Wearing a handmade gingerbread-themed dress and red heels with sparkles, 6-year-old Nicole Elasik, of Hampton Bays, strutted down the runway Sunday with a box in her hands.
The doll inside was among the dozens of toys and other gifts that contestants in the 17th annual Long Island Holiday Benefit Pageant at the Clarion Hotel in Ronkonkoma donated for homeless families staying at the Help Suffolk Foundation’s transitional housing facility in North Bellport.
“It’s not just a pageant,” said Tricia Hoffman, executive director of the All American Girl and Boy and International Prince and Princess pageants. “Each child is giving a gift from their heart with love to another child.”
Throughout the day, nearly 100 contestants, ranging in age from 5 months to 54 years, handed over donations while competing for titles that included “prettiest eyes,” “personality” and “photogenic.”
Islip Terrace’s Danielle Kaczynski, 12, said she personally selected the Bath & Body Works products she donated.
“I hope whoever receives my gift enjoys it and has a good holiday,” she said.
The judges crowned Carleigh Sophia DiTieri, 4, of Levittown; Giavonna Scharf, 7, of Jamesport; Emily Wandasiewicz, 12, of West Babylon; Maryann Sheridan, 54, of Monticello; and Kaczynski the overall beauty winners for their respective age divisions.
“I wish more ladies my age would do this,” said Sheridan, who wore a pink strapless gown that showed off the tattoo on her back. “It’s fun. I’m not ashamed of my age. It’s just a number.”
Sheridan said she particularly enjoyed the philanthropic factor of the pageant. She donated a Walmart gift card.
She added, “You want to give someone a Christmas.”