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Boxes Of Love Inc.™
mykah@boxesoflove.net
Pageant girls pay it forward with gifts for Omaha hospital




By MARA KLECKER / Lincoln Journal Star

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Twenty girls and women crowd around the long table in Theresa Scherer's basement, maneuvering past the white Christmas tree with the pink and zebra-stripe
decorations and stepping between the piles of toys.
Most of the girls have glittering tiaras atop their heads, thick silk sashes draped across their shoulders. They work together to wrap more than 600 toys — $7,000
worth — for low-income children in Lincoln and patients at the Omaha Children’s Hospital.
One of the girls, the tall one with the Miss Teen Nebraska sash, oversees the wrapping. At 13, she’s the founder of the nonprofit Boxes of Love.
A pageant girl since age 5, My’Kah Knowlin says she doesn't do it for the crown, but for days like these.
“Community service is a way that I can help out,” My’Kah said. “It’s always been important to me.”
It was important to her when she was a kindergartner, working to start her first nonprofit, Birthday Book Bash. She started asking her friends and family to donate
books and canned food instead of purchasing birthday presents.
Her second nonprofit, Boxes of Love, was conceived three years ago, when My'Kah was watching TV. She remembers hearing something about breaking news.
Something about a tornado in a place called Joplin, Missouri.
She asked her mom about the damage and her mom made some joke about the scenes looking like the mess in My’Kah’s room. And then the TV camera panned
the city.
“I saw how bad it was and knew that I needed to help,” My'Kah said. That night, when she hugged her beloved doll Madeline, she thought about the kids in Joplin.
What if they didn’t have anything to hold?
My’Kah held fundraisers and collected enough items for 100 care packages to send to Joplin. After an EF5 tornado in Oklahoma, My’Kah raised and collected
more than $64,000 in items and donations.
She sat with a young boy whose brother had been killed and encouraged him to start talking about his experience. Before she left, the boy handed her a brick from
the rubble of his school and asked My’Kah to leave her name on the floorboard where his brother’s body was found.
Those are the reasons she’s a pageant girl, she said.
And those are the reasons her mother, Sheila Knowlin, is so proud.
“She just makes my heart smile,” she said of her daughter. “She makes my husband and I better people.”
My’Kah smiles. Scherer, her pageant coach, comes upstairs and smiles with a similar pride. Scherer never did pageants herself but coaches a “family” of 25 girls
of all age groups, hoping to instill leadership, communication and sportsmanship skills, as well as a sense of empowerment and a desire to give back.
“There are no words to describe My’Kah,” Scherer said. “When most teens are out shopping for themselves, My’Kah is out buying toys for kids in need. She’s
incredible.”
My’Kah’s “elves” of girls worked most of the afternoon to wrap the toys. They adjusted their sashes as they leaned over the table to tape and fold and wrap.
One of the helpers, Miss Gering Outstanding Teen Emma Keifer, lingered with My’Kah before heading to a play practice. She admitted that she wasn’t very good at
wrapping gifts, but she was still leaving with a warm feeling.
“That’s the thing,” she said. “Giving back really feels great.”
She gestured down the stairs, where the other girls were still gathered around the table. “Making a big difference is really just this simple.”
Reach the writer at 402-473-2655 or mklecker@journalstar.com.
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