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Will travel to Sydney for exclusive photo-shoot

By LAURA BUCKStaff writer

Winter has been good to Allison Dearstyne of Dunkirk she not only gave birth to her first child, daughter Clara, but she won a contest that will take her to Sydney, Australia, where she will meet someone whom she has admired since she was a teenager.

Dearstyne won the Million Moms Challenge “Imagine Me & You” photo contest, sponsored by ABC News, the United Nations Foundation, Disney Baby and photographer Anne Geddes.

Geddes will meet Dearstyne and her husband Richard when they travel to Sydney in April with Clara, whom Geddes will photograph.

Dearstyne, 26, explained that the purpose of the contest was to raise awareness about women and babies’ health, particularly in developing countries.

For the contest, which Dearstyne said she saw advertised on Good Morning America, applicants, all of whom must be pregnant, were asked to write a message of five words or fewer on their stomachs of what they’d like to tell their babies.

Dearstyne said she chose the phrase “May You Stay Forever Young” with her niece Jolie’s hand pressed on her stomach and the word “young” written on Jolie’s hand.

Dearstyne said she got the idea because her own dad used to sing the song “Forever Young” to her when she was growing up.

“And I thought it was a good message of hope,” said Dearstyne, a ninth grade teacher at Calvert High School.

She said she submitted her photo online in early December and was one of about 450 applicants.

The 450 were narrowed down to 12 finalists for whom the public could vote through Facebook, Dearstyne said, adding that every vote raised $1 for the United Nations Foundation.

The top three vote-getters received a package from Disney Baby and a year’s worth of Huggies diapers.

Dearstyne said Geddes selected the winner and told her the good news in early February over Skype.

“I’m moved by how many mothers have come together through this contest,” said Geddes in a press release from the United Nations Foundation. “The Million Moms Challenge created this contest to celebrate the dream of mothers everywhere for healthy, happy babies who will grow to reach their full potential. I’m looking forward to meeting the Dearstyne family and continuing to be part of this strong community of mothers helping mothers.”

“We were really excited; it had been a long wait for us,” Dearstyne said, continuing that she had been a fan of Geddes since high school.

In a short written essay Dearstyne submitted when she made it into the top 12, she said she told the story of when she went to Brazil on a mission trip in high school and subsequently decided to have all money that would have been spent on her Christmas presents donated to a family in need.

That year Dearstyne said the only present she received was a Geddes book, which her mom had already purchased.

“That’s kind of a cool connection because now I get to meet her,” she said, adding that she has never been to Australia “and I had always wanted to go.”

Richard said he had been trying not to get his wife’s hopes up, especially as she was preparing to give birth to their daughter.

“All three [finalist] pictures were really good and the stories were really good so I didn’t think we were going to make it,” he said. “... We were in the hospital trying to type it out an on iPhone.”

lbuck@somdnews.com