Finding her happy dance

Published 4:32 pm Monday, April 6, 2015

2013 PHS alum Maddie Gathings prepares for Miss Alabama. Visit her platform page at: (Contributed)

2013 PHS alum Maddie Gathings prepares for Miss Alabama. Visit her platform page at: (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

Maddie Gathings entered my classroom in 2011, shortly after Carson Sumpter’s death.

She was Sumpter’s longtime girlfriend and Carson was a childhood friend and teammate of my son’s.

She was a fragile, open wound.

At Homecoming, I performed with the senior football moms at a night-time pep rally. The next day, Maddie Gathings arrived grinning.

“We saw you out there dancing Mrs. Nolen,” Gathings teased.

“Go ahead,” I said. “Have your fun Maddie.”

“You were not the worst one,” she said. “On a scale of one to five you were a solid three—maybe.”

Whatever my foolishness cost me, Maddie Gathings’ smile made that cost worthwhile.

Carson would want Maddie, and all of us, to find joy again. I hoped that teasing smile might be a first step toward Maddie Gathings’ happy dance.

Last week Gathings, visited PHS. Ending her sophomore year at Auburn, Maddie is preparing for Miss Alabama in June.

Crowned as Miss Northeast Alabama, Maddie sang the praises of the pageant directors helping her prep for Miss Alabama.

Her platform is no surprise—promoting research and awareness of pediatric cancer.

Gathings works with Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Visiting elementary schools, she reads Alex Scott’s book.

At 4, Scott was diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to have a lemonade stand to raise money for research.

Her idea mushroomed into a foundation raising millions for cancer research—one lemonade stand at a time.

“Alex’s story resonated with me,” Gathings says. “I want the kids to feel empowered and know what they can do to fight cancer.”

Maddie is hosting her own Alex’s Lemonade Stands at area events. When I asked Maddie why she chose to participate in the Miss Alabama program, she responded quickly.

“When people see me in my crown, they are curious. As I move on to the Miss Alabama pageant, my voice will be heard by more people and I will work with an organization that specializes in empowering the dreams of young women. I trust God’s plan for me and I am excited for the adventure.”

For her talent, Maddie Gathings will dance.