Luggage of Love
Miss California International creates charity to help foster children
Nineteen-year-old Dedria Brunett is a beauty queen. She was crowned Miss Teen California International in 2010 and Miss California International in 2012.
Hearing that might make you think that she spends countless hours making herself look pretty. But the truth is that Dedria's beauty is deeper than her looks. She is compassionate, smart, and motivated. She grew up as a foster child and experienced things beyond the imagination. To make sure every foster child’s life a little better, she founded the group Luggage of Love.
Born to a drug-addicted mother, Dedria was placed in the foster care system of Casa Pacifica, California. At the age of six, she was considered unadoptable. But a kind counselor named Tonya Brunett left her job behind and took on the challenge of raising Dedria as her own.
When she moved out of the foster care shelter, Dedria’s possessions were thrown into big, black garbage bags. She had been homeless in the past, surviving on leftover scraps of food found in dumpsters. So when she saw her precious keepsakes and personal items put into the bags, she thought it meant her possessions were trash.
She hated the feeling and made a promise to herself that she would not allow it to happen to any other child.
In June 2008, Dedria made good on her promise by starting Luggage of Love. It supports and strengthens the dignity of every foster child by providing them with their own brand new suitcases to carry their belongings.
Dedria founded Luggage of Love while competing in a pageant under the Miss Teen International pageant system. The pageant required each girl to work with a community service. Dedria went the extra mile and started a charity — and returned home as Miss Teen California International.
“I’ve always had a big imagination because when I was homeless I’d have to imagine that the garbage I was eating was like a piece of cake," Dedria says. "The imagination has never left me.”
Today, Luggage of Love has been recognized by the California Senate and Legislature Assembly, and has received the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition. But Dedria’s not resting on her accomplishments. She hopes to make Luggage of Love a charity with a national impact.
“That crown’s going to get ruined. That sash is going to get holes," Dedria says. "What’s going to last is the lives that I’ve touched.”
You can find more information about Luggage of Love on the charity's website.
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