Marla Viturello hopes to raise awareness for organ transplants with the help of her national title
After years of judging beauty pageants, including state pageants within the Miss America system, Washington Township resident Marla Viturello decided to take the stage for the first time in her life, earning the crown not only for her state, but also for her country with the title of U.S.A. Ambassador Mrs. in the U.S.A. Ambassador Pageant.
As a mother of two, Viturello, 43, didn’t want her life to slow down once she had children. As a registered nurse, legal nurse consultant and pharmacy executive for an anti-opiate campaign, Viturello described herself as a “career-mom.” Viturello is also a former Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader, and has served as the director and choreographer for the Philadelphia Soul, working under Jon Bon Jovi’s direction, as he was one of the owners for the team.
In 2000, Viturello lost her sister to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after she had received a bone marrow transplant. In 2014, her father, an immigrant from Sicily who arrived to America with undiagnosed diabetes, passed away from cancer caused by immunosuppression pills after surviving 11 years with a heart transplant. On the night Viturello gave birth to her son, her mother passed away from stage-four lung cancer. After all of her loss, Viturello was determined to turn her tragic experiences into something positive.
In March, Viturello entered the state pageant for the charity-driven organization U.S.A. Ambassador Pageant, held in Toms River, with hopes the exposure would provide an opportunity for her to promote her community service platform, The Gift of Life, in honor of her passed family members.
“I went through a lot of tragedy and a lot of loss, and I think that really makes a difference in my platform because I see things in a totally different way,” Viturello said. “I went through it, I understand what those families go through and what the needs are.”
After winning the state title, Viturello moved forward to the U.S.A. competition in Palm Harbor, Fla., where she was named U.S.A. Ambassador Mrs., a national representative. Viturello plans to use her title to provide resources and camaraderie to those going through similar situations as she had in her life. Recently, she has partnered with the Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia, a temporary residency and support system for organ transplant patients and their families. Viturello is planning to schedule a Home Cooked Heroes event in November for families staying in the house, providing them with a meal and comfort during their stay.
“It feels really good to do things like this later in life,” Viturello said. “I want to be that role model for other women who, when you have a child, your life doesn’t end. I feel happy, even with all of the loss I’ve suffered in my family, I’m turning that sadness into a positive and trying to help other people.”
The U.S.A. Ambassador Pageant is based on the principles of “success through leadership, integrity, character and confidence.” According to Viturello, these qualities are most important in crowning an individual, as it is not just about the beauty, but about the person who wants to make a difference in their community.
“We don’t need a bunch of beauty queens in this world, we need people who are going to make a difference, people who care about what they do every single day and the person that they are,” Viturello said. “When you have a young girl who is looking up to someone, you want that person to be a good mentor and a positive role model for her.”
Viturello will hold the title for a year. In the future, she said, she may take the stage again in a universal or international pageant, but for now, she’s looking forward to seeing where her passions will take her.
To learn more about the U.S.A. Ambassador Pageant, visit www.usaambassador.com. For more information on Gift of Life, visit www.donors1.org.