Mr. Toppenish pageants, like similar pageants at other high schools, only take place once a year. But the work leading up to the pageants and the impact contestants create in the community endure throughout the year.
Daniel Suarez III was crowned Mr. Toppenish during the 10th annual Mr. Toppenish Pageant, which was held Jan. 23 at the Toppenish High School Performing Arts Center.
After the pageant, Suarez said: “It really does warm my heart to know that I became a part of something so much bigger than myself and was able to make a huge impact on the lives of people that need it.”
Suarez, who also earned the “Mr. Congeniality” title for the night, was one of nine contestants in this year’s competition.
As the winner, Suarez received a $500 scholarship to a college or vocational school of his choice.
Other participants were Adrian Pacheco, Fernando Ramirez, Isaiah Esquivel, Israel Hernandez, Nick Huylar, Ramon Ascencio, and Tristan Vijarro, who is also a member of Unleashed.
The contestants performed many fundraisers to raise money through YouthWorks, a mentorship program sponsored by Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and The Memorial Foundation, to support 15-year-old Laura Quinones, a Toppenish High School Miracle Child of the Children’s Miracle Network. A Miracle Child is a child who is not able to afford medical attention, but needs medical assistance in order to improve his or her state of well-being.
Quinones, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder, has received treatment at Children’s Village for much of her life.
To raise money, all nine of the young men sold pizza at basketball games, collected donations, “dashed for cash” by running through the audience during the pageant to receive donations, held a pie-in-the-face fundraiser and sold Mr. Toppenish pageant show tickets.
The contestants raised more than $5,800.
Suarez later recognized the hard work put in by everyone running for the title of Mr. Toppenish.
“To all the other pageant boys and coordinators, keep up the good work,” he said. “Our time and energy are greatly appreciated. I’d also like to thank all the Mr. Toppenish pageant boys and coordinators personally. It was a great adventure and I’m genuinely proud of every single one of you guys.”
Toppenish High School physical education and health teacher Doris Dorr was the main person overseeing four high school coordinators who helped the contestants with their projects.
The four judges for this pageant were Zachary Door, a Toppenish city councilman; Lee Callerman, a board member of The Memorial Foundation; Shawn Haggerty, the marketing manager with Yakima Nation Legends Casino; and Amber Andrews, a Toppenish High School English teacher.
The judges assessed these young men during their skit, talent, speech and interview portions of the pageant.
Talents ranged from dancing to singing to instrument playing.
Interview questions ranged from, “How would you make a date at McDonald’s romantic?” to, “If you were a girl, what kind of guy would you be into?”
More than 300 community members attended to the two-hour pageant.
One of the special guests at the event was Miss Washington International Erica Rodarte.
• Audrey Navarro is a senior at Toppenish High School and a member of Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed journalism program for high school students.