There she will go, Mrs. Maryland Money raised to send her to national competition

September 11, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Pack the evening gowns and check the plane reservations. Renee Shanahan is going to Las Vegas to represent Maryland in the Mrs. America pageant after all.

Last week, the 26-year-old Pasadena woman thought she was grounded because Sid Sussman, the director of the state pageant and the only one who could issue checks, died six weeks ago without giving her the prize money that would have helped cover her expenses.

But thanks to a spirited display of support, Shanahan raised about $2,500 to cover airline tickets, clothing, gifts for fellow contestants and other expenses.

Ticket sales for a three-hour, happy-hour party last Friday at Rumblefish, a nightclub at Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard and Mountain Road, raised about $2,000, she said.

Along with donations from local merchants such as Cleaning by Chris and Windows on the Bay restaurant, Shanahan has enough money to compete in the national pageant.

"The support was great," said Shanahan, who was Ms. Maryland Teen USA in 1987 and Ms. Maryland USA in 1992. "People really care about me."

Others still are trying to help. USAir offered her two reduced-price -- albeit standby -- tickets to Las Vegas.

Shanahan, who already bought her tickets, said she would give those to relatives.

And the Orioles will donate T-shirts as state gifts for Shanahan's competitors. That decision was made by Georgia Angelos, wife of Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, said Bill Stetka, a spokesman for the team.

"The impetus came from the top," he said. "We're just trying to help someone who has run into some bad luck."

Shanahan, co-owner of a Mountain Road hair styling salon, won the Mrs. Maryland crown June 22 at the Maritime Institute of Technology in Linthicum. But when Sussman died of a heart attack in July before he could distribute the prize money, the outlook for Shanahan appeared bleak.

Officials with the Mrs. America pageant, based in Santa Monica, Calif., said most state organizers worked with partners who could distribute the prize money. But Sussman worked alone.

Shanahan, who said she had lost "a good friend" in Sussman, pledged to raise enough money to go to Las Vegas. But she admitted that she was "overwhelmed" when she saw more than 100 people attend the happy hour in the aftermath of the thunderous downpour from the remnants of Hurricane Fran last week.

"That was pretty incredible," she said. "It was unbelievable that people can be that giving."

Now Shanahan can concentrate on the competition. "I think I can feel more relaxed," she said. "I'm going out there to have fun."

Pub Date: 9/11/96

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