Ms. Buggy Festival 'Not a Doubting Person,' Daughter Says
By Martha J. Henderson
At first, Selena McNeil couldn't find words to describe how she felt when she was told that she had been nominated for and had won Ms. Buggy Festival 2010.
"I was shocked, then excited when they called me," McNeil says. "And very humbled when I read the letter. To know that's how she perceived me was just really ... I can't find the words to describe it.
"For Izzabella to share her feelings ... Of all my girls, she's the one who's the least likely to share her emotions. It was just very, very sweet."
The single mother of three says the past two years have been very hard for her family, which, in addition to 10-year-old Izzabella, includes daughters Callahan, 14, and Margaret, 7.
During her third year as a teaching assistant at Carthage Elementary School, McNeil decided to go back to school to become a teacher. After two years of night school, she recently completed her student teaching at the same school that inspired her goal. She will soon earn her degree in elementary education from St. Andrews Presbyterian College.
McNeil credits her daughters for their support during her return to school.
"They've really joined in and helped me get through this," says McNeil, who lives in Seven Lakes, but feels at home in Carthage because "I work there, go to church there." Her parents called Carthage home for 15 years before moving to Seven Lakes themselves.
In the letter nominating her mother, Izzabella says her mother "is not a doubting person because when she thinks something can be done she will work on it until it is done."
This line was one that really stood out for her mother.
"The part about my mother's not a doubting person ... that really got me," McNeil says. "Seeing her perception of what we have been going through ... I'm so glad. I don't think I ever verbalized that, but my actions have really shown her what can be done. That is a thrill."
Thrilled is what McNeil says Izzabella was when she found out her letter had been selected.
"She is thrilled and very excited," McNeil says. "To be the one that was chosen, she's just excited."
Izzabella is so excited that her mother will be honored as Ms. Buggy Festival during the 22nd annual Carthage Buggy Festival that she has decided to miss a planned soccer tournament in order to see her mother receive the award.
"She has no problem missing the tournament," McNeil says. "Even her coach understood the importance."
McNeil says the honor of having their nominating letters selected is special for all of the students.
"It is so rewarding to them," McNeil says. "Writing the letters is such a tradition at Carthage Elementary. It is a big deal. The students are excited about writing the letters."
She says this year was particularly gratifying because she's gotten to see both sides of the award. As a teaching assistant for the past five years, McNeil has watched as students poured their hearts into their nominating letters and now, as a recipient of the honor, she has the chance to experience the other side of the equation as well.
McNeil will be crowned Ms. Buggy Festival at noon Saturday, May 8, on the Buggy Festival stage. And Izzabella, sans soccer gear, will be there to watch as her mother is honored.
Ms. Buggy Festival is chosen every year based on letters written by the children of Carthage Elementary nominating someone they know for the title. The tradition has been around for eight or nine years now.
"Really, it's open to anyone the kids admire," says Karen O'Hara, Carthage administrative assistant and Buggy Festival committee member. "It's called 'Ms.' but we've had a 'Mr.' a few years ago."
The winner is chosen by an impartial, anonymous judge.
"I think the judge looks for the most unique, heart-warming letters," says O'Hara.
In addition to the winner of Ms. Buggy Festival, the judge picks five letters for runners-up.
It's difficult to choose from among the many letters, says O'Hara, but they try to choose one from each grade level, so there is either a winner or runner-up from each grade.
The winner and the runners-up will read their letters at the festival.
While Izzabella McNeil's letter nominating her mother, Selena McNeil, for Ms. Buggy Festival was chosen as the overall winner, letters from each grade were selected as runners-up.
Following are these letters:
"I think my aunt Brenda* should be Mrs. Buggy Festival because she worked for many years as a nurse. Now she is very sick and has lost all of her hair. But to me she is still beautiful."
- Kennedie Mercer
*Kennedie's aunt, Brenda Stutts, recently passed away.
I think my Grandma should be crowned Ms. Buggy Festival because she makes for me. Next She makes good cake. Then she helps me do my homework. Finally she is very funny. Thank you for reading my paper."
- Xavier Pratt
"From: Thad Cagle
I think my mom should be crowned Ms. Buggy Festival so she can help the hole in tiher community. She will try very very hard to save you if you were dying. She will bust her behine trying to get to you. She will take good care of you. She has got a big heart to me I have a big hart to her."
- Thad Cagle
"I think my mom should be Miss Buggy Festival of 2010. I think Katherine Elizabeth Denning should be Miss Buggy Festival because she gives her community a lot. When I was in preschool she came to school almost everyday. Also she is great with other kids. She takes care of two of my friends each day. Also, she is fun. She makes everything worthwhile. I think my wonderful mother should be Miss Buggy Festival."
- Katherine Denning
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