim in November.
Her mother, a kindergarten teacher, said the pageant helps build confidence in the contestants, since they have to introduce themselves to groups of strangers and demonstrate poise in an interview. She also had a chance to build on her talents, singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in sign language.
“It’s been a real learning experience, and it’s really nice that it is able to help instill a sense of community service in children.”