Originals MADE IN AMERICA: The Queens crowned for 2012 were (L-R) Mrs. American
Spirit Shawna Taylor, Ms. American Spirit Monique Jones, Miss American Spirit Jisel
Parra, and Miss Teen American Spirit Rachel Barcellona.
Inspired by a tragedy, the American
Spirit Pageant combines the traditional
aspects of competition with a unique
he energy was palpable as the audience anxiously await-
ed the opening production of the American Spirit Pag-
eant at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando,
Florida. From the beginning it was obvious to all who
witnessed live in the Convention Center’s audience, or
for the thousands watching live on the internet simulcast at
WhosHotOnline.com, this electrifying event would be worthy of
any Walt Disney World production. The pageant attracted an array
of impressive contestants from all over the country for four sepa-
rate division titles—Miss Teen, Miss, Ms., and Mrs.
Though the pageant system is only in its second year, you
wouldn’t know it judging by the professionalism of the American
Spirit staff and polished presentation of the opening number by
the contestants. Following the opening number, American Spirit
founder and National Director Dennis VanDerGinst, addressed
the audience and highlighted the unique attributes that set this
competition apart from other pageant systems.
In addition to the celebrity participation in judging, as well as
in the entertainment production of the show, the American Spirit
Pageant is the only national pageant that includes fundraising as a
scored portion of the competition. You read that correctly—in-
cluded in the traditional competition categories of interview,
swimsuit and ﬁtness wear, and evening gown, a total of 10 percent
of the American Spirit contestants’ score is based on their ability
to raise money for a wonderful charity, the HAVlife Foundation.
The HAVlife Foundation was created in memory of Hunter A.
PAGEANTRY Vondran, a 13-year-old boy who died in a tragic accident at a water
park. Hunter’s father and HAVlife founder, Mike Vondran, deliv-
ered a heartfelt, taped presentation to the American Spirit Pag-
eants audience following Dennis VanDerGinst’s opening address,
in which he expressed his hope the charity could help eliminate
much of the “lost potential” in today’s youth.
The organization’s mission is to fund opportunities for “at risk”
children to participate in arts and athletic programs of which they
would otherwise be unable to participate. Dennis VanDerGinst is
an attorney and entrepreneur, and had represented the Vondran es-
tate and became friends with the family. In the years following, his
law ﬁrm, VanDerGinst Law, held beneﬁt galas to raise money for
the charity. After doing some quick research and enlisting the serv-
ices of experienced pageant producers, Dennis created American
Spirit Pageants to further aid his fundraising endeavors for Amer-
ican Spirit Charities and the HAVlife Foundation.
It was important for American Spirit Pageants to establish fair-
ness in the fundraising portion of the competition so that contest-
ants were not judged on their economic “connections” or their own
position of afﬂuence. In order to fairly score their ability to actual-
ly immerse themselves into active fundraising efforts, VanDer-
Ginst set a minimum point total scored once a contestant raised
$250, and a maximum point total was given for raising $5,000. The
cap on maximum donations would also preserve a leveled playing
ﬁeld. Moreover, only $1,000 could be donated by the contestant
and/or her family and they had to raise money from at least ﬁve