By Jennifer Hemmeyer
The Cedar Mill News
“I want to be a risk taker.” At age five, Ella Osborne had a clear vision of what it takes to be successful. She overheard her mom and dad discussing the Miss Oregon pageant. Ella had been recommended for the pageant’s “open call” three years in a row, but her parents hadn’t wanted to get involved. “We hadn’t considered it,” explains DeDe Osborne, Ella’s mom, “because of all the stigma associated with pageants. We didn’t understand what it was all about.”
Once Ella expressed such enthusiasm though, the Osbornes looked into the specifics of this pageant further. They learned that it isn’t just about smiling on stage. It’s about representing and making a difference in one’s community, and it’s about older girls mentoring younger girls. Ella took that risk, and this past May, just one day after her sixth birthday, she was crowned state queen in the Princess Division. She will go on to compete in the national competition this November at Disneyland.
Ella sees success through her glasses, glasses that are as much a part of her as her hands and hair, her mom says. Ella’s pediatrician discovered a cataract in Ella’s eyes at her three-month appointment. DeDe shared that she felt a little sad when her daughter was diagnosed. “I didn’t want her to start out with any challenges or to feel different.” She had to wear a patch for thirty minutes every day and received her first pair of glasses at age two. Since that day, glasses have been a beloved part of her identity.
Because of Ella’s personal experience, it was simple to choose a community-enhancing program for which she felt passionate. Ella’s mom contacted Joannah Vaughan at the Casey Eye Institute to see how Ella could support other children with vision challenges. Through See to Read, a program funded by donations from the Oregon State Elks, children ages three to seven receive free vision screenings. Visit seetoread.net for a list of scheduled screenings.
Luckily, Ella’s eye condition was detected early, so it has not negatively impacted her learning, but 15% of children ages three to five have undetected vision problems. This poses a serious roadblock since 80% of learning in the first twelve years of a child’s life comes through vision. According to Vaughan, many vision disorders can be treated and even reversed, if diagnosed within this critical window.
Ella knows firsthand the joy that reading can bring. She learned to read last year, and enjoys reading to her little brother. “I’m happy when I get to read to other kids and make them happy,” Ella explains. I met Ella and her mom at Poppa Haven’s Coffeehouse to talk about the pageant and See to Read. She told me that she loves helping other kids feel okay about wearing glasses. She also enjoys her involvement in the pageant for all the friendships she’s made with sister queens. When not participating in pageant-related activities, Ella likes swimming, looking for bugs under rocks, “but not the heavy rocks” and taking dance classes at Elite Dance Studio. Her favorite color is rainbow, which is not surprising for such a vibrant little girl!
Ella’s confidence and kindness propel her towards a bright future. If crowned in November, she would simultaneously reign as state and national queen. DeDe says that her daughter would “absolutely continue to pursue vision/reading advocacy.”