Joel Lehman, St. Albans Messenger
“People aren’t aware that they have this hidden gem in their community.”
ST. ALBANS — It wasn’t until she found her passion playing softball at Enosburg Falls High School that the bullying finally stopped for Megan Ruprecht.
Now married, the 25 year-old Franklin resident has found something new to pour her passion into, representing Vermont in the Mrs. International competition while advocating for Sweethearts and Heroes, an anti-bullying non-profit organization founded locally, in part by business owner Tom Murphy.
Ruprecht, formerly Megan Renning, was a softball standout at Enosburg, as well as senior class president, before playing three years of softball at Southern New Hampshire University and graduating from University of Vermont. But she admits that she was bullied until about the 10th grade. She didn’t feel good about herself, and she struggled to become who she is today.
Winning the Mrs. International 2014 competition in July will only give her a larger platform to advocate for Sweethearts & Heroes, a three-year old organization that uses high-energy performances at schools to address bullying from the bystanders’ perspective, Ruprecht says.
“I’m in it to win it,” Ruprecht says. “But even if I don’t win in July, I know the work that I am doing with Sweethearts and Heroes is 10 times more important than anything I can achieve or accomplish at the national level.”
Ruprecht has represented Vermont since February in the Mrs. International pageant system, which is geared toward married women with families and community-oriented platforms. She knew Murphy through her brother Jake Renning, a wrestling standout who trained with the Fitness Zone owner and mixed martial arts fighter.
Now, Ruprecht has been working with Murphy and co-founder Jason Spector, where she uses her background as a victim of bullying and her strong voice gained while working sales for Sealy Mattress Company to become a valuable member of the four-member Sweethearts and Heroes team, Murphy says.
“Megan is the kind of person who really, honestly, truly is there to help people,” Murphy says. “We’re lucky to have her. Not the other way around.”
It was never about the sashes and tiaras for Ruprecht, who Murphy calls a “cool chick who isn’t afraid to get dirty.” She just needed to find the right organization through which to be a positive role model. She accompanied Murphy on presentations at a couple of schools and it was a natural fit for both sides. She stresses that regardless of the outcome at the international competition in Jacksonville, Fla. July 22-28, she’ll continue to be a member of the Sweethearts and Heroes team.
“We want to help people,” Ruprecht says. “And we’re motivated and determined to do it. And I think Tom realized this was a good fit as well. We both realized at the same time that we didn’t want the partnership to end after this year. I made that clear and he said that he thinks I should be a full-time member going forward.”
Sweethearts and Heroes has presented to a half-million students, particularly in New York State, typically in the fall and winter.
“People aren’t aware that they have this hidden gem in their community,” Ruprecht says, who hopes to bring the presentation to the Enosburg community soon. “It is truly a unique program that not only is changing people’s lives, but literally saving people’s lives.”
Ruprecht became Mrs. Vermont International through an interview process, but when she competes in Jacksonville, it will be against 70 other women from all over the world in a pageant competition.
“They really are very understanding of the act that you have a job, you have a family, your whole life. If you are to win the title, it isn’t going to be all about this organization necessarily,” Ruprecht says. “I thought it would be a good fit.”
With Sweethearts and Heroes, Murphy says she’ll be presenting with younger kids, grades kindergarten through four. Already, little girls look up to Ruprecht, asking to take photos with her when she appears with Murphy at presentations.
Murphy will also continue to host fundraisers for Ruprecht’s competition at his restaurant, Twiggs, on Main Street in St. Albans.
“She has a bullying story just like everybody in the world has a bullying story,” Murphy says. “She has a story to tell and a special gift and I think kids can associate with that.”
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International Pageants also has a partnership with the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women
- International Pageants is a national supporter of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign, which is dedicated to fighting heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women
- Through the partnership, both state and national winners work throughout the year to promote the Go Red For Women mission at events across the country
- You can also help by going to www.mrsinternational.com to vote for their favorite contestant, and half of the $5 people’s choice voting fee will be donated to Go Red for Women