LAURINBURG — Victoria Huggins visited Scotia Village for the first time this week to talk about Alzheimer’s and sing.
But both activities are something that Huggins, the reigning Miss North Carolina, has been doing since she was seven years old.
The 24-year-old sang for her great-grandmother during visits to the nursing home where she received extended care. After a while, other residents wanted to hear her voice, so Huggins performed in the lobby, where she encountered Alzheimer’s patients for the first time.
“Sometimes the music would help connect them to memories they had been unable to remember due to Alzheimer’s,” Huggins said “To see how something that I love so much, music, was able to bring so much joy and comfort not only to the person dealing with the disease, but also their families, that showed me that that was something I wanted to get involved in.”
Huggins was greeted in Scotia’s Morris Morgan auditorium by about 80 people where she sang church hymnal “In the Garden” which all those in attendance sang along with her. Huggins also spoke about Alzheimer’s — an issue she has made part of her pageant platform.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. The disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
Since becoming Miss North Carolina in June, Huggins has started gathering iPod and loading them with personalized playlists for Alzheimer’s patients to listen to in nursing homes. She also serves as an ambassador with the Alzheimer’s Association and takes part in the organization’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
One of the residents at Scotia Village asked Huggins how close researchers were to a cure for Alzheimer’s and she had some positive news to share after visiting the Brain Bank and Biorepository at Duke Hospital’s Depart of Neurology.
“I met with doctors at Duke and they are confident they will have a cure for Alzheimer’s by 2025,” she said.
The St. Pauls native also encouraged women to participate in brain studies and to consider donating their brains to science, because doctors have found nearly two-thirds of the 5 million cases of Alzheimer’s in America are women.
“Doctors think that because women are multi-taskers that they are more susceptible to developing the protein that causes Alzheimer’s, ” Huggins explained. “So I’m encouraging women to participate in studies on Alzheimer’s while their alive and to speak with their families about donating their brains to be studied, so that a cure can be more quickly realized.”
In the past five years she has raised more than $50,000 for The Alzheimer’s Association, CMN Hospitals, and the Miss North Carolina Scholarship Fund.
Huggins who has been participating in pageants for five years, holds the title of Miss Fayetteville 2013, Miss Central Carolina 2014, Miss Greater Southeastern 2015 and Miss Wilmington 2016.
She also has an extensive list of television appearances, including “American Idol,” “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” “Star Search,” and “The American Bible Challenge.”
Huggins graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2015 and moved to Wilmington to work as a morning reporter and news producer at WECT, a television station. She’s currently a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University.