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Members of the Delta Zeta sorority award a check to St. Lillian's Academy after money was raised for the charity in 2020.

The Miss LSU-USA pageant was not held in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the host sorority, Delta Zeta, was still able to use it to honor a late LSU alumna and raise money for various charities. Now the sorority is gearing up for a livestreamed pageant in 2021.

The Miss LSU-USA pageant has been hosted by Delta Zeta since 1998 but was canceled for the first time in 22 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pageant is a fundraiser for Delta Zeta's philanthropies, including The Starkey Hearing Foundation, the Emerge Center and St. Lillian's Academy. 

Miss LSU-USA Executive Director Leah McPhearson and Assistant Director Olivia Orlando said they were heartbroken when they heard they could not see the 2020 Miss LSU-USA Pageant come to life on stage. 

"I was devastated and disappointed,” McPhearson said. “We found out we couldn’t host the pageant the day before. I literally had tuxes in my back seat." 

Much of the fundraising comes through ticket sales, but with no pageant in 2020 there were no sales. Still, Delta Zeta was able to raise $43,598 from ad sales and donations from local Baton Rouge companies. 

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Members of Delta Zeta present a check to The Emerge Center after the sorority raised money for the charity in 2020.

McPhearson and Delta Zeta Philanthropy Chair Callie Owsley hand-delivered checks to the sorority’s two local charities, St. Lillian's Academy and The Emerge Center. The Emerge Center is a non-profit therapy clinic that works with children with autism and communication challenges. St. Lillian’s Academy serves children who have educational challenges.

"We hope to have the kids more involved in the upcoming pageant by decorating crowns with the contestants,” McPhearson said. “It's exciting to see how excited they are.”

Louisiana Glow and Creative Touch Photography coordinated photoshoots to commemorate the girls who did not get to compete in the 2020 pageant. All of the girls took a picture with the sash and crown that would have been awarded to the winner, but there was one person that the 2020 Miss LSU-USA crown would be dedicated to.

LSU alumna and WDSU sports reporter Carley McCord was posthumously named Miss LSU 2020. She died tragically in a plane crash while traveling to cover the Peach Bowl. McCord was daughter-in-law to LSU’s former offensive coordinator, Steve Ensingmer.

McCord was a competitor and advocate for pageantry. She was crowned Miss Lafayette in 2011 and Miss Greater Baton Rouge in 2013. The Miss LSU-USA 2020 was dedicated to her with the approval of her family.

In 2021, the Miss LSU-USA committee is looking to continue raising money for the charities. The pageant is scheduled for March 14. Delta Zeta will livestream the event for those who purchase tickets to help further its fundraiser. Miss LSU-USA 2021 is still looking for and welcoming contestants.

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