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America Strong Donates To Heather Miller Scholarship Foundation

Photo by Joselyn King Jody Miller, federal programs secretary for Ohio County Schools, stands with intensive care nurse Lacey Russell, a Wheeling native who is the reigning Miss West Virginia for America Strong. Rusell on Monday donated $1,617 raised during the pageant to the Heather Miller Scholarship Foundation founded by Jody Miller.

Organ donation is at the heart of a friendship that’s developed between a local pageant queen and the Ohio County Schools Serviceperson of the Year.

Jody Miller, federal programs secretary for Ohio County Schools, on Monday was presented with a check for $1,617 from the America Strong beauty pageant organization.

The money is to benefit the Heather Miller Scholarship foundation, named for Miller’s daughter. The foundation provides nursing scholarships to local students, as well as funding for the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and other charities in Heather Miller’s memory. Presenting the check was Wheeling native Lacy Russell, the reigning Miss West Virginia for America Strong. Russell raised the money during an online voting portion of the contest.

Miller said she and Russell came to know each other through their mutual support for the CORE organization and their advocacy for organ donation.

“Plus, she (Russell) is a nurse, which is always near and dear to our hearts,” Miller said. “She is one of our volunteers who comes every year for our golf tournament.”

Russell has a demanding day job. She works as an intensive care unit nurse at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Hospital.

During the Miss West Virginia for America Strong pageant, the faces of the contestants were placed online, and the public was asked to contribute $2 to vote for who they thought should be among the three finalists for queen.

The contestant getting the most votes won an automatic spot in the top three — though it was never revealed to them who actually received the most votes, Russell said.

Half of the money contributed was donated by the pageant to its charity of choice, the Victoria’s Voice Foundation. The organization is the platform for the America’s Choice Pageant group, and it seeks to prevent drug overdoses while advocating for access to naloxone.

The remainder of the money was divided evenly between Russell and the other two finalists to donate to a charity of their choice and Russell selected the Heather Miller Scholarship Foundation.

The scholarships were created in memory of Heather Miller, who was 21 years old and was just weeks away from graduating from the West Virginia University School of Nursing when she died in a vehicle accident in 2008. The scholarships are primarily funded through the annual Heather Miller Memorial Golf Classic.

Jody Miller was recently named Ohio County Schools serviceperson of the year, and was a finalist for the state award.

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