Hinchee surpasses challenges to win pageant

WEIRTON – A sports-induced hip surgery, two traffic accidents and a serious head injury gave Weir High senior Kayla Hinchee a new perspective on life.

The daughter of Steve and Michelle Hinchee, Kayla was recently named the 2013 West Virginia Cinderella Scholarship Pageant overall teen winner, earning her the right to compete in the International Cinderella competition in July.

In middle school “I was all about sports,” she said. “Softball, volleyball, basketball. My freshman year I had to have hip surgery. I was finally getting back into sports when I was in a bad car accident.”

Hinchee said she suffered a serious concussion, which left her with short-term memory loss. Three months later she was in another accident which intensified her problems.

“I started to get migraines, suffered more memory loss,” she said. “I couldn’t do any type of activity, but I really needed something to do.

Hinchee’s dance teacher of 14 years, Michelle McAbee, got her involved with the Cinderella pageant, a youth development scholarship program. She said the Cinderella system is different than other pageants: While contestants still compete on talent, interviews, casual and formal wear as well as their photogenic qualities, “their goal is to (help you) make a difference in your community, and support the state.”

Winners are encouraged to adopt a cause – for Hinchee, that was easy. She chose to focus her efforts on young people, “children who are homeless or need help.”

“I was very, very nervous, but also excited,” she said. “I’d never done anything like this before, I didn’t really know what to expect. But I did really well my first time out; hopefully, I’ll do just as well at Internationals.”

By virtue of winning the state title, Hinchee will compete for the International Cinderella title in July.

“My mom was completely against it, but once I told her I could make a difference, that I thought I could make a difference by winning, she’s supported me 100 percent,” she said. “I hope that by working within the community I can raise money for underprivileged children.

“You know, everybody always says there’s nothing to do in Weirton – I want to get more activities for children and young adults.”

Hinchee said there were 15 girls competing for West Virginia’s Cinderella title, “and I was completely surprised when (they told me) I’d won.”