A Kokomo resident will be representing Indiana this week at the Mrs. United States National Pageant.
Chanteal VanCamp, who was named Mrs. Indiana in July, will join titleholders from all 50 states to vie for the national title this week in Palm Beach, Fla. VanCamp, whose platform is centered on kindness and unity, said she’s looking forward to the chance to share that platform with a larger audience.
“(If I win) we’re just going to take the Hoosier hospitality global basically,” VanCamp said. “With all the division we have, I would just like to spread the message that everyone matters, and everyone can make a difference.”
Mrs. Indiana is an ambassador through the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and hosts an online community that promotes monthly “unity through community” challenges that encourage people to come together and participate in kindness events in their communities.
The platform is especially meaningful to VanCamp.She has been championing for kindness since high school when she lost a close friend to suicide.
VanCamp befriended the girl in seventh-grade when she held up a towel for her in the locker room. VanCamp said the girl was too scared and ashamed to change in front of their peers, so she helped by giving her some privacy.
“That act of kindness was what sparked out friendship,” VanCamp said. “And a couple of years later, she let me know that that weekend she was planning to take her own life because her parents were going to be out of town. And me holding up the towel for her to change behind – though it was very seemingly insignificant to me – it was the first time she left like someone really saw her and cared enough.”
While her friend didn’t commit suicide that weekend, she later ended up taking her own life. She left behind a suicide note that named two people as the “only forms of light in her world.” One of those people was VanCamp.
“She felt like if there were more people who would just share their light that maybe it would have ended different, and that’s what sparked the whole random acts of kindness just because the towel holding was such a random thing to do. But it made such an impact on her for such a long time that I had just championed performing random acts of kindness,” she said.
As VanCamp got older and learned more about mental illness, she said she realized people, by nature, also crave unity and began promoting “unity through community” challenges and encouraging people to find support systems, whether it's their family, physical community, or online community.
VanCamp is a 2003 graduate of the University of Indianapolis where she earned an associate of science in physical therapy. She has a geriatric specialization as a physical therapy assistant through the American Physical Therapy Association. She works at Community Health Network in Kokomo and Indianapolis. She’s married to Kokomo Police Department officer Chad VanCamp and has a 4-year-old daughter, Amari.
VanCamp has been participating in pageants on and off since she was a child. As an adult, she’s earned the titles of America’s Ultimate Woman in 2013, which was a national title, and Mrs. Indianapolis, a state title, in 2018.
Should she earn the Mrs. United States title, VanCamp believes she can do a lot of good with it.
“As Mrs. United States, I plan to get my United States national pageant sisters and individuals from all 50 states to participate in my ‘unity through community’ monthly service challenges. I want to be the face of kindness that shows that every person matters and can make a difference,” she said.
Finals night will be live-streamed. To watch the Mrs. United States National Pageant on Oct. 14, visit mrsunitedstates.com. A time is to be determined.