The Miss America Organization has posted the following press release and photo at its web site of the Quality of Life top three:

Quality of Life winners

Miss Michigan Elizabeth Wertenberger, Miss New Hampshire Regan Hartley, Miss Kentucky Ann Blair Thornton - the top 3 Quality of Life honorees at Miss America. Photo courtesy MissAmerica.org

Las Vegas, NV – January 12, 2012 – At today’s Miss America press conference during 2012 Miss America Pageant week, this year’s Quality of Life award winners and the winner for the fourpoints Scholarship Award were announced.

This year’s Quality of Life Award winner is Miss Kentucky Ann Blair Thornton. Ann Blair  was recognized for her work on her platform, “Alzheimer’s Awareness and Research” and she will receive a $6,000 scholarship. The announcement was made at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino during Friday’s Miss America press conference, and marks the last day of preliminary competition for the 2012 Miss America Pageant.

Ann Blair has had the opportunity to call to action tens of thousands of Kentuckians this year with her platform work. As a teenage, in 2006 struggling with a beloved grandfather suffering from the disease, she discovered the need for Alzheimer’s support groups for a younger generation and founded a teenage support group: ALZ Teens. In 2009, Ann Blair established a memorial fund honoring her grandfather, with an online donation component. She has lobbied Kentucky State Legislature to pass multiple bills promoting the Alzheimer’s Association’s efforts, teamed up with college students to raise over $25,000 for research,  and organized her hometown Alzheimer’s Memory Walk, which raised over $172,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. As Miss Kentucky, she has gathered the names of people she has met this year who are currently battling the disease and those who have already lost the fight. One by one, she has sewn them to the back of her sash so that she will be continually reminded of her purpose.

The first-runner up is Miss New Hampshire Regan Hartley whose personal platform issue is “Stand Up: Bullying Awareness in Our Community.”  During the past three years, Regan has spent more than 2,000 hours working to combat bullying: by educating others on the subject of bullying, encouraging open discussion between educators, parents and children, and serving as the spokesperson for numerous anti-bullying efforts. She has lobbied for passage of New Hampshire’s first modern bullying law, House Bill 1523 in June of 2010. She has also spoken to children about the importance of treating yourself and others with respect.

The second runner-up is Miss Michigan Elizabeth Wertenberger, whose personal platform is “Continue to Dream – Giving Hope to Children with Chronic Illness. Being diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis inspired Elizabeth to make her platform a life-long mission to inspire other children dealing with the disease. Elizabeth has encouraged people to join her at the Annual Arthritis Walk, bringing over 100 people to walk with her. She has spoken to the Juvenile Arthritis Association, telling her personal story to groups, so that children who suffer from the disease do not feel that it defines how they should grow up or develop.

The Quality of Life Awards were introduced in 1988 to recognize contestants who excel in their commitment to community service. The awards are available to each of the 53 contestants competing for the title of Miss America 2012. In order to be considered for the Quality of Life Award, contestants must have submitted an application describing their involvement with Children’s Miracle Network, the national platform of the Miss America Organization, and their own personal platform issue.

An honorable mention goes to the remaining five finalists: Miss Arkansas Kristen Glover, whose platform is “Second Chances Through Mentoring;” Miss Hawaii Lauren Cheape, whose platform is “C.A.R.E.: Collegiate Athletes Reaching Everyone;” Miss Minnesota Natalie Davis, whose platform is “Autism Awareness: The Missing Piece;” Miss New York Kaitlin Monte, whose platform is “Anti-Bullying Through Youth Leadership;” and Miss Ohio Ellen Bryan, whose platform is When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors: Promoting Lightning Awareness.”

The fourpoints Scholarship Award is a $2,000 award offered to all of the 53 contestants. Each of the contestants had to write an essay describing how THEY represent the Four Points of the Crown which are Service, Scholarship, Success and Style. The winner of this award is Miss Idaho Genevieve Nutting.

Be sure to watch as a new Miss America is crowned at the 2011 Miss America Pageant airing live on ABC, Saturday, January 14, at 9 p.m. ET/PT tape delayed.

Additional information about the Miss America Organization can be found at www.MissAmerica.org.

Here is The Monroe Evening News online article, and we also will have a report in today’s print edition. — Paula Wethington

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