Meet the Queen: Florida

fl 2Between the palmetto palms and sandy beaches for which Florida receives its fame lie acres of farmland, arenas full of life, and a rodeo family woven tightly together by a common thread of passion. The western way is prominent in this easternmost Sunshine State, and it has been one of my missions as Miss Rodeo Florida to be a manifestation of that fact as I stand tall and proud as a sunshine-lovin’, sweet tea drinkin’, Florida-born cowgirl.

As an ICU nurse, you are forced rather quickly to understand the fragility of life and to appreciate the one you’ve been given. It was during a second mission trip to Costa Rica when the larger-than-life smiles of pediatric patients and grateful hearts (and hugs!) of orphaned children literally brought me to my knees and unveiled my passion for service which would soon drive my platform as Miss Rodeo Florida.

I eagerly began my reign by launching my SPURRING SERVICE platform, which is a fl 5commitment to the truth that we are most blessed when we are serving others. It’s amazing how children understand this so naturally yet as adults we often forget it so quickly. As I talk to gatherings of hundreds of children about being a servant to others, dozens of hands jet up (often two hands per child) to share stories of kindness and volunteer to be part of a service project. Making cards and assembling rodeo-themed goodie bags with enthusiastic children is an inspiring-and exhausting-feat! (Hats off to you teachers!) The littlest of patients later open those goodies with wide-eyed wonder as they listen to my stories of barrel racing and breakaway roping, coloring pages of rodeo scenes with perfect imperfection.

Another day bears with it another opportunity to bring rodeo to life outside the arena. At Hillcrest School for exceptional students, calendars have been marked for the rodeo they’re proud to call their own. Barrels have been set, roping dummies staged, and a group of local PRCA cowboys and cowgirls gathered to make magic happen. The level of these students’ excitement is beyond measure as we practice how to swing a rope and run around the barrels, as their parents help them determine the appropriate attire for the event. As a servant of the sick, I am proud to orchestrate this special needs indoor rodeo and once again am humbled by the outpouring of love from those whom I serve.

When speaking of service, one cannot forget those who sacrifice their very lives in the fl 4name of service, our military. Carrying the American flag in front of crowds of rodeo fans is one of the biggest honors of all, for the light-weight fabric bears the heaviest of meanings. I am blessed to have been able to partner with The William McLain Foundation and aid in the creation of video tributes to honor our country’s fallen heroes. Inspirational declarations of sacrifice, these videos have been shown at a variety of events and serve as reminders of the cost of our freedom.

Becoming Miss Rodeo Florida was no accident; Proverbs 16:9 declares, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” I am convinced that this road, this entire journey, is a part of my destiny, and not once have I forgotten both the responsibility and privilege bound to this crown. Whether by holding a door for someone, giving a compliment, or volunteering to untie calves at rodeos, my goal as Miss Rodeo Florida is to be a living demonstration that a life is best lived when it is given selflessly to others in the name of Jesus.

The support I have received-from sponsors, family, friends, and fellow queens-continues to overwhelm me.  The back of one of my nursing shirts reads, “When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.” It’s true. The more I travel and meet new people, representing the state, the sport, and the values I hold dearest to my heart, the more I discover the best version of myself, and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you for allowing me to let my light shine.

From the Sunshine State,

Keri Sheffield

Miss Rodeo Florida

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