A little girl who registered to be part of the Miss Springfield pageant earlier this month didn't get to participate as planned, because she couldn't get to the stage.
Izabella Uccello, 4, was excited to be in her first pageant. That excitement became disappointment when she and her mom found the venue where the pageant is held is not handicap-accessible.
Like most little girls, Izabella likes to play dress-up and loves princesses. But, unlike most little girls, she has spina bifida and uses a mobile stander to get around.
"I wanted her to have her own thing aside from physical therapy and speech therapy, just something fun for her to do," said her mom, Rebecca Uccello.
Rebecca entered her daughter in the Miss Springfield pageant. Izabella had practiced her pom pom performance and had her dresses ready.
Her mom e-mailed one of the directors to ask about accommodations.
"She indicated that there would be 15 steps up to the stage. I thought that meant 15 steps up to the stage, so I thought, I can put the stander on the stage, carry her up, put her in the stander, and she'll be fine," Rebecca said.
The day of the pageant, Rebecca saw the room at Hammons Heart Institute. The girls would process down 15 steps into the auditorium, then up a few more to the stage.
"I just thought it would look awkward for me to be there in the line, carrying her. And that takes away some of her independence too," Rebecca said.
Miss Springfield pageant co-director Pam Richter says she felt terrible and didn't know about Izabella's needs until the night before, too late to ask Mercy for use of a different room.
Mercy says they too would have been happy to help.
"It's heart-breaking for us, because we did not know ahead of time, or we would have taken measures to make sure she could participate, whether that was doing whatever we had to do to this auditorium so that she could be able to get up to the stage, or whether we had offered up another room for free for them to be able to use that instead," said Mercy Springfield spokeswoman Sonya Kullmann.
Izabella will get to participate in the Miss Branson pageant in February, no steps involved, but her mom hopes her story will help other kids.
"There's no reason why my child or any other child with physical challenges can't participate in an activity like this just for fun," said Rebecca.
The Miss Springfield pageant, part of the Miss America organization, raises money for Children's Miracle Network. Co-director Pam Richter says kids with special needs hold a special place in their hearts and they want to welcome them to be in the pageants. Izabella was just the first to enter. They'll be adding a question on the application about special accommodations.
Hammons Heart Institute was built before the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mercy says whenever the room is renovated, the room will be made ADA accessible.