By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
July 22, 2004
Deidre Downs planned on attending medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham this fall but she traded in books for a crown when she was named Miss Alabama.
Held on the campus of Samford University June 12, the Miss Alabama pageant awarded Downs, 23, more than $18,000.
“I was elated,” said Downs, a member of Baptist Church of the Covenant, Birmingham. “It was my fifth time and I really wanted to be Miss Alabama.”
Now she is busy preparing for the Miss America Pageant and making public appearances across Alabama promoting her platform, Curing Childhood Cancer.
“Between now and Sept. 1, when I leave for Atlantic City, I’m preparing by working out, continuing my voice lessons and doing mock interviews.
For talent, I will sing the same selection I performed at Miss Alabama, a Linda Eder song called ‘I’m Afraid This Must Be Love.’”
As an activist for children, Downs is raising funds for Children’s Hospital in Birmingham through a specialty license plate approved by the Alabama Department of Motor Vehicles. Children’s Hospital treats more than 95 percent of children with cancer in Alabama, she explained. “Research is the only way we will approach a cure for pediatric cancer,” she said.
The statuesque beauty takes her new job as Miss Alabama seriously, as well as her life, career ambitions and faith.
The almost $50,000 in scholarship money she received in her five years of competition allowed her to complete a bachelor of arts in history from Samford University.
The funds will help her resume studies at UAB after her reign as Miss Alabama to fulfill her goal to work in the medical profession.
“I want to become a pediatrician because I love kids.”
Her desire to medically care for children started through her experiences at Camp Smile-a-Mile, a camp for children with cancer, and as a volunteer at Children’s Hospital.
She started a nonprofit organization, Making Miracles, four years ago to allow opportunities for high school students to volunteer with pediatric cancer patients in a hospital setting.
Making Miracles has also provided volunteers for the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge and the Leukemia Society’s Light the Night Walk, as well as held a Rock-a-Thon fund raiser for pediatric cancer research.
Downs said her faith in Christ not only motivated her decision to pursue medicine as a career but also her involvement in community service.
She became a Christian when she was 8 years old but feels she has grown in her faith over the years.
“I’ve come to realize what it means to devote (my) life to Christ,” Downs explained. “I hope to always live my life in a way that reflects my faith and to be someone who really walks the walk by putting my faith into practice every day.”
The 2002 Rhodes Scholar finalist puts her faith into action not only through raising awareness of pediatric cancer but also as a role model for young women.
Teresa Cheatham Stricklin, Miss Alabama 1978 and first runner-up to Miss America 1979, judged Downs last year.
She believes the same charm and professionalism the Miss Alabama judges saw in Downs will be seen in Miss America and by people in Alabama who meet her during appearances.
“I am excited for Deidre and she will be a fabulous Miss Alabama,” Stricklin said.
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