Rowan pageant winners work to help others as they prepare for next level

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2016

By Megan Braun

For the Salisbury Post

Since being crowned in November, Miss Rowan County Ashley Sacks, and Miss Rowan County’s Outstanding Teen Briley LaFollette have hit the ground running, making appearances at community events, volunteering and preparing for their upcoming state competitions, Miss North Carolina and Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen.

Sacks, 22, who won the talent award with her a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace,” also tied for the swimsuit award at the pageant, which was the first pageant she ever competed in. She entered the competition after a suggestion from her roommate who thought it would help strengthen her interview skills for upcoming job interviews.

Each titleholder is required to have a platform for their year of service, which is an organization or social issue the titleholder can bring awareness to throughout her reign. Sacks’ platform is “Empowering Women with Breast Cancer through the Alight Foundation.”

“These ladies have heard the word ‘cancer,’ and they are mind-blown. They don’t know where to go for support,” Sacks said. The Alight Foundation, a nonprofit organization through Moses Cone Cancer Center, provides mentoring, support groups, and even funding for those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

For Sacks, a nursing major at Gardner-Webb University, the issue of breast cancer hits “close to home,” since the disease runs in her family. Her mother, Denise, had to undergo a bilateral mastectomy as a precautionary measure after her mammogram showed atypical cells. After the procedure, the surgeon detected a 5-millimeter invasive tumor that was undetected by mammograms and MRIs. Her grandmother passed away from the disease.

“I will most likely be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in my life,” Sacks said. “The Alight Foundation helped my mother make the difficult decision of going through with the surgery.”

Aside from her duties as Miss Rowan County, Sacks will be travelling to Cuba with her church, Shady Grove Wesleyan, to perform mission work. The church group has been travelling to Cuba off and on to build a new church there, as well as building a new well to provide clean drinking water for the residents. During her trip, she will be visiting several churches there to provide women’s ministries and support as well as delivering toiletries that the church has collected.

“These families live off of $20 or $25 a month. They live off of rations; they get four or five eggs a month along with some rice and flour,” Sacks said. “I want to meet as many of these people’s needs as possible.”

LaFollette, an eighth-grader at Corriher-Lipe Middle School, won the talent award at Miss Rowan County’s Outstanding Teen for her clogging routine to a Michael Jackson remix. She chose Bone Marrow Donation as her platform.

Her father, currently in remission after battling multiple myeloma, may need a bone marrow donor if the cancer returns. Her mother passed away when LaFollette was only 6 years old from a rare form of cancer that affects the tissues.

“As soon as I turn 18, I will register to become a donor. It’s such an easy process – a few health questions and cheek swabs,” she said.

Through various bone marrow drives she has helped organize and volunteer for, LaFollette has already helped register over 300 people to become bone marrow donors. She is currently in the process of planning her next bone marrow drive.

Even though pageants may have a bad reputation, she says that her experience in the Miss North Carolina Organization has been nothing short of amazing,

“The girls that you meet are just so loving and caring, and it really is a sisterhood,” she said. “Being a titleholder means that you get to make an impact on others, whether it be through my platform or at the pageant.”

Sacks and LaFollette will compete June 22-25 in Raleigh for Miss North Carolina and Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen, respectively.

The Miss Rowan County Scholarship Pageant will host a golf tournament March 19 at Warrior Golf Club, with proceeds benefitting the organization’s scholarship fund and the Children’s Miracle Network. Cost is $75 per player or $300 per team. For more information or to register, go to or email