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Stafford teen wins pageant, champions multiple sclerosis research.
Sophia Ramsel hopes to use her pageant success to keep multiple sclerosis in the spotlight. The 16-year-old has watched its effects on her best friend's mother.
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Date published: 4/23/2012
Sophia Ramsel has a personal beef with multiple sclerosis.
For years, the Stafford teen has watched her best friend's mother battle the debilitating disease.
Recently crowned Miss Junior Teen Virginia United States, Sophia, 16, hopes to use her title to advance support for MS research.
She plans to make that case to a large crowd Saturday when she speaks at Walk MS: Fredericksburg.
"I want to encourage them to be the legs for those who can't move," said Sophia, who called her best friend's mother a role model. "Throughout the years, I've watched her struggle with it. She's been such an inspiration and a mother figure in my life."
The event, which raised about $55,000 last year, starts at 8:30 a.m. at James Monroe High School.
Organizers are hoping to have about 500 people participate in the walk, which passes through downtown Fredericksburg, said Tiffany Epley, development manager with the Central Virginia Chapter of the National MS Society.
"It's one of our favorite walks because we love the downtown area," said Epley. "It's just a nice day to hang out with people you're connected to. Everybody's connected to the cause."
'MORE THAN JUST LOOKS'
Sophia's connection to MS started in the sixth grade when she met her best friend. It wasn't until recently, however, that she began competing in pageants and making MS her platform.
The oldest of six children, Sophia is the daughter of Shon Ramsel and Gillian Chandler. She was born in Memphis but raised largely in Virginia.
Her family spent a few months in Alabama last year, and that's where friends first talked her into trying pageant life.
She says she shook uncontrollably the first time she crossed a stage. She must've done it gracefully, because the judges awarded her third place.
"As soon as we got back here, I was on the hunt for pageants in Virginia," she said.
She continued to place well, and in the fall she was crowned Teen Miss Spotsylvania Regency.
After winning the local title, she volunteered to speak at Walk MS: Fredericksburg. Then, in April, she won the state title.
She'll compete for Miss Junior Teen United States at the national pageant in Washington in July. In the meantime, she plans to talk to students--and anyone else who will listen--about MS, bullying and the importance of having self-confidence.
Walk MS: Fredericksburg takes place Saturday at James Monroe High School, 2300 Washington Ave. in Fredericksburg. Check-in and registration for the event, which includes a Pooch Parade, starts at 8:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 10 a.m.
Walking routes--there are a 1-mile option and a 3-miler--wind through downtown Fredericksburg and end back at the school with food and entertainment.
For more information, visit IwalkforMS.org and click on the "Fredericksburg" button.