Special needs North Carolina pageant winner gives back to kids in need

APEX, North Carolina -- A 27-year-old North Carolina woman with special needs is using her newfound platform as a pageant winner to help children in need.

A sliver of shade provides no relief from the heat the sun puts off against the Office Max Building in Apex on Sunday. Despite the warmth, 27-year-old Samantha Grace Paulson sat outside on a bench, in front of a table piled with school supplies.

On top of her head, Samantha wore a gold and silver crown, her prize as the 2017 Miss BeYoutiful North Carolina. She wore her crown with pride, her sash as well. Samantha is nonverbal autistic, so her mom, Erin, spoke with us on her daughter's behalf.

Samantha made a bear noise. "That's how she says 'I love you!'" Erin explained.

Samantha will compete in Tennessee for the national title next month. As part of her duty to the crown, Samantha serviced her community by distributing a collection of school supplies to kids in need throughout Wake County.

The platform for the pageant is something Samantha is familiar with: autism.

"She can be very charming and personable and sassy," Erin shared. "She loves to dance!"

Sunday afternoon was not Samantha's first stop in community service for the weekend. She spent Saturday at the Apex Police Department passing out cookies.

Samantha needs help to win the national title on August 5. With enough votes, she can win the People's Queen Award.

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