Brunell is a recent University of Alabama graduate who started Caitlin’s Closet in 2006. She set a goal of collecting and distributing 100 dresses economically disadvantaged girls could wear to proms.
What began as a project in a school cafeteria expanded to a program that delivered dresses to an Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and to Haiti. She estimates her project has given away about 10,000 dresses valued in the neighborhood of $1 million.
The project helped her further understand how lack of self-esteem harms girls Raising girls’ feelings of self-worth became the cornerstone of her pageant platform.
If Brunell is crowned Miss America this year, it will not be the first time she has won a national title pageant.
In 2007, she was crowned Miss America’s Outstanding Teen 2008. She competed with girls from all 50 states. The teen pageant is the younger-sister competition to the Miss America Pageant. It is for girls ages 13-17 years. She won her way to the national pageant by earning the title of Miss Virginia’s Outstanding Teen.
She is a favorite not only in pageant circles, but is a favorite of sports fans. Her dad, Mark Brunell, was a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers.
The Miss America Pageant returned to its home base of Atlantic City last year after several years of competition in Las Vegas. The move and increased effort to modernize and promote the pageant resulted in the highest TV ratings in several years.
This year’s final night of competition on Sept. 14 on the ABC television network. It will be broadcast live on the East Coast, with a tape-delayed broadcast later in the evening for the West Coast.