"Being Different is Being Beautiful"
Author: NF Network
Published On: 06/13/2019
“Being Different is Being Beautiful.”
That is the platform of Caroline Hunt - Miss Madison County Iris Teen 2019 in Tennessee. Caroline, now 16 years old, was diagnosed with NF1 at just a few months old. In an interview with Caroline and her mother, Janet, the two told the story of Caroline’s diagnosis and her life with NF.
“When she was a couple months old, we started noticing more café au lait spots,” says mom, Janet Hunt. “We were sent to a geneticist, Dr. Pivnik [of UT-LeBonheur in Memphis, TN] and a ton of specialists. She has [a neurofibroma] growing in the bone of her forearm, and other than that has been pretty healthy! As far as academics go - she does well in school. She does have some misophonia and ADD - which we know a lot of other NF kids have ADD as well.”
Caroline was also diagnosed with pectus excavatum, where her chest goes concave. While it has made it more difficult to participate in sports, she does it anyway!
“I’ve grown up with everyone in my grade, so they all understand!” Caroline says.
Janet adds, “Caroline has been teaching her class since about second grade. Periodically she writes a paper or does a presentation, and [NF] tends to be the topic that she’ll choose to share.”
In 4th grade, Caroline wrote a paper on neurofibromatosis and won 1st place in her class and 2nd place in the county. Caroline never misses a chance to advocate for neurofibromatosis awareness, which is how she came to choose her pageant platform.
“I chose the platform because not many people have heard about NF, and if I were to win, I wanted to make it known throughout the state,” Caroline explains. “I have read to little kids about it; I read a book called We Are All Wonders which is a children’s version of the book Wonder. It’s a good explanation of how even though he is different, he still has feelings, and even though he looks different, he is still a human. It’s just a good way for kids to understand that even if they don’t look the same as you do, you shouldn’t be mean to them.”
Janet explains that pageantry is much more than physical beauty – it’s also about being unique, and they speak a lot in their home and community about the uniqueness of having NF. In an excerpt from Caroline’s written platform, she states:
“Pageants are sometimes viewed as merely a platform for the display of physical beauty. Many times, the public does not realize the uniqueness of each individual competing on stage and the bravery required to step outside your comfort zone and make positive change in the world. I am proud of the things that make me unique, and I want each young person I come into contact with to embrace what makes them special and treat everyone with the kindness and respect that we all deserve.”
Caroline’s platform resounded within the pageant community, and her voice doesn’t stop there. For the past 4 years, Caroline and her family have attended the #NFStrong Walk in Memphis, TN after connecting with the walk chair, Carrie Wylie. Caroline hopes to encourage more people to sign up and attend the walk in the years to come. Caroline also spread awareness by creating a t-shirt and donating the proceeds back to the NF Network.
Caroline plans to continue using her platform to raise awareness in the community, and she wants to connect with even more families and individuals. “I want to share with the world that Being Different is Being Beautiful, especially for those dealing neurofibromatosis; people like me.”
Join Caroline and the NF community at the 10th Annual #NFStrong 5K in Memphis, TN on Saturday, November 2nd. Visit www.nfstrong.org to sign up today!