There is a very special bond between Christina Stratton and Katelyn Valtos that was forged from a love of dance and continues to grow through their love of helping children.
On Friday, June 17, Stratton won the 2016 Miss Missouri’s Outstanding Teen Scholarship Pageant and Valtos, 9, was there not only to cheer her on but to participate in the event as well.
“I remember when I was crowned and I looked out at the audience while I was making my walk down the runway, the first thing I saw was Kate running up the bottom steps with the biggest tears in her eyes,” Stratton said. “She just kept crying her happy tears saying ‘we did it.’
“I think with this pageant it was very special to me because I wanted to do well for Katelyn,” Stratton added. “She was a very special part of this.”
Stratton and Valtos met three years ago at Studio A Dance Company when they danced together during the annual performance of the Nutcracker.
“Christina was the Sugar Plum Fairy and I danced as her princess,” Valtos said. “She is such a good dancer and I always wanted to be just like her.”
As part of the Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen Pageant, each contestant was asked to have a young person escort them on stage during the evening gown portion of the competition and because of their friendship, Stratton’s choice was an easy one.
Valtos also performed in a special dance solo, “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground,” during the live broadcast.
After Stratton’s win, Valtos was given an official Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen Princess crown, sash, and will travel with Stratton to Orlando, Florida, to represent Missouri as Stratton competes in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant Aug. 2-6.
“Katelyn is coming to Orlando with me and will have her own pageant opportunity,” Stratton said. “She will be the first youth to represent Missouri in the national competition.
“She will perform a dance and will also have an interview, but one of the things we are most excited about is the opportunity for her to compete for the Miracle Maker Award,” Stratton added. “For both Katelyn and myself the most important part of the pageant no matter how we place is that we have the opportunity to raise money to help children who are ill.”
The Miracle Maker Award is presented to the contestant who raises the most money, which will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.
Although this is one of the first times Valtos has worked to raise money for charity, Stratton has worked tirelessly to raise funds for “Traveling Tutus,” a program she created that brings her love of dance to children in hospitals and special needs facilities.
As part of the program, Stratton has traveled to four states delivering more than 200 handmade tutus to children in hospitals in addition to performing for them.
Stratton has also worked with the Center for Human Services and Ronald McDonald House Charities as well as raising funds for scholarships awarded by the Miss America Outstanding Program.
“One of the major focuses of the pageant is their educational and scholarship programs,” Stratton said. “Part of what I will be judged on at the competition in Orlando is my education and my success in school.
“The interview portion of the competition was quite intimidating, there were seven judges who asked questions that covered current events and social issues as well as questions about school and my personal goals and aspirations,” she added. “It was a great experience because it made me reflect on many things and I felt I learned a lot through it.”
Stratton won the preliminary competitions in talent, evening gown, fitness and the onstage question/interview.
“Christina really won a lot of money at the pageant for school and I was really happy for her,” Valtos said with pride in her voice.
Stratton, who begins her senior year at Sacred Heart in the fall, commented that the scholarships are something that both she and her parents appreciate a great deal.
“I hope to attend either Columbia University or Stanford and I want to study psychology,” Stratton said. “I’m not sure what will happen, a lot will depend on the outcome of the competition in Orlando, but for now I plan to continue to represent Missouri and enjoy my last year of high school.
“God has a plan for what will happen and I am blessed that I am not putting a lot of pressure on myself for the competition,” Stratton added. “No matter what happens I plan on staying true to myself and being the best version of me that I can possibly be and by doing that hopefully I can be a role model for other young girls.”
Stratton said she and Valtos have a number of events planned to raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network including an upcoming garage sale and perhaps an ice cream social and 5K event.
“We’ve had a lot of support from our family and friends in our journey so far,” Stratton said. “One of the best things was the night of the competition about 20 supporters from Sedalia and Sacred Heart and Studio A made the trip to Mexico (Mo.) for the pageant.
“It meant a great deal to have them there with us,” she added. “This next year is ours to share with them.”
Stratton explained that throughout the upcoming year Valtos will travel to events with her as they perform and raise funds as ambassadors of the Pageant.
Next year the two will be back on stage at the Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen Competition performing a duet at the competition and crowning their successors.
“Katelyn and I both feel really blessed that we are going through this together,” Stratton said. “We are looking forward to whatever the future holds; it’s all God’s plan.
“We are going to enjoy life and have a good year whether we are representing the state or the nation,” she added. We are going to have a good year helping children who need our support as ambassadors for the pageant.”
Individuals who would like to make a donation in support of Stratton or Valtos to the Children’s Miracle Network may contact them at [email protected]
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484