By Carol McIntire
Jennifer Gotschall says one of the most important things she learned as a member of the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Court came from two young girls.
“I had the opportunity to meet two girls, one four and one six years old,” she said during a recent interview to talk about her experience.
“The one girl looked at me and said, ‘you’re a princess.’ I bent down and said, yes. She looked me in the eye and said, ‘mommy told us you’re not a princess because you’re pretty, but because of what you are inside’. That touched me. I will never forget that moment.”
Gotschall, the daughter of Gregg and Wendy Gotschall of Carrollton, was named to the court during the annual Queen’s Pageant in May.
“After the pageant we hit the ground running,” she said. “Community service is a big part of being a member of the court.”
For Gotschall, a junior at the University of Mount Union, community service is nothing new. She has been singing the National Anthem at events throughout the county for years, was a member of a Relay for Life team and active in community events at Carrollton High School.
“My parents instilled the morality of community service in me at a young age,” she said. “I believe in living for others and in spreading love and service because that is what we are here for.”
Her past experiences aided her in the pageant experience.
“It wasn’t my first pageant,” she related. “Last year (as a senior at Carrollton High School) I competed in the Distinguished Young Women of Ohio scholarship pageant. I didn’t win, but it was a great experience.”
For the Hall of Fame pageant, contestants had a five-minute interview with three judges prior to the event. “That was my one chance to make an impression, so the pressure was on,” she said. “During the pageant they cut the field from 50 to 25 girls early and I was so happy to be one of the 25. We had to present a platform issue in 30 seconds. I chose childhood cancer because that cause is near to my heart and I want to become a doctor.”
The field was cut to 15 contestants, each of whom had to draw a question from the infamous “fish bowl.” From the field of 15, the queen and her court were selected.
“The pageant was an amazing experience,” Gotschall said, the excitement still evident in her voice. “What came after that was just as exciting.”
The next few weeks were a blur of activity: visiting rehabilitation centers, reading to children at a library, serving food in a soup kitchen and donning an apron and a hammer and volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity home build where they worked alongside professionals. The queen and her court were out in the community four to five days a week participating in events.
Gotschall described enshrinement week as a “whirlwind.”
“The days were 20-23 hours long, but they were exciting,” she said, a smile crossing her face as she recalled the week’s events.
“The fashion show was awesome. We got to see a lot of local fashions and learn about new stores,” she said. “We met the enshrinees at the Gold Jacket Dinner, had breakfast with them Saturday morning and went to lots of parties. I had the opportunity to meet so many great people. It was quite an experience.”
When talking about the grand parade, Gotschall’s eyes lit up.
“It was such an experience; almost overwhelming,” she said. “We were up at 4 a.m. and headed downtown to have breakfast with the enshrinees. Then it was off to the float. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. I’m a Carrollton girl. I expected a hay wagon with hay bales. All I could think of when I saw it was, wow, this is a Macy’s parade float!”
Now that she is back at college, entering her second year as a biochemistry, pre-med major, she is focusing on her studies. “I know this year is going to be rough. I have to dedicate my time to studying.”
She is a member of a sorority and, as such, will continue to do community service in the Alliance area. She is also a Raider Guide and assists freshmen on the campus.
Her goal is to become a general surgeon. “I had the opportunity to shadow a surgeon at Aultman Hospital and it changed my life,” she said. “I saw four surgeries and was in love with it. I knew then that is what I want to do with my life; help others.”
She categorized her experience as “something she will never forget,” but plans to take the experience one step further.
“I want to be an ambassador for the Hall of Fame Queen’s Pageant and share my experiences with others,” she said. “God has a plan for us and I believe my plan is to help others.”