San Francisco News

Miss America shines light for kids of incarcerated parents

Monday, June 04, 2012

Miss America 2012, Laura Kaeppeler, is in San Francisco meeting with children and teens of incarcerated parents. Right now she's at the Great American Music Hall attending a fundraiser for a Bay Area organization dedicated to improving the lives of those kids.

Five years ago Kaeppeler's father was sentenced to 18 months in prison for embezzlement. So she knows what it's like to live without a father and the stigma that goes along with that.

Kaeppeler likes to think of herself as a mentor for children of incarcerated parents.

"I try to shed a positive light to these kids and let them know that the past doesn't have to define them and it doesn't have to limit their possibilities," said Kaeppeler.

She's carried that message since winning the Miss America pageant earlier this year. Kaeppeler was 17 when her father went to prison for white-collar crimes. She says she has spent the last five years trying to grow from that experience.

"I'm often saying that to myself too and it's something that& no matter how far removed you are, it still affects you," said Kaeppeler to the group of kids.

The kids she met with today receive counseling and support from a Novato organization called Project Avary. They begin working with kids as early as 8 years old when they start to show signs of despair.

"They remain socially isolated. We provide a community of peers who understand each other's problems and friendships that will really last for a lifetime," said Herb Castillo, the director of Project Avary.

Project Avary showed us a video from a one-week camping trip they put on for about 100 kids.

Tylor Dipaolo's father has been in and out of prison. He's not alone. The vast majority of the kids here have one parent in prison for a serious crime. He finds it helps to talk to others like him.

"It's important, but it's hard to do, it's hard for me right now to talk about it," said Tylor.

The Avary Project also provides support for his mother, Terrie Dipaolo.

"They have family advocates that I strongly depend on. Allison is one of them, she's my family advocate and I can call her for anything," said Terrie.

The fundraiser got underway on Monday and all the proceeds will go to Project Avary. Kaeppeler told us that she wants to become a child advocacy lawyer.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
fundraiser, novato, san francisco news, lyanne melendez
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