Kentucky Derby Festival Princess focuses on community

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Laurel Deppen

Whether she’s spending her day at Daviess County High School interning or serving as a board member for Cinderella’s Closet of Western Kentucky, Katie Bouchard always has something to do. She is currently the reigning Miss Jefferson County and will be competing for Miss Kentucky in the summer. To add to her already packed resume, Bouchard was crowned a Kentucky Derby Princess on Jan. 9.

Owensboro senior Bouchard has been competing in pageants since she was 13. She said being involved with the Kentucky Derby Festival Royal Court was similar to her pageant roots, but it had differences too. She compared her Kentucky Derby Festival audition experience to applying for a job.

Bouchard had previously applied for the title twice before.

“Hopefully third time’s the charm, which it ended up being,” Bouchard said.

Members of the Kentucky Derby Royal Court serve as ambassadors for the city of Louisville and for the Kentucky Derby Festival. To be appointed to the Royal Court, 130 applicants went through a series of interviews until five were selected.

“I never thought I’d even get a second interview,” Bouchard said. “The interview process was stressful and nerve-racking but now I’m just excited.”

Barb Wainwright, the vice president of the Derby Princess Program, said Bouchard was an ideal candidate for the title.

“Katie is well-rounded and approachable, self-assured and poised,” Wainwright said.  “She is an excellent role model for young people. Katie leads by example, does not talk about a need in the community but instead she acts to fix the need.”

As a Kentucky Derby Festival Princess, Bouchard will be able to attend over 70 events related to the festival including the Oaks and the Derby.

“I’ve always wanted to go, you know,” Bouchard said. “Living here in Kentucky, that’s something everyone should do.”

Along with being able to attend the many prestigious events, each member of the court received $2,000 in scholarships. Half of the money is awarded by the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation and the other by The Fillies, Inc., a volunteer Derby service.

Both organizations involved in the Royal Court selection place an emphasis on giving back to the community, something Bouchard has a lot of experience with. As a social work major, Bouchard said she has a passion for people and serving them.

“I’ve always had a passion of giving back and wanting to make a difference in someone’s life,” Bouchard said. “I grew up in a middle-class home so I never went through struggles like [some] people have been through.”

To complete part of her social work major, Bouchard is currently interning at Daviess County High School in their family resource center. She said her work there has also connected her to other community service opportunities.

Bouchard serves as a board member for Cinderella’s Closet of Western Kentucky, an organization that hosts a day for high school juniors and seniors who can’t afford to buy prom dresses prepare for prom.

“It’s kind of just a day to make them feel special because most of them have never been able to be pampered like that in their lives,” Bouchard said. “Being a part of that organization is an honor and getting to see the girls’ faces light up is just an amazing feeling.”

Bouchard’s community service outreach doesn’t stop there. She is a part of numerous organizations, all of which place an emphasis on helping people in need.

Her platform as a candidate for Miss Kentucky is “Spreading the Gift of Sight Around the World.” Working with the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation, she collects used eyeglasses to be refurbished and sent to developing countries. She has collected these glasses since she was 16 years old and now has collected over 10,000 pairs. Along with this, Bouchard will travel to different schools and give vision screenings to children who can’t afford them.

Bouchard said she recognized her passion for helping those in need as early as elementary school.

“Seeing kids struggle and having to go to the Family Resource Center for basic needs like clothing or food at home—I never had to go through those struggles,” she said. “Growing up in an at-risk school was eye opening to me…that made me want to reach out and be able to make a difference in their life.”

Features reporter Laurel Deppen can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].