:: miss montana scholarship program photo. used with permission ::
The crown might have gone to someone from Brooklyn, but America's heart went to Alexis Wineman.
Now, you might be saying, "who? She didn't win, Toby."
But by competing in Miss America, the reigning Miss Montana - and the first Miss America finalist living with autism to compete in the iconic pageant - did more than just compete for a title.
By competing - and overcoming - she scored a victory for men, women, boys and girls who live every day with autism.
You see, Autism is a brain disorder. Some people associate it with the movie Rainman, and when they hear that someone is autistic, they by and large assign misunderstood ideas and stigmas to different people and situations.
Some think that those living with autism can't function socially in society. Others think they're just really great with numbers or with memory - but that they can't stop to order a sandwich at Subway.
But the truth is that there are high and low functioning people who have overcome incredible odds to live amazing lives. To make a difference in the world and in the lives of those they love most.
Wineman's presence in the pageant did more than shatter myths and misconceptions.
It started conversations. It cast aside stereotypes. It showed that anyone can overcome anything if you just believe in that power inside of you...
... and it stoked the fires of hope.
While she may not be Miss America... Alexis Wineman has managed to give a squeeze to America's heart... and in doing so, countless people living with Autism - and their families - have a new champion today.
Well done. Well done indeed.
Thank you, Miss Montana, for overcoming... and for being a shining example of what's possible.. for people... everywhere.