Gabrielle Bradley is an admissions counselor at Kentucky Wesleyan College, an advocate for emotional and financial support programs focused on families with loved ones in hospitals, the daughter of a single mother, a college graduate and in June, she’ll be competing in the upcoming Miss Kentucky pageant.
Bradley’s path toward the Miss Kentucky Scholarship Organization took off after she was crowned Miss Belle of Louisville, one of the many competitions affiliated with the Miss America Organization. While Bradley has lived in Owensboro her entire life, she traveled to Louisville to compete in Miss Belle as Owensboro didn’t offer any Miss America-affiliated competitions.
On June 1, Bradley will head to the Brown Theatre in Louisville in a four-part competition that begins with a 10-minute private interview.
“The interview [includes] some judges and will be done press-conference style,” Bradley said. “I have no idea what they’ll ask me, but commonly asked questions involve current events.”
Bradley said she will then be separated into one of three groups to compete in three onstage portions of the competition, including evening gown, talent and an on-stage question. On Saturday night, judges will call out the top 11 contestants, who will perform the three onstage components another time. After that, five contestants will be called back to the stage to answer one final question.
Bradley is able to voice a very personal message with her platform, a message that affected her own childhood in life-changing ways.
Raised by a single mother, Bradley didn’t see much of her father growing up. As an only child, Bradley relied heavily on her mother during her childhood. Then, when Bradley was seven years old, her mother was severely injured in a snowmobile accident in Michigan. The accident caused breaks in several of her mother’s bones, including her femur, arm and knee.
The accident would change Bradley’s life as she spent the next two years in and out of hospitals with her mother. Before the accident, Bradley’s mother had worked as an attorney in Owensboro.
“My dad passed away a year after the accident,” Bradley said. “It was just me and my mom. I was used to seeing my mom as this confident career woman. I always say that [the accident] was when I lost my innocence.”
Bradley had to help care for her mother as she endured multiple surgeries in the aftermath of the accident, even feeding her mother when she couldn’t feed herself.
“Not only did it impact us financially, of course, but emotionally,” Bradley said. “I was shocked, I felt numb at points. I think that’s something we forget to consider. The emotional trauma caregivers go through.”
Because of this life-changing experience, Bradley’s platform focuses on supporting families affected by chronic illness or injury. The Hope Charities organization includes a patient resource program for families, as well as direct fundraising and direct financial assistance programs.
Bradley has partnered with organizations such as Hope, Children’s Miracle Network and the Ronald McDonald House to advocate for families affected by chronic illnesses and injuries.
“I work with the Ronald McDonald House–emotionally, that helps so much when you’re caring for your loved ones in the hospital,” Bradley said. “I created care boxes for Norton Children’s Hospital. They’re small, plastic shoe boxes that are age and gender specific. You can fill them with toys, coloring books, play doh–anything that would provide some comfort or joy for children who stay in the hospital for long periods of time.”
Bradley collected more than 50 care boxes for the hospital. If she wins Miss Kentucky, Bradley said she has plans to expand the care boxes and partnerships she’s created, including building a new partnership with Hospice.
While a graduate student at Western Kentucky University, Bradley teamed up with a nonprofit organization solely run by one woman, Danette Idlett, entitled Life’s Better Together.
“It supports families financially during hospital stays. They can pay for gas, their car insurance, their rent–those daily life expenses don’t just stop,” Bradley said. “I’ve helped them with their social media. I write a quarterly newsletter for them, and I help them at events.”
Bradley said her job as an admissions counselor has helped her prepare for the upcoming competition and if all goes to plan, Miss Kentucky title.
“I’ve gotten to travel all across the state,” Bradley said. “I’ve gotten a lot of experience traveling and getting to meet all kinds of people along the way.”