A Cheney High School student who hopes to inspire others to make connections in their communities was crowned this year’s Lilac Festival queen.
Madison O’Callaghan, daughter of Patrick and Miranda O’Callaghan, took home several scholarships as well as the Lilac crown on Sunday with a speech emphasizing the connections she’s been able to make through volunteering. She shared how she learned from others’ experiences while helping Special Olympics athletes, and volunteering at City Gate Fellowship, a church and meal center.
“While these connections were made while I was serving, I was given something in return,” she said.
O’Callaghan was chosen from seven Lilac princesses, who were chosen from 19 candidates. Each princess received a $1,500 scholarship and the Lilac queen received an additional $1,500 scholarship. The Lilac Court received a combined $19,700 in scholarships from local businesses this year, which was about $1,700 more than last year.
She said she was honored, but also surprised that she was chosen because each princess was inspiring and qualified to be queen.
“All of these women behind me are so amazing,” she said. “I feel so grateful.”
Before they were crowned, every member of the court was trained in self-defense, speech, as well as military protocol. Clare Patton, co-vice president of Lilac Royalty, said the 81-year-old competition was about academics, honoring those who served in the military and their families, service to others as well as presenting an authentic version of themselves.
“If it’s a beauty pageant, it’s beauty of the heart,” she said.
Six Spokane County high school students were also crowned princesses, each of them giving a speech focusing on this year’s festival theme, “We Are Spokane.”
Central Valley High School senior Brook DeRuwe used her speech to recall her time in Belize for a marine biology trip and how she was inspired to encourage recycling and other sustainable practices. DeRuwe hopes to major in environmental science at University of Montana and is involved in her high school’s environmental awareness club, the Green Team.
Maggie Bailey, a Freeman High School senior, focused her speech on being a servant leader, and recalled her memories of watching other Lilac princesses when she was in elementary school. Bailey is a member of Future Farmers of America, Future Business Leaders of America, the Camp Fire youth program. She participates in track and field and plans to study pre-dentistry at University of Washington.
Lilian Kay, a Liberty High School senior who is also a Running Start student at Eastern Washington University, hopes to continue her education at Eastern and study dental hygiene, American Sign Language and biology. Kay spoke about her love of her family and the outdoors, which started with her childhood trips with her father to the mountains.
Sydney Lyman, a Mead High School senior who founded the volunteer group Mead Serves, was the only student other than O’Callaghan to earn a 4.0. Lyman, who grew up in larger cities, including Chicago, said volunteering helped her connect and learn to love Spokane. Lyman also is a member of the student council at Mead High School and hopes to study philosophy and psychology in college.
Makayla Juntunen, a North Central High School senior, shared her struggles with bullying and how she found the courage to rebuild herself and take on challenges, like going onstage and competing for the Lilac queen crown. Juntunen hopes to study history and education and is involved in softball, weightlifting and photography.
Grace Cvancara, a senior at Oaks Classical Christian Academy, is a pianist, vocalist who volunteers at a hospice and helps with her church’s worship team. During her speech, Cvancara shared her struggles with loneliness when her older siblings went off to college and how she was able to connect with others through music and volunteering. She hopes to become a nurse or a physician assistant.
Cecelia Stephens, also a co-vice president of Lilac Royalty, said the princesses have already visited a veterans hospital, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and Project Beauty Share, an organization that provides toiletries for low-income and homeless women. Stephens said the Lilac court will visit a veterans retirement home and volunteer for Blessings Under the Bridge after the coronation.
Stephens said she hopes the skills the princesses learn during their time on the court will put them several steps ahead when they graduate, but she’s already proud of the achievements of every princess.
“These young ladies are so accomplished, so into this community, that anyone of them would be an excellent queen,” she said.
The Lilac Court will appear at various community events over the next few months, culminating in the annual Spokane Lilac Festival Armed Forces TorchLight Parade on May 17.
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