Name: Carlee Sullins
Hometown: Elizabethton, TN
Talent: Contemporary Dance
Social Impact Statement: “Planting Faith One Seed at a Time”
University: Emory and Henry College
Hey y’all! I’m Carlee Sullins, and I’m Miss Volunteer. I was crowned in September of 2019, and it has been a dream ever since. I’m a 17-year old senior at Elizabethton High School. Planning to go to college to major in political science, pre-law. I also have a heart to minor in Spanish. My end career goal is to help legal immigrants reunite their families and get the civil rights they deserve.
I competed in my first pageant when I was six years old. The reason I decided to do my first pageant was because of a young lady named Brittany Kyte. She encouraged me to enter my first pageant because I was shy and needed to gain some confidence in myself. Brittany had competed in pageants before and went on to go to Miss Tennessee three times. She placed top 15 and top 10, then decided to get out of the pageant world and settle down. Had it not been for her, I may have never competed in my first pageant that led me to here or gained the self-confidence I have today.
Fast forward several years to 2012. I began to get very sick. I started swelling in my ankles, stomach, and eyes. My regular care doctor chalked it up to allergies and gave me a new allergy medication. When after several weeks it became obvious it was allergies, I returned to the doctor. She had me do a urine test and soon discovered exactly what was wrong. I was sent to a nephrologist that same day. Dr. Wattad looked at me once, and I was diagnosed with a kidney disease called Nephrotic Syndrome. Nephrotic Syndrome is rare; only one in 100,000 people are diagnosed. This disease causes my body to leak protein from my kidneys into my urine. I was sent to the hospital immediately where they drained 12 pounds of fluid off my body. I went from being a kid with no medical problems to coming home on eight different new medications.
At the beginning of my diagnosis I did not understand why God had given me this disease. I became angry at him. I was told I would probably have to quit most, if not all, of my extracurricular activities, and that my grades would most likely drop. Then after much prayer and several months wasted in anger, I decided to stop sulking. I was I introduced to the Bible verse Matthew 17:20, which says “If you have faith as a grain of a mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain move, and it will move, and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” I decided to make a change and stop being frightened of my newly found disease. I told God that I would use my disease to bring people closer to him and to raise awareness. I believe everything happens for a reason and this disease was definitely meant to be for me. I am happy to report I have maintained a 4.0 and am more involved than when I was first diagnosed. I am the president of several clubs in my school as well as being a member of the varsity cheer squad and a member of my dance studio.
In 2015 I participated in my first kidney walk. I began preparing about two weeks before the walk. I did not expect to have a large team or raise a lot of money; this was my first walk and really just a learning experience! I was so wrong. Fifty people showed up to walk for my team, and I raised $500 that year just from donations! Last year I began preparing months in advance; I thought if I did that good with only two weeks preparation, imagine what I could do in months! I designed T-shirt’s, collected personal donations, and even setup at local stores to collect money and tell people my story. Last year I raised around $1,000! This year has been busy, since I am a senior. I did not have a lot of time to prepare, yet I still raised around $800! Now as next year’s walk is already being planned, I am designing new long sleeve t-shirts. I hope to rose around $1500-$2000 this coming year! My ultimate goal is to host my own kidney walk in my hometown and then bring them to whole state of Tennessee if given the chance, complete with vendors, informational booths, and entertainment. I wish to work with the National Kidney Foundation to improve kidney walks everywhere! I also have an ambition to help lower the price of insulin for patients. The price of insulin has not changed since it was invented in 1992, and many people die every day waiting for insulin. No one should have to die just because they can’t afford treatment!